Monday, January 15, 2018

Blog Jump Start Week 4: Who Would I Invite To Dinner?

Another link-up with Donna in our blogging challenge.  This week, the challenge is to answer the question "Who Would I Invite To Dinner (living or deceased)?

This was a toughie.  I had to spend some time thinking about it and I really loved Rebecca's twist on it over at her blog.  Yes, the best people to eat dinner with are always those we love!  Nothing ever tops that and Rebecca nailed it.   I am thankful that my family eats together at least once, sometimes twice a day, but I also take that for granted too many times.  I know someday that I will be calling my boys and begging them to come visit me and their father and have dinner with us.  That day will come all too soon.

But, if I could fantasize and invite anyone, who would it be?  After giving it some thought, these three folks came to mind.  Theodore Roosevelt, Rachel Carson, and Flannery O'Connor.  Why these?  Well, Theodore Roosevelt was one of those larger than life people who had big ideas, big adventures and a big mouth (and he carried a big stick, right?).  He had to have been full of stories about Africa, South America, and the Great West.  He was fearless to a fault, and I love trying to figure out what makes people like that tick.

Rachel Carson would be another choice because I think we'd have a lot in common.  Since I was young, I've admired her and I used to want to be a lot like her.  She broke a lot of glass ceilings in her day and could get lost in a book, or on a walk in the woods, or just by watching a bird float on the wind.  I can relate to all of that.

And Flannery O'Connor would be my third guest.  I would love to invite her just to watch the expressions on her face as others around the table spoke.  Having read several of her stories, I think she understood human nature better than almost anyone, and I bet she could cut right through any conversation or story and get to the heart of the matter.  I can only imagine what she would think of Teddy and his boisterous, tall tales! Would she just sit quietly with a knowing look on her face, or would she challenge him with questions, or would she enjoy the antics and encourage him to talk more?  I would love to find out.

So that 's my short list.  I like to imagine Rachel and Flannery sitting next to other.  Two masters of the written word, trying to get a word in edgewise, while Teddy dominated the conversation.  All of us in mutual respect of the other, held together by a love of storytelling and maybe a little too much passion.

Friday, January 5, 2018

Blog Jump Start Week 3: Something from the Drafts {If Pro-Lifers Don't Promote Adoption, Who Will?}

Linking up with Donna for Challenge #3 of the Jump Start Your Blog series.  This time, the challenge was to publish something that has been hanging out in our "Drafts" folder.  This is a post that I wrote in 2014 that I never published.  But considering that the anniversary of Roe v. Wade is approaching, publishing it now, in light of Donna's challenge, seemed timely.  Thanks, Donna!

A few months ago, I packed up several bags of baby clothes and took them to a local pregnancy resource center that is always looking for donated items.  This particular pregnancy resource center does wonderful work, is 100% pro-life in their cause, and has helped hundreds of pregnant women locally and probably thousands nationally.  I love supporting them and their work.

While handing off a few donated bags of clothing, I spoke to the very kind and friendly woman who volunteers at the center.  I know her fairly well; she is very pro-life and leads her church's Respect Life Committee.  She donates her time to the pregnancy center, so I have tremendous respect for what she does and who she is.

Considering the fact that my husband and I are waiting to adopt, I thought maybe she would be a good one to share this fact with, since she meets many women facing crisis pregnancies on a weekly basis.  So we talked, and the conversation went something like this:

Me:  We've been waiting to adopt for almost a year now but our approval ends in about 6 weeks and it's not looking like we'll get  a baby.

Her:   Oh, if it is God's will, it will happen.  Why don't you think you'll get a baby?

Me:   Well, it takes a long time, and some couples never get chosen. There just aren't enough babies available domestically for couples like us who want to adopt them.  It makes me sad because I really wanted another baby after we adopted our son, and I don't think biologically that is going to happen now.

Her:   Yeah, when you get around 40, you need to start thinking that way.

Me:  Actually, I'm almost 45.

Her:  Oh!  Well by that time, you really don't want to have another baby!

Me, somewhat awkwardly:   I would love to have another baby.

Her:  What about going to another country to adopt a baby?

Me:  We don't really want to do that and aren't in the position right now to do the travel necessary.  It is also often much more expensive.  But a lot of Americans do go overseas to adopt partly because not many babies are available domestically.

Her:   You know, we almost never get a client [pregnant woman] who is thinking about adoption.  I think last year all year, we only had one client who said she was thinking about adoption, and in the end, she didn't do it.

Me:   It's unfortunate that adoption isn't promoted more but sadly, it has a lot of negative stereotypes. Just the phrase "giving your baby up" suggests that the birthmother is giving away someone who she doesn't want, which implies that she is a terrible human being and incredibly selfish, when really, choosing adoption can be an act of extreme unselfishness.

Her:   Oh, we never use the phrase "giving up the baby"; we try to say, uh, well, what we say is, well, we just say "give your baby life."

Me:  Oh yes, give the baby life, but why not give it even more? Why not ask them if they have thought about adoption?

At this point, I shared a little about our personal experience with our son's birthmother and her parents and how much love they had for him, so much so, that they chose adoption for him.  

After we parted, I reflected on this conversation.  As pro-life people, we are well versed in the "Choose Life" mantra.   We put it on our bumpers, on our t-shirts, on our billboards, and on our Christmas cards. This is a wonderful thing to do and has no doubt changed hearts and saved lives.   But what happens after many women choose life?   Do their babies live in homes free of domestic abuse?  Can they give their baby a father who guides them and protects them?   How many of these babies will end up available for adoption anyway in 8 or 10 years because they have been placed in foster care and their parents couldn't properly care for them?

I totally get why a birthmother would not want to consider adoption.  A single-mother is considered a hero in our society (true, many are), whereas, a mother who chooses to place her child for adoption is more likely to be viewed as "avoiding responsibility" or "thinking only of herself". And then there is the grandparent factor.  Many adoptions are stopped by grandparents who step in and say "I will raise your child" which makes them the de facto parents, but then who fills the doting, spoil-them-rotten role of the grandparent?  They say "don't you dare give up MY grandchild" for adoption.   How could anyone, especially an already extremely stressed and exhausted birthmother, handle such pressure, even if she was considering adoption?

I myself have never had to make that decision and so I can't say that I would be able to choose adoption if I were the one facing a pregnancy for which I was unprepared.  But I do think that if I heard positive and encouraging stories regarding adoption, if I lived in a society where choosing adoption was held in high regard and considered a very loving and unselfish decision, if I had the encouragement of my parents and my friends (and pregnancy resource center workers), then I would be much more inclined to give it some serious consideration.  Unfortunately, this is not what most birthmothers experience today.

Back in November, which was National Adoption Month, I waited for at least one pro-adoption story in our diocesan newspaper.  There were none.   But the month before, October, which was "Respect Life Month", there were weekly stories about various pro-life efforts around the diocese.  

As Catholics, we are very good (and rightly so) about promoting the "Choose Life" message and helping the mothers who make that choice.   And I was pleased to see that the theme of this year's March for Life was adoption. However, unfortunately the  "Consider Adoption" message still needs some serious marketing and as pro-lifers, we shouldn't hesitate to share it.   That message too, will save lives, and might even make a few lives better.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Blog Jump Start Week 2: What Is My Favorite Christmas Memory?

Merry Christmas!

Linking up with Donna again and her challenge to "jump start" my blog by answering the following question: What is my favorite Christmas memory?

I have a few favorite memories of Christmastime. My grandmother's orange rolls that she always baked for Christmas eve. Oh, how I miss those. Or my mother baking cookies by the dozens while my sister and I covered shoe boxes with wrapping paper to put them in. We'd take the shoe boxes of cookies to elderly shut-ins whom my mother visited each week as part of her volunteer work with Meals on Wheels. Those are two of my favorite childhood memories.

As an adult, Christmas was different. I loved the year that I put my first Christmas tree up in my first home, still single and living alone at the time. I felt so independent and grown up that year!  Waking up to Christmas morning in a quiet home all alone was much different than my Christmases are today, and I kinda miss that, but not too much.

One of my favorite Christmas memories was the year that a young man whom I'd met four months earlier came to visit me in my quiet little home. We'd struck up a relationship over those previous four months, writing emails at first, then phone calls every weekend. By the time December arrived, I was counting down the days until he'd be visiting.  I'd spent hours thinking about the perfect gift for him; I wanted to give him something from the heart, and so, I drew him a picture of an Australian lyrebird, which we'd seen on our first birdwatching trip together, along with a photo I'd taken of the first sunset we'd watched together. Christmas Day came and went but my gift didn't arrive until December 28th, when I picked him up on a snowy afternoon at the airport. One year later, we were celebrating Christmas again, only this time, as husband and wife, but that first Christmas with him will probably always be my favorite Christmas.

As a married couple, we couldn't wait to share Christmas with our children someday.  But when the children never came, Christmas again remained a quiet time in our little home, and the absence of a child to share it with was palpable. Instead, we opened our gifts with our little dog, Sage, who'd become our surrogate child.  Oh, how Sage loved opening gifts!  She would sniff around the tree and find the package that smelled like "snakkies", knowing that inside the wrapping were special bacon-flavored doggie treats just for her. Once said package was located, she would rip it apart with wild enthusiasm, tail wagging violently, wrapping paper shredded into hundreds of little pieces. It was so fun to watch and my husband and I would forget for a moment what we were mourning, and instead, laugh with joy over the happiness we'd found in this little stray pup that wanted nothing more than to be with us and to have a belly full of snakkies.

Having lived through nearly half a century now, I've seen a lot of Christmases, and Lord-willing, will see many more. Most I don't remember.  Others, however, are etched into my memory in fine detail. There was the Christmas when I went to the doctor on December 28th and saw my little John on the ultrasound, kicking and moving. He is seven now and that moment when I first saw him will always be my greatest Christmas gift and I praised the Holy Innocents for interceding for us.  But there is also the December 28th two years later when I returned to that same doctor, pregnant again, but this time with a much sadder prognosis.  I prayed to the Holy Innocents to intercede for us again, and God replied by giving us another saint in heaven.

And then there was last year, again on December 28th, when Sage ran away during a freak thunderstorm. For the next three days, we combed the woods, walked up and down the hills, and stopped at surrounding homes, looking for her.  She was old and feeble and I feared the worst. I prayed fervently to the Holy Innocents to watch over her and bring her back to us. "Please don't let it end this way," I'd prayed.  After 15 years of having her as our "first kid", my husband and I couldn't bear the thought of not knowing what had happened to her. And then, in a miraculous turn of events, Sage showed up at a friend's house, miles from our home. How she found that particular house was beyond explanation. Again, through the intercession of the Holy Innocents, God had given us the perfect Christmas gift with the return of our beloved pet.

So, for now, those are my most vivid Christmas memories.  Some are good, some not so good. There have been Christmases filled with joy and love and magic and huge blessings, and there have been Christmases filled with loss, pain and tears. But mostly, there have been Christmases that I can't remember. And perhaps really, those are the best ones. The ones that reflect the ordinariness of life, when nothing remarkable happened, other than remembering that on another ordinary, unremarkable day in Bethlehem, God chose to join us and is with us yet.

All you Holy Innocents, pray for us!
~Feast of the Holy Innocents~
December 28th

October 2001 - June 2017