Thursday, January 26, 2017

8 and 10 and life...

I say "eight and ten" all the time.

"Eight and ten!" 

I said it at a funeral today.  A sweet friend from high school died suddenly last week.  At the service, I looked around and saw so many people from that time in my life.  I was surprised at how emotional I became...

I saw a bit of gray hair, a few wrinkles, and some scars on all of us.

I watched as my late friend's precious mom and brave daughter spoke courageously in front of everyone there.  My heart simply ached that one of them lost a son and the other lost a dad.  That life is so fleeting, so fragile.  That we are not promised tomorrow.

"Eight and ten," I answered, when a former classmate asked how old my children are.  "My daughter is eight, and my son is ten."

But the other day, I stopped in my tracks.   "Eight and ten" was answered back to me. 

I was meeting two foster children, a little boy and a little girl, for the first time.  We are featuring them on television with the hope that someone will adopt them and give them a permanent home.   I kneeled down so that I was eye-level with them.... 

"How old are you?" I asked.  The girl said, "eight!"  ...and the boy immediately followed, "and I'm ten."

It wrenches my heart every time I meet a foster child.   ...that no one wants them, that no one could get their behavior straight enough for them... 

But this time, eight and ten

The little girl grabbed my hand to go play while our photographer recorded video.  I asked her if she wanted to be adopted and what kind of family she wanted.   I couldn't help but think, what if someone asked MY daughter if she wanted to be adopted and what type of family she wanted?  My God, she's only eight! She would have no clue what to say!   

The boy was a little guarded.  And again, I couldn't help but think, my son would be TOO if some TV woman was asking him if he wanted to be adopted.  This poor child is ten!  

I sat there in the middle of our taping, with lights on these children, and my heart broke into pieces.  I wept inside for the woman and mother too broken to take care of them on her own.  I cried inside for the two of them left to feel as though no one cares enough to bring them in, leaving them in the care of the state. 

And I thought quietly of my own two children, growing up in this big-bad-world, wondering what pain they might encounter, what life holds for them, thinking of the joys I pray they will experience, frightened of the heartbreak they will endure.  

At my high school friend's celebration of life, the reverend said something like, "let us not shrink away into our sadness, but instead stand united in love."  I thought back on those years when we were so young and so full of promise.  I looked around at the gray hair in the room that meant we cared at some point, the wrinkles left behind from the laughter, and scars that showed we've truly lived.

I thought of those precious foster children's smiles, their hope, no matter how diminished, that a family will come and prove that life is good after all.

I thought of my own children and their friends at the horse races this past weekend, jumping up and down and screaming for the horse (named after my daughter) to win.  The memories they are already creating...

"let us not shrink away into our sadness, but instead stand united in love."  

That horse named after my daughter placed, by the way.  You could literally feel the bliss... and savor the moments of "eight and ten." 
8-year old Claniya and 10-year old Dayelun

 My children (and friends) cheering at the horse races

Hall High School alum at Deno's service

Monday, January 16, 2017


I want to write about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  But every last person I know has advised me against it.

Careful, careful... CAREFUL.

Why is it when we talk about race, we all walk on eggshells? 

Easy for me to ask, I guess...  I was born white.  I've lived my life as a white woman.  I grew up in the Little Rock School District, which, at that time, was under court-ordered desegregation.  I graduated in 1989, with white friends and black friends.  Today, I work with white friends and black friends, and I consider all of them dear to my heart.  I don't choose to see color.  But I'm sure people see mine. 

And I'm sure they see my children's white skin, too.  At school, when my daughter was younger, she played with a lot of the girls who were "brown."  But she never differentiated.  One of her best friends in the world is brown, a little girl her age who was adopted from Africa by one of my best friends in Seattle, who is white.  She begs to talk to her on the phone, write letters to her, and keeps framed pictures of them on her desk.  She still doesn't differentiate.  I wonder if she will.  One day, she will notice the difference.  I pray I teach her that it doesn't matter.  That, like Dr. King said once, "I look to a day when people will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character."

My 2nd cousin in NYC is Japanese-American married to a black man, and they have a beautiful daughter.  They are one of the most precious, loving couples I know.  Yet I have listened to her talk, listened to her very real fear, watched her upset about where we are in America right now.  And I understand.  Yet I don't understand.  Why is it that we are at war with one another?  "We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools."

My son and my daughter are growing up now in Little Rock schools, where the heart of so much of it began at Central High School in 1957.  The schools are no longer under court-watch.  But I wonder sometimes if they should still be monitored.  I see things sometimes, and I'm not sharing them here.  But I see things sometimes that don't seem fair.  Is it on me to speak up about that?  I'm not sure.  I do know to start at home, with my own.  With lessons that Dr. King himself urged us to teach. 
"Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."

Maybe we can all start at home.  Do something today to change our state of affairs.  Maybe it's simply the talking about it that matters most.  That we stop feeling awkward about a simple conversation. 

Quit being careful, careful, CAREFUL.  And instead, calmy speak.  Share the lessons.  After all, Dr. King left them for us as his legacy. 

"Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter."

Monday, January 9, 2017


I know when I'm off-center.


Like nothing is falling into a rhythm.  Tasks pile up.  Can't get ahead of the clock.  Scattered energy.  Going 50 different directions but really not getting anywhere.  Slightly irritable.  Mentally snowed-in.

We're still not in a routine.  Last week, school didn't start until Tuesday.  By Thursday, I was feeling a little more regimented.  But then, Friday was a snow day. 

The same day of the photograph...

I'm not sure I'll re-share that entire picture here.  I'll decide by the end of the blog...

Basically, boy-child and girl-child were playing in the dusting of snow that shut-down our fair city.  They repeatedly called me outside from making homemade waffles.  I ignored, but then the screams turned guttural, and I figured I should head outside for fear the neighbors might call the authorities. 

I walked outside to see what the fuss was about (took my phone, of course, in case there was a snowman or other snow-figure to document).  Instead, I walked right into their little snowball operation.  Slammed by a huge, freezing-cold snowball!   Turns out, I unknowingly captured the tail end of my sweet little sneaky son coming at me in a photo.

We died laughing. I finished the waffles and bacon.  We ate.  Then I looked through my pictures.  When I saw the photo of my boy with a snowball in-hand, it was so cute and so spontaneous, I posted it on social media, even though I don't post a whole lot of photos of my children (the reasons why could be another potential blog post).  What I also noticed, in the background, my daredevil-daughter was standing on a trashcan gathering the puffy "good snowball" snow from on top of the car.   Ready for battle.

I was ill-prepared for my own trashing upon posting this.  Oh-boy, the "mom-of-the-year" comments started.  Anywhere from jokes to the more serious private messages, "Miss Dawn, I'm sorry but something in that photo doesn't look very safe."

I took the picture down.  (disclaimer:  daughter was unscathed).  And yes, I will be the first to admit, she shouldn't have been standing on the trash can.  However, knowing her well, she is adventurous and a bit of a risk-taker at the ripe age of 8.  When she sets her mind to something, she is a force to be reckoned with.  As such, she is also slightly accident-prone.  She was off the trash can within minutes.  And mom-of-the-year, here, documented that questionable-parenting-moment for the social world to see.

Later, I got to thinking..  wait a minute!  When I was a toddler (which was a very long time ago), I rode in the front middle seat of my mom's Chevy Nova STANDING UP.  A few years after, I walked the neighborhood alone.  Mom even left me at home every now and then by age 10 when she had to work late.  Activities, which, in this day and age, are absolutely taboo.

And I get why.  But where is the line drawn?  From letting kids live a little vs.  protecting them at all cost from anything that could potentially hurt them?   It's a valid question.  And I certainly don't have the answers.  Parenting is a moment-by-moment moral and spiritual endeavor that is never-ending and incredibly personal.  I like to believe, despite the horror stories I sometimes report, that most parents do the very best they can.  

Still, I'm off-balance today.  Not sure why I'm so snowy.   

I know it will pass.  Someone once said to me that life is a balance between holding on and letting go.  True.  Balance always wins

It's a little like that being a parent.  Holding tight, keeping them safe.  Then letting them spread their wings and fly.   What a privilege!

Oh, and here's that photo...

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

New Year, New Me (blah blah blah)

All this new-year-new-me bs had me back in bed this morning after school drop-off.  It was just too much. 

Everyone's posts about their new diet, new workout regimen.  New plans to do better, be better, act better, try harder.  After all, happiness is just around the proverbial corner...

People are always being encouraged to change.    But then you hear that people don't ever really change.  So confusing.  I think it's freeing to think we can.  So, on January 1st and 2nd and 3rd and 4th, we work out, eat right, act nice, let go of last year, start anew. 

But then, here we sit.  With our same old selves.  Same old messes.  Same thoughts and feelings.  Same mistakes.  Same situations.

In life, even though so much changes,  it really stays the same, doesn't it?  

Maybe it comes down to the basics.  This moment.  The here and now...

Last year, I turned 45, which means I outlived my father, which I never thought I would do.  I now have a 10-year old boy and an 8-year old girl, when doctors told me 13 years ago, I would never have children.  Our little "fractured" family (i.e., divorced) is quite happy and healthy, despite hiccups here and there.  This, even though so many judged and shared unsolicited opinions and advice.   2016 brought a lot of love, a lot of comfort, a lot of monotonous routine, and no need for therapy (I'm possibly most thankful for this!). 

Our little pygmy miniature frog died.  He never had a name the entire year he was with us.  We buried him under the trampoline out back with a proper ceremony, thanking him for the fun he brought.

The children were old enough to understand the election.  Except when we told my daughter that there was a Democratic party, a Republican party, a Libertarian party and a Green party, her response was, "That is A LOT of parties to go to!  Am I invited?" I spit out my drink, I laughed so hard.  If only it were that simple......

Yes, I guess the election changed a lot. 

But so much stays the same.   Kiddos running for a hug every night when I get home from work.   Kisses at school drop-off, which in a short year or so will equal complete embarrassment for them.  This work I am so grateful to do:  5 p.m. and 6 p.m. defines my life every night.  The orphaned and foster children who need their voice.  Steady, constants.  Neither good nor bad.  It just is.

I think it comes down to the mini-frogs that die, the daily minutes that pass, the moments where we sit with ourselves, even if just for a few seconds.  Because in between all that we create the fabric of our lives.  The 'new me.'  The choice to pause and allow and be grateful for what is.  That choice is available every moment.  And that won't change. 

Cheers to you all!  Here's hoping I can keep up with writing this blog in 2017.