Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Day You Became Ours Forever

Little Jake,

As I sit here typing, you lay sleeping and growing bigger by the minute. From the very second I found out I was going to be your mommy I have loved you. In fact, I don't have the words to adequately describe this feeling inside I have for you.

When I got to hold you for the first time, I felt disbelief that you were really here. I also felt love growing for the precious woman who carried you for 9 months. She and I will always look upon you with a special kind of love. Your newborn face was so alert and beautiful.
I contemplate your special story of how you came to our family, and all I can say is Wow. God knew what he was doing all along. Your laughter is contagious, your smile infectious, and your looks are flirtatious. You are the "favorite" in the nursery at church. I can't believe how fast you are growing up!
God ordained and orchestrated your life from the beginning of time. I know that is a lot to wrap your brain around, but it is so very true. You are our little miracle!

Even though we brought you home in July, and you have been "ours" to love and care for over the last 5 months, yesterday our little family stood before a judge in a courtroom and you legally became our son.

Proud Daddy
 We celebrated the big day with a party last night. The party was Superman themed since he was adopted too! So many friends and family came to rejoice in your joining our family. We reflected on our journey that led us to you and shared love and laughter with all who came.

On our two back doors, I asked guests to please write their responses to my questions below:
Some of the responses were:
~I love his smile and laugh.
~I love his tiny perfectly healthy body.
~I love his large vocabulary (haha!).
~I love the way he completes the Gordon family.
~The list is too long of all the ways God's hand was in this adoption.
~The timing of how Haley found the Gordons.
~The healing of his mass in his lung.
~The way Jake completes their years of perseverance.

Our dear, precious son...our hearts are forever changed by your presence and love. 2012 has been an amazing year. On mommy's birthday we brought you home, and by Christmas you were ours forever. God is so good all the time.
As you grow up, please know that you are loved by tons and tons of people who have prayed for you and will continue to do so.....
Our Little Man


PS...this video link is a tribute to Haley. It would mean the world to me if you really watched it!


Sunday, December 9, 2012

Carpe Diem...Genealogy Style

So everyone knows the term Carpe Diem, or Seize the Day. I try to live this way for the most part. I am the opposite of a procrastinator. Once I get a task in mind...there I go...off to accomplish it.

But today's post is about applying it to your family history. Oh, I'm fully aware that this won't be one of my more popular blog posts. I don't care...I'm gonna write it anyway for those that do care.

To pass the time during our adoption waiting last spring I picked up a new hobby...genealogy research. So many of you probably think it is so lame. But to me, there is nothing more unifying for a family than finding out there was more to the story than we were told. My research has brought me back together with various branches of my family tree, and I have uncovered the answers to some questions that nobody thought to seek and research.

As I uncovered some of this, I wanted nothing more than to share with my friends and family what I had found. So today, I am doing just that. And where does the whole Carpe Diem come in to play? Well, in this fact alone: 2 of my major discoveries were either discovered or taught to me just weeks before my sources passed away. I am a global thinker, and thought to myself, "What would have happened to that information had I not sought the answers and made the contact?" Would anyone younger than me ever have known this? I doubt it. Again, I urge you to take the time, build the relationships, that will help you know your roots. The generations beyond you might just care enough to ask.

Story #1
On my maternal grandmother's side, the Cole line, about 4 generations back, I hit a brick wall.

This man, pictured at left and well advanced in age, Jessie Bell Cole had online information showing that his dad wasn't really his dad. So I asked my grandmother if she knew anything about that. She gave me the strangest look and said she hadn't the faintest idea. So I dug around a bit more and found that the man named as his father was actually his uncle. Her response: "Well, I'll be damned." Haha! LOL Gotta love Nuni. That means that her grandfather was raised by his uncle. And she never knew. So I asked her if there was anyone older than her that might know, and we called Aunt Ella who was 101. We put that little lady on speakerphone and found out the real story: His bio mom and dad were pregnant out of wedlock, and never married. As his mother was birthing him, she died, and bio-dad (who was a Sanders, not a Cole, which affects all Coles below him...they would have been Sanders instead. Let that sink in...), anyway, bio-dad got scared and fled the scene, left the country. So Jessie was born an orphan. His uncle and aunt took him in and raised him as their own. Mystery solved...just two weeks before Aunt Ella died. You are welcome, oh younger generation.
Speaking of generations, here I am as a baby, pictured with my beautiful mother Mitzie (R), her mother Mildred (L), Mildred's father Jesse Lawrence Cole (my great-grandfather, back), and his father, the born orphan (in front.) This is a five-generation photo.

Story #2
On my paternal side of the family, much is known about the Stewardsons. Thanks to distant relatives who share my fervor in regards to family research, whole books have been published, towns have been named, etc. after the Stewardsons. SO easy to research. But growing up, I never heard the faintest word about the other side involved in this line...the Evans. That would be my dad's mom's mom's line. So I started digging in the amateur sense, and as I was mapping out my family tree for that side, I hit a gold mine. (Verification still in progress.) My cousin, Katy, was living with us last school year while I began this little hobby. She was across the room grading her French papers, while I was killing time online researching. All of a sudden, I get a generation further back, and I recognize a name. Like a famous name that isn't ringing a bell. SO I ask out loud, "Hey Katy...why does the name Boleyn sound so familiar?" Dead silence, then "SHUT. UP." She comes running over and peeks over my shoulder, and I begin to think something is wrong. As it turns out, our 14th Great-grandmother was Anne Boleyn's sister, King Henry the 8th's mistress, Mary Catherine Boleyn. Are you kidding me?!? We look at each other, and start cracking up. We are supposedly descended from royal bastards. At that point, Katy hopped in her car and drove to the nearest bookstore and came home with an armload of books about the Boleyns. So funny!
Mary Catherine Boleyn
So of course, I wanted to interview my oldest living relative on that side, but sadly, my grandmother has alzheimers pretty badly, and wasn't the best source choice. Her only sibling, Aunt Jean, would be my contact for this portion of my project. So I contacted her, and we tossed around the idea and laughed over it. But more importantly, we set up a time for me to go visit her. So my mom and I hopped in the car and headed to see her. It is a visit I have blogged about before. It is also a visit I will never forget. It was so fun to show her the royal connection, and inquire about the details she knew of on the Evans line that I wasn't sure anyone else had researched before. The best part was reconnecting with my second and third cousins and also remembering portions of my childhood with them. Little did we know as we pulled away in our convertible that beautiful June afternoon, that it would be the last time I saw my Aunt Jean living this side of heaven.

Again, I will never regret reaching out to my older living relatives and discovering how deep, wide and far my roots really go. I hope to share this someday with my nieces and nephews if they are interested. I can also share with my boys, but neither are my bloodline. I hope to research Jake's birth family here and there, and his birth grandfather shared some interesting facts with me when we met.

But the bottom line is this: LOVE makes a family. Blood doesn't necessarily make a family. We went to a Ross King concert Friday night at my sister's church. He is the father to three adopted children. He wrote a song called "Home" about adoption. It really struck a chord with me...and brought even more contentment with God's plan for my little family. Here are the words to that song.

Perhaps I've Said Too Much by Ross King | CD Reviews And Information | NewReleaseTuesday.com

Your mother and I had a plan
We knew the ending before it began
American woman, American man
With American dreams
How could we ever have known?
The God who can save had a dream of His own
He opened our heart and He made it your home
And it changed everything
Not flesh of my flesh
Not blood of her blood
You are heart of her heart
And soul of my soul
Your mother and I were broken inside
Then you came and made us whole
And now we're loved by your love
And you are named with our name
Cause a real family is more than biology
It's more than looking the same
Would we have prayed a different way
If we had known that God would bring you home?
Nothing prepared us for this
We never knew we would fall like we did
Surely there's no one that's ever been given
A sweeter surprise
All we can give is our love
Love is the way you were given to us
We only pray we can love you enough
For the rest of our lives
You are heart of her heart
And soul of my soul
Your mother and I were broken inside
Then you came and made us whole
And now we're loved by your love
And you are named with our name
Cause a real family is more than biology
It's more than looking the same
Would we have prayed a different way
If we had known that God would bring you home?

Other interesting discoveries regarding my family history:

Another family member about 8 generations back was adopted!
There were Jewish family members a few generations back.
A distant relative watched his town burn to the ground in the Civil War.
My paternal grandparents were farm neighbors as children.

Anyway, enough boring facts for today. Enjoy your upcoming week!


Monday, December 3, 2012

And So The Story Goes.....

Boy Meets Girl.
This is where it all began....we locked eyes across the living room of a friend while attending a "Disciple Now" weekend in middle school. He had the sweetest eyes, and my crush began that day.
Ten Years Married Now
And that it remained, just a crush, for the next 8 or so years. Sure, we went to dances together, but strictly as friends.
Homecoming 1994...as friends only
 Did I search for him at youth group events? Heck yes. But my future husband was too interested in basketball to have time for any girl...until college, that is. He met and began dating Stayton's bio mom, and this tiny precious came along soon after!
Stayton as a baby
Even after crushing on him for so long with no returned feelings...(And yes, moving on to date other guys. I'm not THAT pathetic.)...I can still tell you where I was, what I was doing and wearing the moment I learned that Anthony was going to be a father and get married. My mom and I were driving my red Toyota Celica to a body shop to repair some hood damage not caused by me. I was wearing a white tee shirt under short denim overalls. Very 1996 of me. I just remember it being the moment I realized that I would never get a chance with him now. I didn't pine over him or anything, just remember it being a turning point where I gave up and moved on.

Fast forward a few years...to 1999. (What happened during that time, you ask?) Oh, just me going away to college, getting wrapped up in a terrible relationship, and Anthony going through a divorce....
Anyway, 1999.
I'm walking into the church that we both attended most of our lives, and he is walking out of it. "Kara Watson...what are you up to?" "Oh, you know, college, starting senior year, just broke up with my jerk of a boyfriend. You?" "I guess you heard that I'm divorced now?" Yeah...I'm sorry about that." etc etc. Me: "Well, I've gotta run. Headed back to SFA today. Callie (his sister) has my email address if you ever want to write." bye!

Two weeks later: an email in my inbox. WHAT?!?!?

And it has been fun ever since.

 Actually it really has. Anthony is literally my other half. He is grounded where I am a dreamer. He is sarcastic where I am more, well, kind. He is edifying to me, helpful, and like-minded about big topics.
It has all been wonderful!

Well, except that one part......
The part where we were giddy with excitement to tell our parents we were throwing our birth control pills to the wind!
The part where 6 months later all my friends were announcing pregnancies, and I wasn't.
The part where 2 years later and every diagnostic test under the sun run...still no answers. I'm sorry, but "Unexplained Infertility" is not an answer. It's the medical equivalent of saying that nothing is wrong. Which isn't true.
The part where painful, embarrassing, invasive tests and exploratory surgeries happened...all with perfect results.
The part where my friends were announcing their second pregnancies, and I wasn't.
The part where we moved away, and felt a fresh start begin, only for me to nosedive into the deepest depression of my life to that point.
The part where I questioned my worth and value and purpose.
The part where I gave up and shifted my focus to career.
The part where my husband prayed for a change of heart and one last try.
The part where we began the diagnostics all over again in a new city...with the same answers.
The part where we decided for one last try...and conceived and lost.
The part where two months later, we conceived and lost yet again.
planting a tree in memory of our losses
The part where I had depression, bitterness and anger so deep that only God could pursue and win.
The part where counseling helped to heal some wounds, both big and small.
The part where my Bible Study girls prayed for our path to be made clear.
The part where Anthony and I had to answer the question:
"Do you want to be pregnant together? Or do you want to parent together?"

This question became another turning point in my life. For two weeks, Anthony and I prayed separately whether God had adoption in his plan for our marriage. I can still remember where I was what I was doing and wearing the moment we shared how God was answering our seeking. We were headed to my grandparents' wedding anniversary celebration across the metroplex, and I was wearing my zebra dress.
My type A self had made an index card with all the ways I felt God was leading us to adopt. Anthony made me share first. So with shaking hands, a nervous stomach and tears in my eyes I listed out my reasons. I looked at his face, and he asked me if I was sure. Because that was the same answer he had gotten through his prayer times too. We looked at each other and smiled, and I remember weeping and thinking "I haven't felt this much joy or relief in so long." I could feel the pieces of my heart that had been shredded, broken and torn, slowly shifting back together.

Then began the research process. Foster? International? Domestic? Where do we go from here? Praying helped, but so did communicating with each other. What is your comfort zone? What do you envision our family to look like? Are we ready to have every. single. layer. of our lives out on display?

We decided domestic adoption was right for us. We wanted our agency to be local and affordable, but most of all, grounded in God. We searched our DFW agencies, and the closest, most affordable one just happened to be hosting an orientation 2 weeks later. We signed up! (Do you know how big of a deal this is? You can't begin the paperwork without attending orientation at any agency. Most only do these twice a year or so, and have waiting lists just to attend. We miraculously got in that easily.)

If you are in the north Texas area...THIS is the best agency around.

They counsel their birth mothers, counsel adoptive families, and are so detail oriented. They make a difference every single day.

And so the story goes.........
Paperwork and medical appointments and home safety standards and floor plans and TB tests and references and interviews and labwork and financial information and desires on paper.
There is a reason for shirts like this one:
Paper cuts and emotional breakdowns are the adoptive mom's version of birth. You don't know how hard it is until you have been through it.
From October through December we worked on our paperwork process, aiming for acceptance. January 4, 2012 we had our home study completed. By the end of January we were approved by the board and became a waiting family.

Little did we know that the same week we began waiting, our son's birth mom called the agency and began counseling. Little did we know that our son was being fearfully and wonderfully made. Little did we know that God was slowly changing our hearts and opening them to love in a way we never had before.

During our wait, we attended the monthly meetings for expectant parents and met other couples like us. Couples who were in our boat. You know how nice that was? To finally find solace and peace in knowing we were not alone? It was wonderful. We also pressed forward with our lives. Stayton's school and sports, Kara signing yet another teaching contract. Anthony finishing up his MBA.

The afternoon before the last day of school, CCAS called me. Anthony wasn't home from work yet, and I thought it was another routine "How you guys doing?" type of phone call. But it wasn't. Our social worker shifted the small talk, and asked if Anthony was home yet. I said no, and we agreed she would call later. But miraculously, he pulled in the garage right as I was about to hang up with her. A whole hour early for no reason. I excitedly hollered, "Hurry in! We have been picked!" His jaw dropped and his eyes went big. "What?!"

We set up our match meeting for two days later, a Saturday lunch.

I was so nervous. What do I wear? What are we going to talk about?
I was so nervous I couldn't eat or sleep.

During the match meeting I couldn't help but memorize her every feature, hang on her every word, cry when I saw the sonogram pics. I fell in love with her that day. Her bravery, her strength, her standards. Her personality, her humor, her love for her unborn son. She chose us that day. I still can't believe it. She chose us.

And never in my life have I had such clarity and confirmation from God about any other decision.

Those next 6 weeks flew by. Nursery decorating, turning in my teaching resignation, sewing a new set of stockings, and getting to know sweet Haley.

July 20, 2012 our whole entire family shifted. We headed to the hospital and hugged Haley's neck, and got to hold our newborn son. Actually, Stayton was the first one to hold him. Brothers forever...
And on July 23, 2012, my 34th birthday, I got the greatest gift from God. We brought our newborn son home.
And our family has never felt better. Our hearts have never been fuller. We have never been more sure of anything before.

The week after our match meeting, I shared with a cousin of mine that I still don't know why "Me"? Why did we have to go through all of that heartache?

She looked at me, and with a single tear streaming down her cheek said, "You know exactly why. Because you were meant to be Jake's mommy." And that is when it clicked. It was time to let go of my self-pity, my doubts and questions, and just rest in God's plan.

Did adoption fix my broken heart from infertility? No. Not completely, if I were to be honest. Do pregnancy announcements still sting? Yes. Why? Because pregnancy is something I will never get to experience. Parenting, yes. Pregnancy and birthing, No. It is a process to let go of that dream. Did adoption bring joy to my once jaded heart? Absolutely. Adoption made me a mommy to my baby. And that is more than I could ever ask for. I love my boys more than anything in this world. Mothering Stayton and Jake is such a blessing!
And there is nothing better in this world than going through all of this with your soul mate. :)

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Books In Review

Over the last couple of months, I have been reading quite a bit. You would think by how many I am about to review that all I do is read. But that is not the case. I'm just a speedy reader and often read far past my bedtime. Some of these are books chosen for my book club, and some were my choice. I also read 3 parenting books mixed in, but seriously...who wants a review on THAT?!

Ok, let's get started...and keep in mind that I am a broad reader. I like almost any genre, and can look past a lot of things in written text that I don't agree with in my own life, just for the sake of broadening my horizons and expanding my mind a bit. Also, keep in mind that this is just my OPINION. That's all.  ;)

This first book was AMAZING. I could not put it down. I literally read it in 2 days. It is a fiction novel about a sadly too often true situation. A woman held captive by her kidnapper, and the child she keeps behind the wardrobe doors. This was a stunning piece of literature that really made me stop and think about my life and how blessed I am. It was a perspective shift for me. I HIGHLY recommend it. A+

Gone Girl
This book was chosen for book club for the month of October. It was a perfect choice for Halloween because it is a murder mystery and our Book Club party had a Halloween theme in October. Whitney did it up RIGHT and it was a fun book and party! Overall, I have never hated any characters more, yet at the same time not want to put it down before this book. The plot is addicting, and the twist is totally unexpected. Some events are far-fetched, and I could have used less of the cursing....but overall it was a decent read. I give this one a B.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower
This book was a very short one. It is a fictional compilation of letters from a high school freshman to an unknown person. I will say that at first I thought the book was pretty lame, and it didn't draw me in at all. I had to make myself pick it up...but by the end my opinion had shifted a bit. I really like the main character as a person. He is a bit odd, and the whole book I thought to myself, "Who thinks this way? Who really acts like this?" But the ending explains so much about why he is the way he is. It made me like the main character (the narrator, letter-writer) even more. Besides, for my non-bookworm friends...the movie is coming out soon. Give it a try! I give this one a B-.

Three Cups of Tea
This book was awesome! It is non-fiction about the difference Greg Mortenson made for educating young women all over the Pakistan region both prior to 9/11 and after. It is a slow start, but by the end it really drew me in. It does show that with one man's passion and determination, a huge difference can be made. It was a bit inspirational for me. I give it an A.

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children
I am not finished with this book just yet. I am about halfway through with it. But I have never read a book written in this way before. The author used authentic vintage photographs to create a story around. It is a mystery, not nearly as scary as the cover makes it seem so far. The idea of this work actually reminds me of an activity I used in my writing class when I taught where I would shine an image on the screen. No words. And the kids would have 20 minutes of free-writing to come up with a story that the image could be an illustration for. It is a great tool to get their minds thinking creatively at a higher level. The last 10 minutes of writing then became "share time" for the kids who loved their short story enough to share. It was so cool to see the variety across the room from 1 simple image. Kudos to this author for stepping outside the typical fiction box for this piece. I'm really enjoying it so far. And if I'm not finished yet, then I can't rate it!

Let me know in the comments if any of you have read these and your opinions. Also feel free to give me more book ideas. Have a wonderful Wednesday!