Hugs All Around

I have procrastinated writing about the reunion with my birth son for a variety of reasons, or so I have been telling myself these past two months. I had to spend time processing it first. I had more unpacking, dental appointments, that crazy 10K mud run, and then work became rather demanding. In reality, I have been putting it off as long as I can because… Well, just how do you reduce the culmination of 18 years of waiting into an essay, and do it justice? Today is the day I try.

We were to meet them at their hotel and then go to lunch at Pizza Luce, a short walk away. Walking into the lobby, I scanned what seemed to be many people milling about, confused. After all, I was a little late, as usual. Where were they? Glancing down the hallway leading to the meeting rooms, I saw Jim step into view. We hugged, and he directed me to the first room off the corridor. Nancy and Clint were looking out the window across the harbor. They turned, and I swear, it was like the slow motion reels in movies, walking towards our first real mother-son embrace. I didn’t really want to let him go, but suddenly my mom, Nikole, Michael, and Bob had joined us and for a while we were enveloped in a small storm of hugs, greetings, pictures, pictures, and pictures.

We made it to our lunch destination where I sat across from Michael, Clint, and Nikole sitting in a row. It was hard to take my eyes off of him. He is so beautiful. Conversation flowed around the table as if old friends were picking up from where they left off. Before the end of the meal, Michael and Clint were in their own world, conversing about cars and other typical boy topics.

The rest of the visit was more of the same, though the wheels of time surely sped up for the occasion. There were walks along the Lake, a late lunch at our house, and then the hugs that meant good-bye.

Thankfully, this time I won’t have to wait so long before I can give him another.

Love Letters

How does the common complaint from school kids go? I’ll never use *this* in “real life” so why do I have to learn it? The truth can go beyond the logical answer of that it teaches problem-solving skills and the ability to think about things from different angles. You just never know what connections will occur as a direct result of the things you are forced to learn in school.

My senior year of high school, I had advanced English with Mr. Day. He would assign challenging books for us to read, write analytical papers on, and then discuss. I could not get into Waiting for Godot, but Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka was definitely my all-time favorite. Little did I know, this would frame an important moment less than 5 years later.

In unpacking some boxes from this last move this morning, I came across my love letters from Bob. I actually have quite a few as we wrote to each other every day while he was on a 5-week business trip overseas near the beginning of our relationship, and then later on, we decided to forego gifts to each other at Christmas time and our anniversaries in lieu of love notes and “experience” gifts. This is a practice I highly recommend. I picked up a random letter to read, which turned out to be from our anniversary of 2000, our 7th. He described the moment when he knew he wanted to know me. “You were sitting on the floor and you knew Kafka.”

You see, I was just a friend of his sister’s, about 10 years younger than he, and visiting my friend to watch a movie, which just happened to have a trailer for “Kafka” at the start.

Fifty Days From Today

In 50 days, I will have moved into our “permanent” rental home and will have my worldly belongings around me again. Hard to believe some of that stuff has been packed away since last March!

In 50 days, Michael will have turned 16 and will likely have his driver’s license. Prayers are welcome. 🙂

In 50 days, my mom and Nikole will be visiting us for the first time since we moved to Duluth.

In 50 days, I will be greeting my eldest son for the first time since he was a few days old.

Since my adoption story post back in January, the wheels of reunion have been put in motion and they are rolling through the calendar days like a road trip that never seems to end. “Are we there yet?” By a stroke of luck, the Army sent Nikole for job training in the same state where her brother’s parents live, and they each were able to take her out for lunch or dinner. Similar to stories of twins separated at birth, it seems my first 2 children have striking similarities in mannerisms and preferences, as well as having some common physical characteristics that one would expect in full siblings. This has actually helped to ease some of the butterflies that are free-falling in my stomach on an intermittent basis, maybe because it conveys a sense of familiarity.

But then I returned to reading reunion posts in an adoption forum that I joined many months ago. Suddenly, I’m reading them with a different perspective. Sadly, some of the reunions were not the stuff of dreams, and many people were counseling others on “what not to say.” Oh. My. Gosh. Now I have even more butterflies – and these ones were eating at my insides… Speaking before thinking is one of my worst character flaws and this would be the worst possible time to “open mouth, insert foot.” The butterflies multiplied like rabbits.

I admit, I freaked out a bit. After allowing me to have a “what if” panic session, already dissecting the possible ways I could screw this up, Bob gave me the same advice I’m fond of giving to him and others. It was along the lines of focusing on the present because worrying about it now won’t do anything to help the situation and that everything will work out the way it is supposed to be. I should just be myself and not think that someone else’s situation is going to be absolutely representative of my own experience. After getting over the shock of realization that he listens to my advice, I worked on actually taking it. 😉

The next day, I pulled out my box of letters and photos that had been sent to me from the beginning of the adoption process. In re-reading all those notes, I realized that I really didn’t have anything to worry about. I wasn’t in this alone; his parents are wonderful advocates for us both, and they would be right there with us every step of the way.

Aren’t we there yet?

Almost Home…

We almost bought a house. It wasn’t perfect (who puts a window-like opening, facing out to the stairwell, in a bedroom?), but it checked most of the boxes on our list. The house went on the market on Monday. I saw it Wednesday. Went back to see it with Bob on Friday. We were going to have one final look and sign papers on that Sunday. However, my broker called me on Saturday. The sellers had accepted and signed a contract. Wait, isn’t this a buyer’s market???

So, at this point, I have seen every house that covers our minimal requirements and have come up empty. I get e-mail alerts every time a house comes on the market in my price range, and there still isn’t any love. As brave as we were about sticking it out in this month-to-month rental for as long as it took, we have decided that we are not the kind to suffer for that long. Rental properties, as I said in a previous post, are mostly geared to college students and  also, as we have found, to the over-55 crowd. They have even built luxury apartment complexes for these groups. You heard me right…luxury apartments with islands and granite countertops for college students. If I were a developer with funds…I know what market I’d be targeting.

However, I’m happy to report that we were finally at the right place at the right time. We have found our next home. The current tenants have lived there for 4 years and they related having the same issues in finding suitable housing even back then. The husband is being transferred to Ohio, otherwise, they would not be moving. We didn’t even have to sleep on it. No way were we going to let this find slip away to the next person who called to view it. It’s not perfect, but it’s close enough. There is a fabulous view of the lake, a large kitchen, and 2 bathrooms. Now I just have to practice patience…moving day isn’t for another 5 or 6 weeks…

A Sole-Soul Awareness Event

One Day Without Shoes had its 4th annual event yesterday. This is the first time I had heard of it, courtesy of a friend who posted the video link on her Facebook page. The purpose is to raise awareness for those world citizens who do not have the choice of wearing shoes due to poverty. Many of these people are children in 3rd world countries who are not only prone to contracting diseases and infections, but are also denied the chance of an education because in some areas, shoes are required to attend school. The event is sponsored by TOMS shoes, a company founded in 2006 by Blake Mycoskie after he befriended children in Argentina who were, of course, shoeless. On his return, he started TOMS with the simple premise of “One for One.” Buy a pair of shoes, and the company will donate a pair of shoes. You can learn more about the company (and its shoes) at their website.

I work from home so it is quite easy for me to go without shoes for a day – especially on a day that I did not have to be anywhere or run any errands. I did go get the mail and went without my house slippers, which made for some chilly toes, but what good was that going to do? Bob had to go to the mall to have his lens re-cut and fitted into his frames, so I thought I’d try to tag along with him. He wasn’t impressed with the plan, likening it in some ways to mere lip service. After all, echoing my initial thought, what good would it do to just go barefoot? The likely scenario would be that I’d get some funny looks, but not spread any real awareness to the issue – and not actually creating any real change. Ouch. He certainly plays a good devil’s advocate to my Pollyanna. 🙂

At first, I was defensive. After all, this cause somehow resonated with me and I wanted to protect and defend the purpose behind my decision to go without shoes. After a discussion of our differing points of view, Bob left for the mall, and I continued to work and then to start dinner. As I sauteed the onion and garlic and browned the beef for lasagna, I went over the conversation in my mind and thought about my emotional attachment to the idea of showing this small corner of the world that I, Elizabeth, was choosing to go without shoes for the day. My intentions were not born of arrogance, but in a culture where it is growing too easy to just copy and paste a status message to one’s wall or slap a magnet on one’s car, perhaps the act of going barefoot can be seen as nothing more than a fad or a whim instead of an attempt to draw attention and support to a cause. Please don’t think I’m denigrating these acts of awareness. Getting the word out for any cause is of the utmost importance and anything that invites a conversation is an excellent starting point. Indeed, I am one of those who copies and pastes awareness messages to my status.

With further sole-searching (haha), I realized that this wasn’t about shoes or going barefoot, it was about “the doing.” The chord that resonated wasn’t going barefoot in an effort to shoe the world, it was that Mr Mycoskie recognized a real need and then DID something about it. The real kicker is the knowledge that I have always limited myself on what I thought I could contribute to the world, even though I have long had a desire to do more than my charitable donations and status updates. After all, I’m no entrepreneur, I don’t usually buy lottery tickets, and I don’t have a college degree. I know on an intellectual level that none of that matters, and I have always admired those who step up to the plate and do what needs to be done, no matter what their life story happens to be. Despite this, I’m usually the one on the sidelines, not doing anything.

I guess the first step to resolving an issue is recognizing that it exists, and my day without shoes, even if it wasn’t out in public, did start a conversation that has led me here. Where this knowledge will take me, I have yet to find out, but I hope I learn to leave the sidelines and get into the game more fully. My short-term aim is to try to focus on the things that I can do and to rewrite the story in my head telling me I can’t. Perhaps next year I can help promote a One Day Without Shoes event here in my new town. The more bare feet in public, the more conversations. It’s a start. 🙂

PS – And rather than solely encouraging one to buy a pair of shoes from TOMS, there are other organizations shoeing the world such as soles4souls, who take in gently used or new shoe donations. You can check out their site here. There may be a drop box near you.

Searching for Home Sweet Home…

We have never bought a house as an “investment” with plans to “upgrade” a few years down the road or “downsize” when the kids have grown. We have tried to find homes where we could see ourselves living for the long haul; and yet, we have moved house, state, and even country, more times than the average American family. Quite frankly, we’re getting sick and tired of moving.

With our current move to Duluth, we were going to take our time and find a place to rent for a year before buying a house. That plan is falling through at the moment. With such a large college student presence in proportion to non-student population, we have to compete with renters who are willing to live in 4 bedroom/1 bathroom houses with 70s-era kitchens, and no off-street parking. Ack! And, as anyone with a teenager in the house knows, 1 bathroom can get old really fast. 🙂  In addition, if we did rent a place, we would definitely have to move. Again.

We are now living in a furnished house with a month-to-month contract that is slowly and steadily getting on my nerves. I want my kitchen tools out of storage (or at least my spice rack) and to have a real desk again. The current office is not the most ergonomically friendly or private, with my computer sitting in the built-in cabinet in the dining room. However, it does afford us the luxury of time to really search for a home – something we did not have with the last 2 houses we bought.

This go-round will be our 5th home to buy together. The current routine is that I usually look at the homes with our broker and those deemed worthy get put on the “Visit With Bob” list. The basic requirement is that I have some sort of emotional draw to the house, there must be a useable kitchen (no tiny freezer-meal kitchens for me), and of course I have to have a private office space. We also want off street parking spaces (at least 3, preferably some of that garaged), more than 1 bathroom, a deck for grilling and entertaining…and the list goes on. Bob’s basic requirement is that it does not come with an extensive and expensive repair list.

So far, I have had 3 houses on the Visit With Bob list. I was really into the first 2 houses until Bob went through them and pointed out all the blemishes that my rose-colored glasses filtered out. My position is then to take those fabulous spectacles off and see the house from his perspective, and either cross the house off the list or present my case against his. So far, they’ve been crossed off. Visit #2 on the third house is tomorrow. It has the beautiful wood work and original maple floors that I find so charming, a fantastic modern kitchen, and a suitable office space overlooking the deck and garage in the back yard. There are some issues (which are to be expected from homes built in the early 20th century), so if the repairs and improvements outweigh the charm, we will continue searching. I may be going nuts with the roller coaster ride (and taking the broker along with me), but it’s worth it if we end up with our sweetest home ever.

Time Flies When You’re Having Chaos.

Two months since my last blog post? How could that have happened? Where have I been?

I remember years ago when I worked in an office and even before that while working in the service industry (waitress, cashier, etc), very busy days felt like they went by wonderfully fast. It was like you hardly noticed you were working at all. Well, it was sort of like that anyway. Now I find that sometimes, Chaos masquerades as Busy. When it happens, parts of your personal life get flown out the window as a byproduct of all that productiveness.

Chaos has been living with me for the past couple of months.

He must have snuck into our suitcase in Las Vegas when we were coming home from our Christmas road trip. Because that’s where Bob, in a sudden inspiration of “why not?,” posted his resume to every telecommunications job in the country. He was frustrated at not having heard back from many electro-laser optic companies, so he decided to dip back into his past one last time.

Back home, it started out slowly, logically even. Says Bob, “Wouldn’t it be a good idea to start packing everything up so when a job offer comes in, we will be prepared?” Packing=Birthing Chaos.

Middle of January:  Just back from our trip to California for the Photonics West Trade Show with ISU’s Laser Club when T-Mobile calls. The next week and a half is filled with interviews, planning, and dreaming. I mean, What if, right? Wrong. He got the over-used and incredibly frustrating verdict of:  Over qualified.

End of January:  E-mail from hiring manager with AT&T asking if Bob would be interested in the Duluth, MN position that had come open. This is from the Minneapolis job he had applied for back on New Year’s Eve. Another week and a half of interviews, planning, and dreaming (though a bit more cautiously this time), and…Eureka! We were Minnesota bound. Wait…when is that start date? In 2 weeks?!?!?

We have now been in our temporary house in Duluth for almost 2 weeks. We are essentially living out of suitcases with our worldly goods packed very tightly into a storage room, awaiting their final destination into our new-to-us home, which has yet to be found… So, while Chaos still resides here, he has outgrown the “terrible twos” stage and is settling into his teenage years (I think he’s even become BFFs with Michael).

The plan is to lock him (Chaos, not Michael) into the storage room when we clear it out. Here’s hoping, anyhow.

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