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Wednesday, September 24, 2014

A Productive Marriage

After all these years, I am productively married.

“Productively?!?” I can almost hear the sarcastic riposte: “Be still my beating heart - tell me more Romeo!” Admittedly, “productive” is probably not the word that would cause most women – at least not the one I know best – to swoon. But hear me out on this one.

First: I am happily married – yes. And I am grateful for that…whatever “happily married” actually means when one has 3 kids (including the resultant bills and a soccer carpool), a dog who relishes creating yellow stains on white carpet, a house in perpetual need of weekend work, the deep drive to feel successful in a career, and a checking account with occasional convulsions. Being married to Julie in the midst of all this is (of course!) blissful joy – EXCEPT when she is exhausted from caring for a preschooler, enduring hormonally-induced moodiness, or suggesting that we should spend money (ever).

In other words, EXCEPT when real life kicks in. 

That’s what this post is about – real life. It may be that exactly none of the above pressures on modern marriages create extra space for “happy”…at least not in the way that I think of “happy”…as sort of a pink, fluffy, cotton candy kind of experience.

Now - I have indeed felt many moments of “happy” with Julie. We have created endless (yes, endless) lighthearted moments together. You won’t hear me brag about it with the guys, but way back when we used to go see G Rated Disney movies together for fun…Aladdin, The Little Mer…. (Back then, the computer graphics in animation were kind of a new thing. Anyway….)

Happy is good. And I would not say that “happy” with Julie has evaporated. I would say that the spice ingredient called “happy” went into a meal called LIFE that demands – and promises - so much more.

Happiness, I think, is great in courtship. It is great in marriage at any stage, in the same way that digging around for that plastic toy in the Cracker Jack box used to be totally WORTH. IT.

But now there are other things on the plate besides caramel-coated crunchiness. There is meat that needs to be carefully chewed, and vegetables that are not always the tastiest (but they nourish). On the plate of marriage is something called human growth.

And this is the reason I am grateful for a “productive” marriage. Because I am still kind of gristly, and there is a lot of me that would probably never make it to the plate in a chic five-star restaurant. I try to act like it, but I don’t know if I am a five-star restaurant kind of guy…my genes tilt more toward the Woolworth’s lunch counter experience, actually. But God and Julie – they keep trimming off the gristle so that my soul can get lean. 

Maybe – long term – that’s where the meaning in marriage is to be found. It IS about “happy”…it IS about “romance”…AND maybe the significance of marriage over the long haul is also about the pain, challenge, promise, and deep gratification of soul-making. 

So perhaps if you are challenged (and even frustrated) in marriage, it could be that you have passed from one stage into another where there is some protein amidst the high-glycemic carbs.

In other words, into a wonderfully “productive” – nourshing - life. 

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

What I wish the world knew about special needs adoption

What I Wish The World Knew About Special Needs Adoption

I’m not even sure our son Levi qualifies as special needs adoption.  His cleft lip and palate have been repaired thanks to an amazing team at Johns Hopkins.  There is nothing wrong now. But for the first 2 years of his life he couldn’t really speak and he couldn’t really hear.  So now he is a spunky 4 year old super hero loving boy who talks all the time but apparently I’m one of the only ones who can decipher his speech.  This makes life difficult.  For him.  And me. 

He is in a 4 year old preschool class and he’s spoiled rotten and he kicked and hit his teacher today.  I am mortified typing these words.  There are no excuses.  There is no denying that he knows better.  It has been a terrible day (for me). 

But when his teacher said that he needed a behavior plan and that they would be monitoring his progress and that she knew being nonverbal was part of the issue, well my eyes filled with tears.  They spilled over.  I, again, was mortified.  He is not this moment.  This is not the truth about my boy.  He is not nonverbal.  I must admit he does kick and hit when frustrated.  So do I. 

I can’t help but think about my friends parenting children with deeper special needs, because we all are special needs if you want to know the truth.  We all have a unique character gifted from our Creator and we all need others to have open hearts and open hands and open minds to who we are.  My boy should not kick and hit his teacher when he doesn’t want to go to circle time.  And I should not feel defensive.  I should not want to justify his behavior, to remind his new teachers that his story is unique.  But I do.  Please, world, please know that my boy doesn’t want to kick and hit and lash out.  He is sweet.  He cuddles.  He is stubborn.  You have no idea what his beginning looked like.  I’m not quite sure you (or I) could stomach it.
 
Here’s the deal, dear world.  When you adopt a child that doesn’t look like you at all people automatically question.  Or they automatically assume that you helped this little life.  Not true.  In my case for sure my babies rescued me.  Infertility is a terrible, horrible, painful, long slow death.  Peering into the eyes of a sweet soul destined to belong to me healed wounds that went deep.  And although my belly never swelled with their heart beating beneath it, they are mine.  Born in my heart.  Birthed in blood, sweat, and tears of despair, hopelessness, and finally , finally light dawning with God’s plan for our “hope and future.” 

So what I want his teachers to know is that if he does it again he won’t get his Ipad.  Shit’s getting real, y’all.  And what I want his teachers to know is that you don’t have to talk louder to Levi.  He can hear you.  He’s doing his best, but using this relatively new gift of a long and smooth palate is tricky for him.  He really wants to please you but he is also a determined son of a gun. How else do you think he survived the indescribable moments of his early childhood?  I want you to know that he is creative and he loves praise and he sings all the time and sometimes or a lot of the time I wish he would stop asking me questions.  And please don’t label him as nonverbal.  Just because you can’t understand him doesn’t mean he isn’t communicating.  And I also know you’re doing the best you can but I still want to make it better for him and for all the others who feel like their kids are problems and who are in IEP meetings and advocating and feeling worn out and it’s only the 2nd week of school for goodness sake.

Sending love and light to the moms and dads and teachers deep in the trenches—know that you are doing good.  Know that you are important.  Know that no matter what happens with your baby God is holding you close to his heart.