Monday, November 19

Chocolate Hugs

Lately I have been thinking about the past two years, and how my life has changed since we met the couple that blessed us with Justin.

Every morning when I greet my son, I see his smile and enthusiasm.  As he laughs and reaches out to me from his crib, jumping up and down for me to pick him up, I am blown away to think that he loves me despite my ragged morning appearance, and my many imperfections.

Tonight while I was sitting in church, I was thinking back to a time around six months before we met the storks that would send this special delivery to our doorstep.  I often daydream in church, but I still manage to listen at the same time. Thank goodness there is medication for that :) Anyhow, I digress. During the adoption process, I tried to be very selective when I opened up about our experience, because I didn't want to get emotional and make a scene. Unfortunately, I never knew when and where I would burst into tears.  My meltdowns seemed to happen at the strangest times.

This particular time, I was sitting at an airport waiting for a flight back home to Seattle from Texas. My phone rang, and I saw it was my husband.  I was looking forward to talking to him. After saying hello, he excitedly told me that both of his cousins were pregnant. "Isn't that great?" he said. I managed to say yes, as I felt a huge lump forming in my throat.  It is hard to explain the mixed feelings I had as I wanted to be happy for them, but all of my grief came to the surface once again, wondering why it couldn't be us with the good news about a baby for us to adopt. I knew I was headed for an awkward flight, as whoever sat next to me was going to be forced to sit next to a basket case for the next several hours!  As I boarded the plane, I did my best not to think about the phone call.

When I settled into my seat, I was greeted by a friendly woman who greeted me warmly.  I sat down, and hoped she was not one of those well meaning advice pushers.  That was the last thing I needed in that moment.  I said a prayer that she wouldn't talk. At the most, we could just engage in a little polite, very shallow small talk that didn't involve feelings of any kind. Then it happened.  She opened a big bag of peanut M&M's, and asked me how I was doing. She offered to share, and turned the bag towards me.  "Oh dear," I thought.  That was the worst combination! Chocolate and kindness all in one! Before the plane even took off, I was spilling my guts to a perfect stranger, while eating all of her candy.  I didn't even care how many I reached for, and fortunately she didn't seem to, either.  She listened empathetically.  I was waiting for her to either change the subject, or offer advice, but she didn't do either.  Instead, her eyes filled with tears as she let me talk. I told her about the phone call with my husband, and why I felt guilty for feeling the way I did.  I felt like a terrible human being for having these emotions.  After listening, she turned around in her seat as much as you can in a cramped airplane, and took my hands.  She told me that our story would unfold, and that it would be God's best for my husband and me.  Nobody else will share our experience, and that is what would make it beautiful. I believed her.

It was so nice to unload, even though I didn't know this lady. I finally asked her how she was doing.  She told me that she was also headed back home to Seattle.  Then she surprised me by telling me that she had adopted two girls!  She had also gone through much waiting.  As it turned out, we had shared many of the same experiences.  Somehow, I knew that she wasn't just another person that was going to offer words to minimize my experience and feelings, because she had been through it herself.  There was something about her that was so credible. As we got up to leave the plane, she gave me a big hug and told me to keep her posted on any news.  It was exciting when I sent her an email telling her the very unique details of our adoption story.  This experience has lingered in my memory for many reasons.  I could not believe the timing of this seemingly serendipitous meeting, nor could I imagine how we ended up sitting next to each other when there were so many people I could have sat next to that day. Lastly I thought about the gift of true empathy.

Before we adopted Justin, there were many times that mothers told me things like "Oh, you wouldn't understand because you're not a mom!"  Or they would say, "Just wait until you are a Mom, then you will understand," as if I was incapable of understanding anything about kids because I didn't have a child of my own. Such comments used to be very offensive to me.  I think the reverse is also true.  If you have never been in a place where you could not have a child, you can never understand the depth of that pain.  It is best to never say things like "I know how you feel." True empathy comes from walking through difficult times, and later when you are on the other side, you can comfort those who are going through similar situations.

Whenever I am tempted to think that God is far away, and doesn't care about even the smallest details of my life, I am reminded of this plane ride with an extraordinary woman who took the time to listen and share her chocolate with me.


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Italy trip

I have been going through my pictures, and have enjoyed looking at this album of Italy. I was able to go over last year to attend a conference. This was the first time I have been back in twenty years. The pictures are made up mostly of places we lived as a family. My brother and I were able to go together, and we were graciously hosted by some friends of ours from language school in Perugia. I feel such a sense of nostalgia when I look at these pictures. I miss Italy so much. It was strange to go back as a tourist knowing I would be returning to the US after such a short time. Tonight I made cookies with Nutella in them, and I remembered how much I enjoyed the simple pleasures. Fortunately, you can find it here! Saturday, we are going up to my brother's house to celebrate a late Thanksgiving, only we will be making homemade tortellini instead of turkey. Happy Thanksgiving!