the world, as they see it

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I sometimes catch my children staring quietly out of the car window. It is mysterious how the senses and images they experience each day will be incorporated into their memories. Their ideas about the world are wildly forming. As a mother, it is humbling to have such an integral role in the whole process.

I remember as a young girl riding in the back seat of my dad’s jeep. I remember road trips through the tall grasses of Georgia and South Carolina, listening to Bruce Hornsby and Paul Simon. I remember how the southern landscape became a part of my bones, how I came to associate certain stretches of the road with comfort and familiarity. Sometimes my dad would turn off the music and tune into an SEC football game. The sounds of the AM broadcast, the whistles and roaring crowds, still remind me of him and those nostalgic autumn afternoons.

I’ve introduced my children to some new bands this week. I checked a few albums out from the library and we’ve been making our way through them, savoring each one. This morning, we listened to The Decemberists.

Here’s a hymn to welcome in the day
Heralding a summer’s early sway
And all the bulbs all coming in
To begin

We found a turtle crossing the road as we drove out of our neighborhood. We stopped and the children touched its hard shell and scaly legs. Later, as we drove through town, I found Lucy staring out the window as we passed strip malls and stop signs. How will these little moments during the day nourish and grow her unique perception of life? How will these sights and sounds become a part of who she is? Life is a mystifying mosaic of senses. We each hold it differently.

What is the world, as my children see it? What is the world, as you see it?

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the lost genre

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Last spring I went to Barnes and Noble to buy a few self-help books that were recommended to me. I came home with three poetry books instead.

I remember standing in the measly poetry section of the bookstore that day. It consisted of one little column of shelves–a slowly sinking island in a vast and verbose sea of prose. What has happened to this lost genre? I wondered why it had become such an outcast.

Poetry came into my life a bit haphazardly. I went into my MFA thinking I would focus on creative nonfiction. Then I took a poetry workshop to meet a requirement and I fell in love. Poetry was not what I thought it was. It was not a Hallmark card. It wasn’t flowery language. It wasn’t (exclusively) Shelley and Keats and struggling through my senior year of British Lit. It wasn’t predictable rhyme schemes and abstract language. It was so much more than all of that. It was tangible, gritty, simple, and musical. It was dense, the real heart of things.

In contemporary poetry, I found freedom. I found a place where I could let my mind wander and embrace the moment. I discovered that profound truths can be expressed concisely. I found my senses. I found that images are a language of their own. This was a place where rules could be broken and the breaking was invited.

Perhaps, for me, the allure of poetry lies in its stark contrast to the current culture. Poetry is okay with unanswered questions and gray areas. It’s fine with being open to interpretation and misunderstood. And in this place, I find rest. I find help that no self-help book can offer me. I find room to move around, to be quiet and listen and let life unfold naturally, organically. I am reminded of Mary Oliver’s words:

“In the act of writing the poem, I am obedient, and submissive. Insofar as one can, I put aside ego and vanity, and even intention. I listen. What I hear is almost a voice, almost a language. It is a second ocean, rising, singing into one’s ear, or deep inside the ears, whispering in the recesses where one is less oneself than a part of some single indivisible community.”

Obedience. Submission. Listening. Community. Are these qualities dwindling down like the poetry section of the bookstore? I find that they are essential to a meaningful life.

We experience so many deaths and rebirths throughout a lifetime. Though poetry seems like a dying art, I am aware that art is constantly being reinvented, shifting and adapting along with the rest of the world. I believe we will always have art with us. Innate to the human spirit is an unquenchable hunger to create. Despite the sparse collection of poetry at my local library and bookstore, I believe this art form will press on. It may not be the most popular genre, but somehow, that seems fitting, too.

What art form/genre are you drawn to and why?  Is it a “dying art?” How has it changed over time?

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[French Press Saturday]

libster the liebster.

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I was recently nominated for a Liebster Blog Award by Reagan over at Bluestocking Hack. Thank you! The Liebster Award is for blogs with less than 200 followers–blogs that are lesser known and perhaps just getting their feet off the ground. I love when people visit my quiet little corner of the blogosphere and it’s an encouragement to be acknowledged! To accept this award, I must do the following:

1. Post eleven facts about me.

2. Answer questions asked by the person who nominated me.

3. Let them know questions are answered and obligations fulfilled.

4. Ask eleven questions to bloggers I nominate for the Liebster Award.

5. Nominate other bloggers for the award.

~~~

So, here are some facts about me:

1. I still sleep with my childhood blanket. (I know, it’s embarrassing.)

2. I love stripes…especially black and white stripes.

3. I wholeheartedly agree with the statement: “If it’s not chocolate, it’s not dessert.”

4. I can do just about anything as long as I have access to good coffee.

5. Growing up, I didn’t think I would have children. Now I have three.

6. The autumn used to be my favorite season, but now it’s spring. (I’m slowly moving away from melancholy.)

7. Currently, my favorite artist is Henri Matisse.

8. I have a bad habit of twirling my hair.

9. I hated my English/Literature courses in high school and college. It wasn’t until after college that I realized how much I loved to read and write.

10. If I don’t get regular times of quiet and solitude, I begin to feel like I’m coming apart at the seams. (Yes, I’m an introvert!)

11. I lived in England when I was a girl (ages 9-13). Since then, I have desperately wanted to live overseas again. So far, it hasn’t panned out, but I’m still hoping it will happen!

~~~

Questions from Bluestocking Hack:

1. Tell me something weird about yourself.

I was born lacking several of my permanent teeth. This means that my parents spent a lot of money on orthodontic work. It also means that at age 32, I still have some of my baby teeth.

2. What is the most inspirational thing anyone has ever done for you.

The first thing that comes to mind is my husband’s proposal. He flew us up to New York City from San Antonio, TX, where we were both living at the time. He rented a limo, took me out to dinner, then took me to see Phantom of the Opera, and proposed later that night. The next day, he took me out to lunch and he had planned for my parents to meet us at the restaurant. All of it was a surprise. I had no idea where we were going or what we were doing. He only told me what clothes I needed to pack. He had planned the whole thing during his deployment to Iraq the previous summer. Of course, I said YES! We were married a short three months later.

3. One thing you love about your current job.

I am currently a mom and a graduate student. I love that I have some freedom with my schedule and don’t do the same thing every day. Sure, motherhood can be monotonous, especially when raising young kids, but I feel blessed to not have to set my alarm every morning at 4:45am (like I did when I was a nurse) and go to work for 12-13 hrs at a time. I love that I can take a nap with my kids.

4. What is your favorite word in the dictionary?

The first one that comes to mind is:

TACITURN; adjective ; temperamentally disinclined to talk.

As in: “I was a taciturn child.”

5. What famous person do people say you look like?

I have heard Katie Holmes, Julia Stiles, and Kerri Russell.

6. Your absolute favorite movie. Be honest and tell me why.

Braveheart. Because of my Scottish lineage. Because it’s about a man dying so that others can be free, which is the most epic storyline of all, in my opinion. And…young Mel Gibson in a kilt. Boom.

7. Name something you are really proud of yourself for doing.

Birthing/adopting/raising my children. It’s the most challenging and heart-expanding thing I have ever done.

8. What is the strangest food you have ever eaten?

hmmm…unidentified meat in China?

9. Why do you have a blog?

Writing a blog keeps me inspired. When I have a space to write and reflect, I find that I look for more inspiration and beauty amidst those ordinary, daily things I do. I love having most of my stuff in one place. I love being able to connect with other writers/poets/artists. It’s an easy and tangible creative outlet.

10. Do you feel connected to other people when you blog and why?

This is a great question, and one that I’ve struggled with during my 6+ years of blogging. Sometimes I feel connected, sometimes I don’t. When others join in the conversation, I feel connected. When I find another blog that I love and identify with, I feel connected and inspired. However, if I post something and there is no response whatsoever, I can feel disconnected. I have found that I do better when I don’t expect connection through my blog. I try to seek connection primarily in my relationships with others through face to face interactions. My blog, then, is just a way to share my life and learn about others, and if extra connection comes from that, then it’s a bonus. I have learned that social media, in general, is no substitute for real life connection, but it still has an enjoyable and beneficial place in my life.

11. Write an original quote. Yes, quote yourself right here and now.

“I have a horrible time finding my words when I’m put on the spot!”

~~~

Thank you again for the nomination. I will be on the lookout to share the love and nominate others!

love [minus biology]

There is a day we are born into the world. There is a day we are born into a family. For many of us, this day is the same. For some, it is different.

Our son, Warren, was born into the world on November 21, 2010. He was born into our family one year ago today, July 2, 2012. Today we celebrate his 1st birthday in our family.

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This was the scene, one year ago, when we left our hotel room in Zheng Zhou, China to go meet our son. It was like the long corridor of a labor and delivery unit in a hospital. There were ten other American families staying in our hotel, all expecting the birth of their children that day. The hotel was preparing for us to bring our babies home from the public affairs office that afternoon. Our babies ranged between the ages of 18 months and 8 years old, but for us, it was as if they were being born for the first time.

At breakfast that morning I spoke with some of the other adoptive moms. Many of them were returning to China for their second or third time. I asked them what to expect as we all gathered together to meet our children. They said “chaos…It is chaos.”

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Imagine a delivery room. Bright white surgical lights. Adrenaline, nerves, anticipation. Crying, screaming, pain. Birth, joy, awe. All of those things interwoven and branded into the deepest recesses of your heart, never to be forgotten. All of these words describe the day we met Ren, except we shared this delivery room with ten other families in a sterile room of a government building. I remember feeling so exposed and overwhelmed. Multiple cameras flashed at one of the most awaited and vulnerable moments of our lives. It felt impossible for one place to hold so many profound moments for so many people.

This year I have learned that birthing a child is not necessarily a biological process. It can be, but it is not limited to this. A birth is something that happens in one’s heart. It is not confined by cells or DNA or blood. It is spiritual and emotional. It is something that happens between two people, in that hidden space we often find hard to touch and define.

I often liken a biological birth to the process of falling in love. It is fueled by chemicals and hormones, emotions that are powerful–so powerful that they rewire your brain and create a bond that is immediate, overwhelming, and inexplicable. There is a sudden rush, a feeling of power and euphoria. I didn’t realize how much I connected childbirth to these emotions–how much I depended on them and took them for granted until I experienced a different kind of birth, the birth of my son.

If biological birth is like falling in love, then perhaps adoption is like an arranged marriage. I believe God did the arranging; it was this mysterious, perplexing process that required great trust. God arranged for Warren to be our son, just as He arranged for Tessa and Lucy to grow inside of my womb, but I quickly realized that love takes many different forms and grows in different ways.

Love, sometimes, is not immediate. It takes months, years, to develop. It is not primarily fueled by feelings. Sometimes its roots must grow deep into dark soil before a flower can blossom. I have learned that this is okay. I have learned that sometimes, the types of love that are the strongest and steeliest are the ones that grow slow and steady. Eventually, the feelings follow.

This year has not been easy. It has been hard in the way that bringing new life into the world is always hard, though the challenges have looked and felt different. My son and I, unable to fall back on more organic means of attachment, have developed new ways to connect. We have learned each other. Learning can be exhausting and frustrating and loaded with failures. Learning requires grace and resilience.

Ren came into our world like most children–confused, traumatized, crying, and screaming. On that gray summer day in China, as I held his sweaty, terrified body to mine, I knew that I wouldn’t be enough for him, just as I’m not enough for my girls. That day, in the humid drizzle, I felt the weakness in my arms and back as I tried to carry his weight and keep him secure. In that moment, I asked God to be enough for me, for Warren, for our family. My bones could feel that terrifying gap between the neediness of my son and my own resources…the neediness of myself and my own resources. It was the beginning of a greater understanding of what it means to be born into God’s family, adopted as sons and daughters of His kingdom.

It is hard to find adequate words to describe the journey, the challenges, and the immense blessings that Ren has brought to our world. I have done my best in this moment I have to write today. As my favorite poet, Laura Gilpin says,

“How flimsy words are,
crushed or shattered under the spilling weight of meaning.
All I can do is dip into the depths
and hold what I can here in my cupped hands
letting the words fall from my hands into your hands,
and say no more.”

I feel so much gratitude. We love you, Ren boy. Happy 1st Bday. You are so special.

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Ren. 2 July 2012

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Ren. 2 July 2013