The Other Side of Our Story…Precious Words

In keeping with the theme of Adoption and Motherhood – our daughter’s sweet, amazing, incredible birth Mom, Roxy, has agreed to share her side of our story.  Below is her version, in her own words.  Thank you Roxy!  We love you beyond measure!!!

“At nineteen years old my life had become a tornado of poor decisions, confusion, and naiveté as well as a substantial dose of bad luck.  However, in the eye of that storm there was quiet. There was peace. In the eye of that storm I found a love that was unmatched in ferocity.  It was short lived but it was the best twenty-four hours of my life, to that point. I met my first born child, an angel whose heart beats forever in perfect harmony with my own. This is a day that I will never regret. I will always live in the confidence of the knowledge that I brought one amazing person into this world that day. I will never grieve, be ashamed of, or mourn the moment I held a piece of my heart in my arms. The years prior to and afterward were incredibly painful, but that moment was worth it.

I remember exactly what I was doing when I felt her first kick. I was driving down the highway on my way to class. I was passing a car and there was a semi headed toward me in my lane. All of a sudden I felt little flutters in my stomach. It took me a moment to realize it was my baby! It was like she was saying “I’m in here. Keep me safe.” so I did. I took my vitamins. I went to my appointments. I avoided all the risky things. I sang to her and discussed (obviously one sided) my thoughts on mundane things. I knew when she was the size of a jelly bean, an orange, a cantaloupe. I bought a single onesie and bib before I was even far enough along to know the gender. I loved my unborn child unequivocally and immeasurably from the moment I knew she existed, which made it incredibly easy to convince myself that love was enough. It was not difficult, at a naïve nineteen years old, to satisfy fleeting first time motherhood anxieties with visions of being a single mom superhero that somehow fills every material and emotional need for my unborn child with zero assets, while going to college, and working full time.

I distinctly remember the day that I fully realized my inadequacy.  I remember sitting at the river watching a little girl feed the ducks with her mom and dad. Within moments of observing them, I knew. I knew I had been deceiving myself.  I knew I would never be able to give my little girl all that she deserved. She deserved to have a mom and DAD that would be there for her EVERY day. As bad as I yearned to be able to be everything for her right that moment and forever after, I knew the reality. I knew that she would spend most of her childhood at a daycare being raised by someone else. I knew money would be so incredibly tight that I would make decisions based on cost rather than practicality every time she needed something. Most importantly I knew that I could never fill the role of a father. No matter how badly I wanted it to be true, I couldn’t do that. It was completely impossible.

Of course, there was a birth father. While we shared a brief glimpse into one another’s lives, he was someone who was as foreign to me as any other stranger I passed on the street. He called occasionally. These moments entailed conversations that mostly lacked any substance or emotional connection whatsoever. They also lacked any desire on his part to make a co-parenting situation a reality. If there was an aspiration for a parenting collaboration on his part, I completely missed it. I won’t discount that as a possibility. It’s possible I dismissed the idea based solely on my existing negative impressions of the man. It’s possible I didn’t give him a chance to be anything different than what I knew him to be at that point. I believe that’s called being a realist. That’s human. That’s what we do.

There was no disillusionment for me here.  I had no hope for a fairytale ending. I wasn’t one to think too much about such things anyways. In fact I had the opposite. I had an unbridled love for the little person growing in my womb and an ever-growing abhorrence for the person that helped me get into that particular situation. My idea that it was solely on my shoulders to make the right decisions was further reinforced with the knowledge that in the past his go-to solution to these kinds of discrepancies was to terminate the pregnancies, one solution that was NEVER on the table for me.  Through the grace of God,I have since grown, forgiven, and come to terms with the details of this situation. If our character was forever judged based on the lowest points in our lives, we would be eternally without hope. However, I do feel like this is an important part of the story solely to reflect light on how I came to my decisions. At that time I felt as if his idea of what was happening and my idea of what was happening were so dramatically different. There was no chance of the two of us coming together to do the already daunting task of raising a happy, healthy, and confident child.  Could we have done it? Probably. Could we have done it well? Most likely, no.

So I began to reluctantly entertain the idea of adoption. It began as an information gathering mission. I researched LDS Family Services. I visited and conversed with Rex, the social worker there. He explained that it would be a closed adoption but I would still get to correspond with the family through letters and picture exchanges.  Each time I went to an appointment, filled out paperwork, and discussed my baby girl with him, I held on to a glimmer of hope in the back of my mind. I continued to hope throughout the entire process, that I would figure out a way to keep my baby. I fought a constant internal battle between my heart and my mind, between love and reason. At times it felt as if once I boarded that adoption train I couldn’t make it stop and I couldn’t get off. However, one day Rex presented me with the profiles of four adoptive couples. As I read through them I immediately fell in love with one family, clear front runners, that brought a small sense of peace into my heart. Peace was a feeling I hadn’t experienced in a very long time. I went home and prayed and prayed and prayed some more. Each time I prayed about that couple, the sense of peace grew stronger.  I knew. The perfect family for my baby was clear. I returned to Family Services with my decision. During that meeting I was given more information and paperwork to fill out. At one point Rex, stepped out of the room as I continued to read through the papers, and a pivotal moment occurred. The final paper in the stack he handed me had the couples last name listed, Kenneth and Andrea Walker, plain as day. I immediately began to panic. A cold fear rushed through my body as I knew this mistake had the potential to completely destroy this entire situation. I sat the papers down and contemplated whether or not I should reveal his discrepancy. I chose not to. The stakes were too high and I couldn’t risk letting this opportunity for my baby girl slip away. I remained silent and pressed forward scheduling a meeting with Ken and Andrea.

The day I met them was wonderful. I loved everything about them. They were so obviously in love and had been praying and planning for the arrival of their first baby for years. They were stable and prepared in every way for a child to join their family. They were so kind and considerate. Even now I cry thinking about how they made me feel that day. They immediately became a part of my heart and I finally could rest in the knowledge that things might be ok. I could ensure that my baby has an amazing life. All I had to do was figure out how to muster up the courage and the unselfishness necessary to give a piece of my heart to someone else forever.

I began having contractions at about midnight on August 28th, 2001 and had no idea what was going on. I called my best friend and for hours she sat on the phone with me while I timed each contraction. I was scared. I was a somewhat worried about the physical pain but terrified over the emotional pain I knew I was about to experience. Again, that train wasn’t about to stop and let me off so I went to the hospital. Labor was hard. It hurt. It was scary and strange and awkward and definitely not how I’d envisioned having my first baby. However, after it was all said and done she was here and she was amazing! For the first time in my young life I knew what it was like to love someone so much I would do anything to make them happy, even with the knowledge that I may never be truly happy or whole again. I was afraid to hold her because I knew once she was in my arms, I wouldn’t want to let her go. I did it though. I held her so tight. I sang to her. I whispered stories to her and told her how much I loved her over, and over, and over again. I explained why I was letting her go, hoping that maybe somehow her subconscious would cling to some of my words.

As we left the hospital, my dad pushed me through the halls in a wheelchair and he said something I’ll never forget. He said “we could just take her and go right now.” I considered fleeing, running through the halls with her in my arms and never looking back, escaping the promise I had made. My heart ached terribly knowing within moments I would be saying goodbye to my baby girl. It hurt. Those words don’t even begin to describe how it felt to hand my baby over to someone else. I don’t think there are sufficient words really. I was so happy for her and for them. Ken and Andrea were so respectful, so quietly joyful and also hurting for me. It was evident that they felt my pain intermingled with their joy and it was bittersweet. Part of me was celebrating with them and part of me wanted to curl up in a ball and die. There were definitely fleeting bits of happiness and harmony throughout that placement experience and I knew I was doing the right thing, the best thing. I clung to a mental image I had of my beautiful baby girl laughing, playing, and thriving with a mom and a DAD.

The only way I can describe the days following the placement is excruciatingly painful. My body wanted to nurse, nurture, and rock a baby. My arms ached to hold her close. Sometimes I thought I could still feel her moving around in my belly, still a part of me. I wondered if it that was how an amputee feels. I’d heard when a limb is removed the patient often still feels it there. I still felt like my baby was there at times and it was crushing when I pulled myself back to reality. The world went on without me.  I didn’t have any idea how heartbreak could produce such physical pain. It’s a ton of bricks on your chest. It’s feeling like you’re drowning in mud. It’s mostly indescribable. Being in that type of pain is lonely.  This wasn’t a pain that anyone or anything could remedy.

I did have some family and friends for support but I’m not really the type to openly share my emotions. I do remember a significant moment the day after the placement when I felt like I might just die. The idea of dying from a broken heart felt so real and so possible that day. I called my best friend. I desperately needed help. She wasn’t home and I recall her mother asking me how I was doing. I broke down and said “not good” and I’ll never forget her reply. She said “oh, so you do actually have a heart in there somewhere.”  I never opened up to anyone again. Most of the world treated me with the attitude that “you did it to yourself”.  Most people didn’t come out and say those words but I’ve always had an uncanny ability to feel the emotions of others. At that point in my life it was a curse, a compounding factor to my existing state of grief that nearly crushed me. I knew why I did it. I knew who I did it for. I tried not to care what anyone else thought.

I worked in a large call center where many people had seen my pregnancy, but didn’t know me personally. I took a week off to recover. Returning to work was difficult. There were countless awkward conversations to navigate. Numerous people congratulated me on my baby. It hurt every time. I tried to side-step the details, but often failed. Word got around after a few days and pretty soon no one said anything to me again. Ever.  Except for a handful of friends, people I knew avoided me for the most part. I’m not sure if it was because it was awkward for them or they truly didn’t like me anymore.  I quit my job within a few months. I needed a fresh start. I couldn’t be “that girl that gave her baby away” anymore. I really wish from here I could say I turned to God for solace and peace, but I did not. Not yet.

Years of mistakes, struggles, and poor choices I made in an effort to fill my empty heart came first. Hindsight is 20/20 and looking back I realize I should have sought counseling. I should have figured out how to mend my heart and heal in a healthy way. I should have done things differently. There was a better way. Fortunately, I eventually did find God. He’d been with me all along. I just couldn’t see through the self-inflicted fog of sorrow and agony. I knew putting my experience on paper would hurt.

Almost fourteen years of life experience and perspective has helped soften the pain but it’s a wound that will never fully heal. However, I do feel strongly now that Rex’s mistake fourteen years ago was my saving grace. Just knowing that someday I might be able to find my other family again and reconnect with them has given me a glimmer of hope to cling to all this time.

A little less than a year ago I did contact Ken, Andrea, and our daughter and have found so much healing through being able to connect with them. They have so graciously accepted my presence back in their lives and we are going to meet again for the first time. I have always viewed The Walkers as the hero and heroine in this story and have never once believed them to be liable for my pain but rather solely responsible for giving my baby girl a wonderful childhood. They are truly a blessing to me. I don’t pretend to know what to expect , how to navigate this upcoming meeting or what the future holds but regardless, I will forever know that at one point in my life I was able to give a gift of immeasurable value to Ken and Andrea and to my beautiful daughter, and my namesake, Lou Lou”

Discussing Race with our Children

I’m not one to really be political or to argue my point to a certain extent.  However, I wanted to share my point of view about race.  As you may have learned about our family, we are a trans-racial family.  We have adopted 3 black children, 2 of which are also Cuban, all three have bits of White/Caucasian in them as well.

First of all, I want to say that I am not sharing this to upset anyone on either side of this debate.  I’m simply sharing my view.  since Ken and I are white, I feel that we have a unique perspective, especially viewing black people through the eyes of our black children.  I don’t see race.  I see my children, not the color of their skin.  Seriously.

The other night I was picking up our daughter, Lou Lou from a church activity.  It was later in the evening, around 8 p.m.  Bubba was in the car with me, and I asked him to run into the church and tell Lou Lou we were there to get her.  She wasn’t answering her phone or answering the text messages I had sent.

As Bubba left the car, I reminded him to be careful, that it was dark out and the other drivers in the parking lot might not see him.  As he closed the door of our Kia Soul, he asked, “Why?  Because I’m Black?”

I tried not to giggle.  I believe he was serious about asking that question.  And I definitely never even thought about his race when reminding him to be careful in the parking lot.  My caution to him wasn’t because of his race, it was because he is 9, and it’s my job to protect him.  It was merely an innocent comment to remind him to be careful so he didn’t get hurt.

I was really surprised by his question.  He loves to joke and tease me, so I really couldn’t tell if he was serious or not, but his question caught me off guard and I began to wonder if I had ever played the race card with any of our children.

Had I taught them to be a victim because they looked different than me or their Daddy, or even many of the other people in our small community.  Our three kiddos have discussed that they are the only ones in our church that are black.  I try to explain to them that they are unique and loved and very much wanted.

You see, I’m fascinated with black people.  I love them, I love their race, I love their culture.  I try not to stare at any black person I see because I don’t want them to think I’m staring because they are different because of the color of their skin.  They are simply people I am trying to glean from, to learn more about them so that I can share their culture and race with my own children.

Years ago when Lou Lou arrived home with us, I purchased some prints by a black painter named Ellis Wilson.  I purchased three prints, and this one is my favorite called “A Mother’s Love”.  I really enjoy looking at Ellis Wilson’s art, especially because his art covered the walls of one of my favorite childhood T.V. shows, “The Cosby Show”.  When I told (and showed) a coworker the prints.  She asked, “Why would you put those on your walls?  You don’t look like that.”  I was seriously taken aback.  I simply told her, “I may not look like that, but my child does”.

A Mother's Love_Ellis Wilson

One of my favorite stories about when Lou Lou arrived was the very first time I changed my one day old baby girls diaper.  As I lifted up her little legs, I noticed these dark spots on her hips.  I instantly started freaking out, yelling for my Mother-in-law and husband, Ken, to run into the room because someone had hurt and bruised my baby.  Fear, sadness, and utter despair was brimming in my heart, tears nearly ready to spill over.  But my sweet Mother-in-law reassured me that Lou Lou had not been battered or abused.  She told me that the dark spots were called “Mulatto spots”.  I had never heard of such a thing.  To help ease my stress over the situation, Mom explained it in a way I could grasp.  She said, “It’s basically where the black and white colors haven’t quite mixed together.”  Ok, so now that made sense.  Ken’s Mom and Dad had two other bi-racial grandchildren and had seen spots like those on Lou Lou’s hips before.  Whew, crisis averted, panic ebbed, heart stopped racing, and life that first day went back to utter joy. I will never forget that feeling

Even back then, and still today, I want my children to identify with their heritage and to never be ashamed of who they are, where they came from, or who they will become.  I never want them to use their race as a crutch or to be victimized by their black history.  Racism isn’t allowed in our home, just as persecution should never be allowed anywhere for race, color, creed, or nationality, or definitely religion.  Those of you who are or might know about Mormon’s,  know about persecution from our own church history.  We all have much to be thankful for.

Over the past few years, I loved learning about and purchasing books with black people in them.  I also purchased books about adoption, but I definitely enjoyed sharing books like the glorious book “Corduroy”.  I love that book, my children love that book too.  It’s one of our very favorite books, and the kids still talk about it to this day.

I also love the PBS television show, “Reading Rainbow”.  We watched it faithfully when Lou Lou was little.  Reading Rainbow introduced Lou Lou and I to the book, “Amazing Grace”.  Lou Lou identified with Grace and especially loved the beautiful pictures and still remembers being scared of Grace in a picture of looking like a “spider”.  This book is still in our family library today.  I look forward to reading it to my Grandbabies.

As we have tried to help our children come into contact with their heritage, we have introduced them to some of the most amazing Black Heroes in history!  The greats like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Ruby Bridges, Harriet Tubman, Lionel Richie, Rosa Parks, Mariah Carey, Jesse Owens, Maya Angelou, Miles Davis, Oprah Winfrey, Etta James, Dr. Ronald McNair, Ella Fitzgerald, Michael Jackson.  As they are growing up, their own favorite music is emerging: especially Usher, Bruno Mars, Nicki Minaj, Beyonce, and many others. The list is endless.

When Lou Lou was about three, the “Oprah Winfrey” show was still on regular TV.  I was a faithful Oprah fan, and I guess it really left an impression on Lou Lou because every black woman we saw in town or surrounding towns, (which weren’t many), and every picture of a black woman she noticed, she instantly recognized as Oprah.  She would point to the black woman in the picture or on the street and say, “Look Mom, there’s Oprah”.  It was comical at the time, and I would discuss with her that not every black woman was Oprah, that there are an endless number of black people in her world that will look like her in many ways.

Growing up in a small Southern Utah town, I remember one of the few black boys in my class was Stevie. His Mom was black, his Dad was white.  Stevie was the coolest kid, the best basketball player in our grade, and I seriously loved looking at his brown skin. He was sooo cute.  I was never cool enough to even be noticed by him, but I was in awe of his family dynamics, and wondered what it would be like to be around him. Every once in a while, I think about Stevie and his family.  I wonder what he thought of being the only black boy in our school…I think he might of had siblings, but I can’t really remember.  Stevie’s Dad was a teacher at a nearby school.  Honestly he was one of the coolest teachers I had ever met.

Most of the people who see our family, smile and realize we adopted our kids.  If Ken or I am by ourselves with the kids, we get a lot of stares.   Staring is a way of educating, pondering and peaking curiosity and it’s a completely natural occurrence around our family.  One morning in 2008, our family walked into a Diner in Weed, California, and sitting at a booth near the front door was an older Mennonite couple.  As we walked past them, they stared, smiled, and the sweet woman said with a gentle voice, “Bless You”.  That moment really touched my heart.  I appreciated that one sentence so much, it brought comfort to me as we don’t always receive such praise.  Sometimes, we even get the opposite.  But we smile and continue on our way.  You can’t change ignorance overnight, like everything in life, it’s a gradual thing.  Line upon Line, generation after generation thing can change, and things have changed so much.

Stevie’s Mom would come to bring him lunch and I would stare at her.  As I said, for me, staring is not a bad thing.  But I soon realized it wasn’t something that was socially acceptable, I would try so hard not to stare.  It really was difficult for me. I tried to catch myself and stop glancing at her.  She was like a brown exotic goddess.  Long black curly hair, gorgeous skin, long eyelashes that looked like black butterfly wings fluttering above her eyes…little did I know I would one day raise my own little brown exotic goddess.

During a Human Biology class in my Sophomore year of High School, this class was taught by one of the cutest teachers in my school.  Sorry, he just was…LOL, and it really was a joy to go to class every single day.  I recall learning about “Sickle Cell Anemia”, which is usually a disease suffered by black people.  I remember saying to my friends at my table, well I won’t have to worry about that one.  I never imagined I would need to know about a disease that affected black people.  I never imagined I would have black people in my family.  I wasn’t against it of course, it truly wasn’t on my radar to prepare for.  But after my sweet boys arrived, I definitely asked our Pediatrician if they had been tested.  It is so ironic the things you never imagine will happen, actually completely change your life for the better.  I’m grateful for the knowledge I have gained to better help me to advocate for and help my children.  I’m also very grateful that I can help educate and share some of the knowledge I have received with others who are going through their own bi-racial or trans-racial adoptions.

The family story about race that I want to share is also about Lou Lou.  It seems she had more questions growing up than our boys.  One day we were in a grocery store, she was about 4, and the cart I was pushing her in had a little plastic car attached to it so that she could play while I shopped.  Whoever thought to create those car shopping carts is a pure genius.  At about this time Lou Lou was learning her colors and we would paint with water colors and learn what paints mixed together to create new colors.  As I shopped and crossed things off of my list, she seriously asked me, “Mom, what do you get when you mix black and white?”  I told her, “Grey”.  To which she slowly asked me, “Then…why…am…I…brown?”  I immediately explained I thought she meant paint colors. I stopped the cart, got down at her eye level, and reassured her that when we mix black and white people we usually always make brown.  This seemed to ease her fears, but that moment was ingrained in my memory.  She says she doesn’t remember that conversation, but always asks me to tell that story whenever we talk about her childhood, or in any conversation with people we meet who ask us about race or adoption.  I learned that I needed to be more sensitive to her questions and ask her further questions to get to root of her questions.  She was a deep thinker who always asked questions, she has taught us so much about pondering and questioning everything around us.  I love that about her.

So, I hope I haven’t been on my soap box too much in this essay.  I pray that you will see race through a different lens.  Perspective is important when we encounter anyone.  Walking in someones shoes can be difficult when we don’t even know how to broach the subject, or start a meaningful discussion in the first place.

I won’t bore you with my opinion of the cop killings that have happened in the news over the past few years.  They are however an important part of the race, violence, and guns discussion. I recall the incident with Rodney King when I was in high school.  I pray my children never encounter a moment like those, that there will never be a point in my life when I receive a phone call that my child has been hurt, maimed, or taken from me – but I cannot control those moments, I have to trust that God knows best for me, my children, and all of my family.

Choices always have consequences.  There are choices and consequences in both of the perspectives, and it is difficult to determine what is best.  I’m glad I am not God who will judge or decide the outcome.  I do not envy anyone their consequence of losing their free agency, the life of a child, or their own life because of their choices.  I hesitate to state that race will not affect my children’s world for the rest of their lives. Yes times have changed, our family determines the state of our opinion of race in our small world of Family and Home.  But we cannot and will not be able to change how others see us.  I pray I have given my children the stability of loving parents and family, that they will be able to stand up for others and for themselves if they face discrimination, persecution, or violence.  I cannot stress to you enough that what we teach our children now will determine the people they become tomorrow.  It will also determine the people our grandchildren and great grandchildren, and generations forward become.  I tell my children often that I look forward to more brown babies in our family when they have their own children.  We discuss who they could marry, black, white, mexican.  It doesn’t matter to Ken or I, but it exciting to listen to these sweet children share their perspective of race.

No matter where my children go, no matter the choices they make, we will love them.  We will love them for who they are as our children.  We may not love their choices, but we will always love them.  I do not see them as black, I see them as mine.  I do not notice if I personally treat them differently on purpose.  I know that we have to take extra care to be educated – to know how to help them with their dry skin, curly afro hair, or body odor at an earlier age than my nephews did.  I learn new insights into my children’s race nearly every single day.  Our boys have B.O. at the age of 8 & 9 – I asked my doctor, I guess black boys have more testosterone than white boys their age, so they smell sooner.  I didn’t know that, now I do.  I worried it was a glandular problem, nope, it’s normal.  Jman has very active oil glands on his face already.  He’s only 8, he has to wash his face morning and night.  I can barely get him to brush his teeth, so adding the face washing has been an interesting endeavor.  But we are learning, and that is what life is all about.

I encourage you to learn something new every single day about your child or children.  It’s eye opening to me, because I only see the Nurture portion of the Nature vs. Nurture debate.  And not knowing anything about being a black person has really broadened my desire to learn more.  I’m far from the normal every day Mother.  Yes I have days when I scream and yell.  I mean, just ask my kids.  But I hope they feel loved.  I hope they feel they belong, even if I’m white and they’re black.

I love the movie Tarzan and the Phil Collins song, “You’ll be in my Heart”.  It is beyond the realm of my expressing how spot on that song is for the feelings I have for my children.  This song is like a sound track for this little family of mine.

I am forever grateful for the knowledge I have received through learning about my children’s heritage. I’m also thankful for a God who loves me and my family, who wants what’s best for all of us.  We like our Heavenly Father, have a heart, we all have hands, we all have a soul.  We are the same, and yet we are different.  Love is universal, it can encompass every single being upon the earth.  No matter who we are or what we look like, my ultimate opinion of this topic is:  love is more important than race.  Love crosses borders, religious lines, and devious persecutions. Love can increase in the hearts of all people – but we have to start with ourselves first.  Love is the key that will unlock all race boundaries.  Loving my children, loving their race, honoring their heritage and mine, has truly changed my life.

100 Things I want my Children to Know!

My Momma passed away when I was eleven years old.  That was nearly 30 years ago and it was a really difficult time in my life.  It seemed to change the course of my life from the moment she was gone from this Earth.  You can read a bit about that story here.

I have wondered many things about my Mom over the years.  You can only imagine a thousand gazillion questions, right?

Like was she happy?  What were her favorite things?  What was she passionate about?  Did she have dreams that she never achieved?  What were her dreams for me?  How did she and Dad meet?  How did she feel when she gave birth to me?

I have many amazing older Sisters and one Brother that have tried to fill in those gaps and answer those questions.  But I truly never realized how much I wanted to hear them from her until I had my own children.

The kiddos, Ken and I were sitting around eating dinner at the dinner table and Lou Lou asked us to tell the story of how we met and married.  It reminded me of those unanswered questions long ago.

So I’ve decided to write down my own story about life, but wanted my kids to know many other things about me, about what I dream for them.  I wanted to share my advice with them about life and love, about choosing God above anything else, about staying happy and connected to family.  And since I seem to over-share with this blog, I’ve decided to share my list of things with you.  I would encourage you to do the same with your family/children too.

I will also be writing letters to my children too and including this list in it for them.  Rifling through my Mom’s mementos and things, I always dreamed I would find a letter from her to me.  It never happened of course, but is something I want to give to my own children for those Just In Case moments.  I intend to save these letters & lists in our fire proof strong box.


1.  Find out for yourself who God is and Lovingly pray to him daily.

2.  Remember who you are, as a Spirit Son or Daughter of God.

3.  Go to church every week.  Partake of the Sacrament and renew your precious covenants.

4.  Surround yourself with good friends.  Don’t let anyone bring you down to their level, instead help them rise up to yours.

5.  Listen to uplifting music that will not bring you down.

6. Look people in the eye when you talk with them.

7. Share the gospel whenever you can, bring others to the knowledge of the Savior.

8.  Pray anywhere, anytime, for anything.

9.  Read the Book of Mormon and pray to know if its true.

10. Bear testimony of the truths you have received in your life.

11.  Count your Blessings.

12.  Don’t waste your time on buying brand name items when generic will do.

13.  Learn to save your money.

14.  Choose to follow Christ throughout your life.

15.  Repent when you need to, and forgive yourself when you’ve slipped up.

16.  Eat sandwiches with fresh cucumbers in the middle.

17.  Smile more.

18.  Make someone happy every day.

19.  Go to College or trade school and graduate.

20.  Get a good job and learn to work hard.  Work never hurt anyone.

21.  Respect yourself.  Remember sex is not love, it is the ultimate expression of love.

22.  Marry in the temple to the Love of your life, like I did.

23.   Call your Mom and Dad more often.

24.  Wear a red shirt or sweater to a job interview.  The color red says, “I’m in charge and confidant”.

25.  Learn to have hobbies.  Writing, creating, repairing things like Daddy, singing, playing an instrument, anything to help you feel fulfilled.

26.  Advocate for someone who can’t speak up for themselves.

27.  Service is a huge key to happiness.  Help those around you.

28.  Stay positive.

29.  Go caroling at Christmas to Senior centers or even your neighborhood.

30.  Teach your children the Gospel.

31.  Don’t be afraid to say “No” when you can’t tackle something.

32.  Everyone makes mistakes, don’t be afraid to fail.

33.  Take your family to the Grand Canyon.

34.  Go camping, hiking, fishing, hunting.  Get outside!

35.  Play “PIG” with your kids with the front yard basketball hoop.

36.  Watch the super bowl together and eat Chili and cornbread.

37.  Stay away from drugs!  Even one time using you could be hooked, especially considering your birth parents usage and history.

38.  Listen when people talk to you.

39.  Don’t ever text and drive, drink and drive, or check your email while driving!

40.  Get your car tires siped for better traction.

41.  Kiss your loved ones often.  Life is too short to be angry.

42.  Use petroleum jelly and baby powder for the best diaper rash medicine.

43.  Delegate responsibilities more when in leadership positions.

44.  Celebrate the little things.  Every moment is sacred when we are together.

45.  Cherish your family.  Hold them close.

46.  Have fun in college, but be safe and respect yourself.

47.  Play in the snow with your children.  Make snowmen and snow angels.  Have snow ball fights.

48.  Take a drive each Christmas to see the Christmas lights around town.

49.  Make out with your spouse during a movie and watch your kids gross out.

50.  Decorate Christmas sugar cookies each year.

51.  Call anytime of night and we will pick you up.  No matter your age or where you are.  We will be there.  That’s what parents do.

52.  Visit your grandparents and parents graves and put flowers on their headstones.

53.  Do temple work and genealogy for those in our family who haven’t had the opportunity.

54.  Visit the temple as often as you can.

55.  Stay away from Pornography!

56.  Own and listen to Miles Davis’ “Kind of Blue” album

57.  Be responsible for your actions, apologize when you’ve done something wrong.

58.  Eat a banana when you have PMS, and pack Ibuprofen.

59.  Laugh often.  Don’t take yourself too seriously all the time.  Happiness is infectious.

60.  Learn to cook, bake, or grill.

61.  Always be Kind!

62.  Don’t get a tattoo, they’re permanent and not worth it!

63.  Light scented candles.

64.  Stay away from mean people.  They’re not worth your time or talents.

65.  Surprise someone with a car filled full of balloons on their birthday.

66.  Be grateful.  Recognize your blessings.

67.  Don’t worry so much.

68.  Bake your holiday turkey at 500 degrees for 15 minutes, then turn it down to 325 for the rest of the baking process.  This seals in the juices and is the juiciest turkey you will ever eat.

69.  Have “Waffle Sundays”.

70.  Wear swimming flippers to a date at a tennis court.

71.  Never wear too much makeup or too much cologne or perfume.

72.  Have a sense of humor!

73.  Give and take.  Remember marriage isn’t 50/50 its 100/100.

74.  Eat chocolate. Dance more.

75.  Always, Always, Always remember you are loved!  Even when you make mistakes, we love you.

76.  Watch “Footloose” and “Beaches” with your best girlfriend before you graduate High school or College.

77.  Never cut someone out of your life if they really matter to you.

78.  Acknowledge your weaknesses and work on them.

79.  Eat Taco’s on Tuesdays or Thursdays every week.

80.  Own animals.

81.  Move your furniture around in your living room to make sure you get the gunk underneath under control.

82.  Wash your whites in Hot water with a bit of vinegar water to remove any odors and germs.

83.  Don’t gossip.

84.  Learn how to make pancakes, top-ramen, and mac-n-cheese.  You’ll rely on those meals a lot in college.

85.  Have goals and learn to achieve them.

86.  Clean your cats litter box daily.  No one likes the “cat box” smell.

87.  Wash your sheets on your bed at least every other week.

88.  Never give up on someone you love.  There is always a way back.

89.  Ride a roller coaster.

90.  Take a child to a cartoon movie and listen to the laughter in the theater.

91.  Record your baby’s belly laughs.

92.  Keep a journal.

93.  Respect the flag, the military, and those who have given their lives for our country.  Freedom is not free.

94.  Grow a garden and teach your children to be self sufficient.

95.  Have faith that God knows what’s best for you.

96.  Be better than you were yesterday.

97.  I will always be with you, even after I’m gone.  Eternity is forever and you’re stuck with me!

98.  Dream big, work hard.

99.  Fame isn’t important.  Being a kind, loving person is.

100.  Never, ever give up on yourself!  You are a child of God!

Adopting Bubba – Part 1


This little Turkey is our Bubba.  We brought him home in May 2007 and it was such a joyous experience.

We adopted Bubba through the State and it was a totally different experience than Miss Lou Lou’s adoption since we did a private adoption agency.  Bubba was 13 months old when we brought him home and he was a wobbly walking toddler that was into anything and everything.  His precious chubby cheeks were so munch-able and I love love giving my babies kisses, Bubba was no exception.

For those of you have followed a bit of my essays on our adoption story, adopting Bubba was every bit as emotional, stressful, and exciting as Lou Lou’s.

We went through a lot of tears, and a million papers and binders to look through to choose our child.

First of all, we started the process after feeling we should do foster care (Ok, foster care is a whole 1000 page essay/book in itself…to come another day).

We had about 10 children arrive in 2 years, I count 10 of them, even though a couple of the children returned to us 2 to 3 times.  They were my babies and I tried so hard to teach them and help them and learn and work through their attachment issues.  It was an eye opening experience that I don’t know if I would truly choose to do again. (ok, enough about foster care for now).

In 2006 we started the adoption process.  We had been trying to adopt through the state for 2 years.  We searched and searched, prayed and stewed, on and off throughout those years through about a million four inch binders with piles upon piles of pages of babies and children and multiple siblings that were available for adoption.

We wanted a boy, preferably black so that Lou Lou would identify with another child that looked like her.

When you adopt through the state where we live, you have the dreaded opportunity to be an incalculable number of potential parents/families to adopt these children.  It all starts with our social worker, her name was Jeanine and she was a gem.  From the very beginning she worked with us and helped answer questions, soothe our anxiety, and answer more questions whenever we needed her.  She was overworked, under paid, and truly not in it for the money or the fame.  She seemed to be in it for the children and families.  These types of social workers are very hard to find, in our experience anyway.

After looking through the available children in those binders, you choose a few children that you are interested in learning more about.  Our social worker would then email the child’s social worker with our information & Home Study to see if we would be a good fit for that child.  The first process of being chosen, is that we would go against 2 other families to meet with a committee to decide the child’s and our families fate.

One in three.  33% chance.  Odd’s weren’t the best, but we felt positive and hopeful, but better than the 18% chance of our fertility working years before.  We prayed to know if we should adopt him, and that we might be chosen to add him to our family.

We put our names in for quite a few children.  We weren’t chosen then and weren’t quite a good fit for those children.

Then came Keith.

I looked at Keith’s picture and his information on his paperwork, and I tried to imagine him in our family.  At the time, we were hopefully optimistic, and like the cases before, we didn’t think anything would come of adopting him.

Keith was about 2, he was black and truly adorable.

We received a call from Jeanine about a week after submitting our home study.  It was exciting.

Jeanine went to the committee meeting later in the month at a state DHS office about 5 hours from our small town.  She presented our information and home study, trying to “sell us” to the committee in every possible positive way.  We tried to help sell us by sending Jeanine with a family scrapbook we had put together for the committee to see us and get to know us better.  We were more than just pictures and words on a page and we tried our best to share our story the best way we knew how.

The next day, she called me to tell me the good news.  Joyful news in fact.

We had been chosen to adopt Keith.  We would have five days to look over his full file and decide if it was truly something we would be willing to do.  He was drug affected and had a few other medical issues, but I was happy.  I felt anxiously excited and called Ken and all of our family that we had been chosen and could possibly bring Keith home in a week.

And that’s when the obstacles and confusion arrived.

We currently had our 4 year old Lou Lou, and another foster child was on her third visit to our home in as little as 18 months.  I didn’t want this little girl to have to go to another foster home, so we informed our worker that we really wanted to have this little girl live with us during our transition to adopt Keith until she could transition home, or to another home.  We knew that we could pick up Keith within a week, and that it truly would be difficult to find a willing foster home that could take on the little girl who had such incredible attachment issues.

I expected that the social workers would be fine with our decision to keep our foster daughter along with adding Keith to our home.  The state DHS units encourage adoptive families to do foster care so they can get a glimpse into what they would be experiencing with their potential child(ren).

Keith’s social worker called me the next day.  She told me that she wouldn’t allow us to have Keith in our home until our foster daughter was placed in another home.

I was so upset.  I felt like they were punishing us for thinking of our foster daughter’s needs after encouraging us to foster in the first place.

So we prayed…just like we always have.  We try to pray daily for inspiration and guidance for that day and for the struggles we are facing.

Adopting Keith was no exception.

We prayed, fervently hoping and expecting the answer our hearts desired.  Lou Lou was getting older and we wanted our children to be closer in age so they could grow up together.

Nevertheless, the more we prayed, the more confused we felt.  The warm comforting answer we were seeking didn’t come.  Instead confusion and frustration with Keith’s social worker and the whole experience didn’t feel right.

My heart sank and I cried.  We discussed our confusion with each other and our extended family.

We decided to tell the agency we wouldn’t be adopting Keith.

After trying and waiting so long to add a Son to our family, I never imagined we would be denying and turning away a child that we had been approved to adopt by the proper channels.

But they were the proper channels in an earthly view of things, but the divine Heavenly proper channel told us No.  Not this child.

Making the phone call to turn away Keith as our Son was one of the hardest phone call’s I have ever made.  Our worker was shocked and surprised at the news.  I felt really horrible that we had wasted her time in presenting us to the committee.  How do you explain to someone who might possibly not believe in God or even Jesus Christ or prayer, that you didn’t feel right about adopting a child you had been accepted to adopt?  I tried to explain we prayed about him and didn’t feel he should be a part of our family.  I think Jeanine tried to understand.

Jeanine asked me a week later if we wanted to look at the huge binders again to start the process over.

I told her I didn’t think my heart could handle it at the time.  I needed to take a few months to decide if we would proceed or give up altogether.

I am anything but a wimp…and I wasn’t ready to throw up my hands and walk away from a future Son.

I wanted Ken to have a Son.  He was so close to his Dad and I wanted our Son to experience that same bond with his Dad.

So I waited trying to get up the courage  to look through the binders.  November turned up unexpectedly and changes occurred.  Our Foster daughter’s 3 DAY OLD baby brother came to stay with us the day before Thanksgiving.  I loved having that baby in our home.  His precious face, how the baby lotion smelled on his skin after his bath.  I loved rocking and cooing and spending time with him.

He only stayed with us for 4 days.  It was so heart wrenching to give him back to the social worker to drive him and his sister to their sweet Momma who was in rehab.

I bawled and sobbed when they drove away.  I imagined I was experiencing maybe a sliver of their Momma’s heart ache when she lost him after giving birth because of her unsafe conditions at the time.

December and Christmas arrived.  Our Foster daughter brought us lice on Christmas Eve and returned to visit her Momma in rehab for the weekend.

On Christmas eve night around 11 pm, another DHS social worker called asking if we could take in a little girl.  She had apparently been in a car with a drunk man (who was friends of her Mom).  The man had been pulled over and sent to jail.  This little girl didn’t have a place to go, her Mom would lose custody temporarily for unsafe conditions.

Of course I couldn’t turn this precious child away.

There is always room in our Inn.

She couldn’t tell us her name.  This had a hard time sleeping that night and wouldn’t sleep in our only empty bed, which was a crib for our not yet chosen Son.  So I rocked her as the Christmas lights glimmered.  I sang to her, “How I love my Pretty Baby”, and I am a Child of God.”  She soon stopped feeling fearful of her new foreign environment and fell asleep on the couch.  During that weekend, we called her “Angel”.  We did however run into one of the Police officers who had pulled the man in the car over and found her in the backseat.  He recognized her in the shopping cart at the store we were at.  He told us her name, which was beautiful, but somehow she would always be my “Angel”.

Before we knew it February arrived.  After experiencing such an emotional, cathartic holiday season, I realized my heart was once again ready to invade and combat those giant binders.

“Operation::Find Our Son” was a go.

Jeanine dropped the stack of binders off one day while Ken was at work. Lou Lou and I turned page after page after page.  I can’t remember how many binders we looked through.  The pages were too numerous to count and I had chosen a couple children and flagged them with post-it notes as possibilities to show Ken when he returned.

And then I saw him.  The Holy Spirit witnessed to me at that very moment that this little baby would be my baby!

His sweet caramel skin and chubby cheeks were beyond precious.  He had the most adorable afro I had ever seen on a little munchkin.


My heart soared, warmed, and flooded with emotion.  After searching, working, praying, fasting, and waiting…I KNEW that this little boy was OUR BOY.

How could you not love that baby?  Look at his baby teeth!  Oh my, I still love to look at that baby picture because I feel the same emotions I felt on that day.  I’m so truly blessed!

And finally began our journey to bring Bubba home.

(Part 2 coming soon)

Dreams of Momma

My emotions run deeply in my soul and I know where it stems from, from that sweet Mother I love beyond measure.

From a young age I grew up without my Mother.  She was the epitome of love and softness and I miss her every single day.  I try not to think about it too much or the familiar ache returns to my chest and the tears continue to fall like rain on a stormy day.

I have plenty to keep me busy, so I pull out those emotions less and less and I’ve come to acknowledge that I have them and can even hold it together when I talk about her for the most part.

But there are days, moments rather.  Ok, there are even seconds, when I catch myself aching.  And I have to snap myself back into reality and remember that I’m not a victim, I’m not an orphan, I’m not even a child anymore.  But there are some days seconds moments, I still feel like a child.

(Ok, my Hubby and Sisters might say I still act like a child, but that’s for a different essay).

I got to see my Mom this past week.


Even though it was a dream, it was a beautiful dream at that.

Mom has been gone for nearly 30 years.

For the first time in my life since she has passed, she was in my dreams.

This is one for the record books people…Alright, just my record book.

Wow you’re no fun.  For me, it should be shouted from the roof tops and written in Time Magazine, or even at least posted in Times Square.  But you know, not everything gets center stage.  Especially not dreams.

I can’t really explain much about the dream, since most of my dreams are random glimpses into what I’m experiencing or what I am struggling with…like Church duties, daily routines, stress from sicknesses or the like or even craft projects I’ve been working on.  There are times even, believe it or not, the spy movies or TV shows I watch will inspire some wild crazy dream.  It’s funny how dreams mimic what I’m doing or going through, almost like my brain continues on as if I’m still alert, only I’m not, of course.

This dream, well it was a glimpse into a future I cannot wait to see.

I long for this moment and have since I was a little 11 year old girl learning for the first time that my Mom had died.  I still ache for that little girl…the pain sometimes is so tangible, I ache for her sadness, her loneliness, the utter despair of feeling completely lost.  The feeling of “Now what?”

In this dream, I was walking in a crowd of people.  I don’t know where I was, it seemed like a gathering of people like at a mall or social gathering like church.  I was even talking with other people around me, whoever they were.  I don’t know if we were inside or out, I don’t recall a lot of the specifics.  I think I was holding something in my hands, at least I feel like I remember holding something.

But mostly I only remember seeing her beautiful soft face, and my brain actually remembering what her face looks like.  I think my heart stopped for a second and then my brain said, “There she is, that’s your Momma.  Run to her”.

I noticed instantly that Mom looked a lot like me, and it was almost as if she was my mirror image.  In fact we were very close to the same age, which is weird because she was about 55 when she passed away, and I’m about 15 years away from 55.  Her hair was short as I remember, and dark black too, which was accurate.  Her white petal soft skin illuminated against her bright crimson red lipstick. She was every bit the Mother I remembered, and more.  She was like the 1950’s woman I imagined she would have been if she weren’t handicapped all her life.  She was a knock out!  Her smile was infectious and made her even more gorgeous.

She seemed to recognize me in almost the same instant that I did her.  The look on her face was beyond happiness, so I guess that means that there really isn’t a word to describe the joy on her face.  She tilted her head as if to say, “Ahhh my dear Daughter, there you are, I’ve been waiting for you.”  The light bounced in her eyes as she watched me approach her.

She seemed to push away whoever she was talking with and drop whatever she could to get to me.  There was such urgency on her face, but utter happiness too all mixed in one emotion.  We were finally re-united as Mother and Daughter.  Lost no more.

I know we hugged and I couldn’t let go…weeping and jabbering and trying to sum 30 years up in just a few seconds.  But the most amazing thing to me is, I didn’t need to say a word.

She already knew.

Then I Saw Her Face

From the moment I saw my baby daughters face, I was in love.  And I mean, totally smitten.  Her dark caramel skin was so soft and smooth with wispy curls forming around her perfect balding head. I seriously had never been so in love with something so small in my whole life.  I swear my heart just about jumped out of my chest with utter joy.

As we drove with our Social Worker, Tyler, to meet our daughter’s birth Mom, and pick up our baby girl, I couldn’t hold back the excitement, joy, and tears. I was so nervous but I honestly never worried at all about the health of our daughter.  I’ll call our daughter “Lou Lou” as that has become one of her nicknames over time.  I knew Lou Lou was healthy and strong as had been reported to us by the agency.  But I worried about Roxy.  I worried about her emotional state and I worried about her changing her mind.  Worrying is actually something very familiar to me, and for those that know me best, it’s something I excel at.  But worrying isn’t strength.

Lou Lou was not even 24 hours old, and how could a Mother be strong enough to endure something like this?  How could a woman who had just given birth to such a precious baby, place her in a strangers arms and trust them to keep her baby safe?

So we waited, again, like we had waited for six years to get to this point.  We sat there for what seemed an eternity, and then she entered with Lou Lou in her arms, all wrapped up and sleeping, Roxy brought in our baby girl.  It’s like that moment is engraved in my mind.  I can still close my eyes and see Roxy’s dimples, echoed in Lou Lou’s.

We sat down and visited while Lou Lou cooed sleepily in Roxy’s arms. I could tell it was like ripping her heart out to hand Lou Lou to us.  She placed Lou Lou in Ken’s arms first.  It was precious watching my sweetheart become a Father for the first time.  It was something I couldn’t give him.

The smile on Roxy’s face as she placed Lou Lou in Ken’s arms was illuminating to me. I honestly don’t know how she had the strength to do it.  After all the years we had tried and prayed and searched and worked to get to this point.  I just wanted to grab Roxy and tell her it just didn’t feel right.  I couldn’t take her baby…I just wanted Roxy to come home with us too….

Soon it was my turn to hold our daughter.  Roxy placed Lou Lou in my arms next, and I think I sobbed like a baby.  There didn’t seem to be enough tissues in the room because I couldn’t stop crying.

This sweet little baby in my arms was mine, I really couldn’t believe it.  My dream to become a Mother had finally come true.  At that very moment, I realized that our little family was living proof that goals can be reached, dreams can come true, prayers are really answered, and somehow this sweet blessing did come to us through unexpected means.


We asked Roxy if we could name Lou Lou after her?  She cried and said she thought that would be wonderful.  So Lou Lou has her birth Mother’s middle name, the way it should be.

I was on emotional overload.  Have you ever felt that way?  My heart broke for her, and rejoiced for me.  I was selfish and concerned, grateful at my joy and distraught at her sadness all at the same time.  As much as my arms and heart ached for my baby, my heart wept with love and gratitude for Roxy and the emotions and despair I imagined she would feel.

We were very blessed to get a bunch of pictures of our two hour meeting with Roxy and our new daughter.  Some of Roxy’s other family members were there to support her and meet us too.  It was a great experience to meet them and put faces with names.  Adoption is an amazing reality of creating family out of strangers.

I don’t know how she walked out of that room after placing her child in our arms.  Roxy, a beautiful woman, with the biggest heart and strength that I have never seen, had chosen to place her baby in our arms and somehow walk away.

Now here’s where I get on my soap box, and I apologize if you don’t want to read this part, but it’s honestly my opinion of adoption…

As I’ve mentioned before Birth Mother’s don’t want to be called “Birth Mother’s”, they are judged harshly by many ignorant people who don’t understand adoption or the emotional side of adoption. We have no right to judge anyone, especially on something as serious and emotional and personal as birth parents and placing their child for adoption.

Placing a child for adoption is not “giving your child away” as so many people refer it to.  It’s not the easy way out….because it’s not easy at all.

Instead, placing your child for adoption is choosing to put that child and her needs before your own.   I watched Roxy’s emotions during our visit.  I even remember asking her “What’s the one thing you want Lou Lou to know?  What’s your biggest fear?”  Roxy said with tears streaming down her face, “That she won’t know how much I love her”.

I could tell choosing to walk out of the room was probably the hardest thing she had ever done in 19 years of her life.

I still can’t stop crying when I recall and think about those memories.

Roxy’s gift to our family is very comparable for us in many ways to that of our Savior who gave his life so that we could live.  Roxy is one of the most self-less people I know, she actually chose to go through this heart ache because she loved her child that much…she loved Lou Lou enough to give her something she couldn’t give her…a life she couldn’t offer her yet, a life with a Father and a Mother.

The fact that Roxy trusted and loved Ken and I enough to raise her child as our child for now and throughout eternity was a bond that can never be broken.

We are forever grateful to Roxy and we love her so much.  Lou Lou is 13 now and it’s crazy to think it’s been that long already and that our daughter is going to be driving and be an adult before we know it.  I will share our letters that we sent the day after we brought Lou Lou home in my next post.  <3 Andi