A Giant Leap of Faith

.

WORD OF WARNING: Don’t go with me to find the perfect card!

If I ask one of my daughters or my husband if they want to go shopping, they always want clarification first.

“You don’t need to find a card, right?”

Let the truth be known — Hallmark and I have a strong bond. I can spend literally hours reading through the different sentiments to see which one fits any of my family or friends to a tee. No wonder my husband has no problem renewing my online greeting card subscriptions. Having the opportunity to write stanzas for cards is on my bucket list.

Trying to breeze through Mother’s Day is a giant leap of faith for me. Someday, I know that the complicated loss of my adoptive mother, and learning my birth mother passed away when I was a little girl, won’t hurt quite as much. But as of yet, the card stores and I are not on the best of terms during this time of the year. At any cost, I will avoid all Mother’s Day commercialism.

When I was growing up, I would pick out for my adoptive mother what I thought was the most perfect, beautiful card. With hopeful anticipation, I would watch as she opened it. Invariably she would say, “That’s nice. But you don’t really mean it do you?” Then I would see only her biological child’s card sitting out on display with mine nowhere to be found.

I have come a long way in my journey and knowing my truth. But, yes, at times, I do still feel this indescribable sadness and disappointment in my heart. No child should have to continually try to make a parent love them. I missed out on what real love feels like from a mother.

When I can write my feelings of loss in one last perfect card for my late adoptive mother, I know I will have finally found forgiveness and closure.

Read More

Defining Empowerment

lonely mother tulips

Making small talk with the older woman admiring the carousel of beautiful flowers, she mumbled to me, “It doesn’t matter anyway; I won’t be receiving any of these for Mother’s Day.”

Curiously I asked, “Your family is not close?”

“Oh, my children are all over the place,” she gestured with her hand pointing off into space.

Slowly pushing her shopping cart off to a different isle, I walked back over to the prettiest tulips and with a smile selected the perfect bouquet.

As I paid for the delicate flowers, I requested the clerk to please give them to the gray-haired woman with the white sweater when she checked out.

I left the store that afternoon filling a void in my heart as well.

It has been over 5 years since my estranged adoptive mother passed away. Quite honestly, I am feeling a little uneasy about Mother’s Day again this year. Although we had our differences for many years, there is still a part of the child in me that grieves for the many losses.

Even as a very young girl, I remember mom saying that the greeting cards I’d pick out special for her were nice. But there was never a time she didn’t follow it with a snide comment stating that it wasn’t honestly how I felt about her.

Upon learning my adoptive mother had died, I realized that I still had conflicting tears left from our long-ago failed mother-daughter relationship. The brutal truth was, no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t get her to love me. She always kept me at arm’s length. I was not her flesh-and-blood; she was guarded as if we were strangers.

Unfortunately, I can see now that my adoptive mother was broken; she didn’t even know how to love herself.

I have three wonderful daughters that make me feel loved and blessed on Mother’s Day. However, there are times I want to cry out, “How could anyone possibly understand how it feels to have lost out on the love of two mothers, a natural mother and my adoptive mother?”

It’s not really on a whim that I have always given freely of myself. Kudos of “that was really nice of you” from others has never been what’s important either.

Feeling bitterness from the losses has not been an option for me, but rather the “hard parts” have strengthened my belief that being a caring and sensitive human being with a genuine love for one another is what is most important in our life-time.

The way we heal from our hurts and disappointments can be empowering. It may be as simple as a gift from the heart—beautiful flowers for a lonely mother on Mother’s Day.

I entered the 2013 NerdWallet’s Mother’s Day Your Way Contest and won for the “Best Purchase.”

Read More

A Giant Leap of Faith

http://www.dreamstime.com/-image4525336

WORD OF WARNING: Don’t go with me to find the perfect card!

If I ask one of my daughters or my husband if they want to go shopping, they always want clarification first. “You don’t need to find a card, right?”

Let the truth be known—Hallmark and I have a strong bond. I can spend literally hours reading through the different sentiments to see which one fits any of my family or friends to a tee. No wonder my husband has no problem renewing my online greeting card subscriptions. Having the opportunity to write stanzas for cards is on my bucket list.

Trying to breeze through Mother’s Day is a giant leap of faith for me. Someday, I know that the complicated loss of my adoptive mother, and learning my natural mother passed away when I was a little girl, won’t hurt quite as much. But as of yet, the card stores and I are not on the best of terms during this time of the year. At any cost, I will avoid all Mother’s Day commercialism.

Let me share a story with you. When I was growing up, I would pick out for my adoptive mother what I thought was the most perfect, beautiful card. With hopeful anticipation, I would watch as she opened it. Invariably she would say, “That’s nice. But you don’t really mean it do you?” Then I would see only her biological child’s card sitting out on display with mine nowhere to be found.

Over the years, my loved ones and well-meaning friends will say, “JoAnne, you are just going to have to let it go and forgive.” The term “forgive” is such a difficult word for me. Yes, at times I do still feel this indescribable sadness and disappointment in my heart. No child in this world should have to continually try to make a parent love them. I missed out on what real love feels like from a mother.

I have come a long way in my journey and knowing my truth. Believe me, I am gradually inching much closer to that forgiveness part. There are still so many feelings I needed to tell my adoptive mother before she passed away. When I can finally write these thoughts down in one last perfect card, I know I will have found my closure.

Read More

A Mother’s Heart

0203

Last week was my youngest daughter Chelsea’s 22nd birthday. At the same time, sadly unfolding on the national news was the desperate search for the missing 17-year-old, Chelsea King that had disappeared in Southern California while jogging. Our two Chelsea’s both had such promising futures ahead of them. My vivacious daughter will be graduating soon from a university with a BS in Business and a minor in Hospitality/Tourism. We are excited for her as she plans to continue her education and work toward a Masters. While a straight-A high school senior, Chelsea King played the French horn in the San Diego Youth Symphony and was also impressively involved with numerous volunteering and mentoring activities. Like our daughter, their Chelsea was looking forward to spreading her wings and had started applying at a number of prestigious universities. As parents, how can we fathom anything possibly stopping our precious babies from reaching for their dreams? Tragically, Chelsea King’s love for cross-country running proved to be her demise.

I kept thinking about what I heard Chelsea King’s father say in an interview as to how they didn’t want their daughter to run alone; but teenagers feel like they are invincible. Often, when I remind my daughter about staying safe, Chelsea will state emphatically that she doesn’t want to live her life in fear. No matter how hard we’ve tried to shelter our children from harm, the truth is that this generation has desensitized itself to crime as it has become such a part of everyday life.

Even when law enforcement officers arrested a sexually violent predator on suspicion of the rape and murder of Chelsea King, I still held on to a glimmer of hope praying that a miracle would prevail. Searchers had not yet found the King’s beautiful child. Part of me, however, couldn’t erase the disturbing image of the smirking mug shot of the brutal monster. My heart sank when the tragic news finally broke, showing an all-too-common picture—yellow tape cordoning off a large perimeter of underbrush with tons of law enforcement officials huddled close to the crime scene. Looking at my husband somberly, I sniffled, “It could just as easily have been our daughter, Chelsea.”

The immeasurable grief her family is certainly feeling seems insurmountable. At the moment, I felt jaded. I needed to know where others find goodness in this world, especially those who have such tough occupations and see the senseless loss of life on a daily basis. I want to thank those individuals who helped me in my longing for answers and shared with me some very valuable insights about mankind.

“Where do we find goodness in this world?”

What I give to my clients through the compassion, understanding and suggestions for coping is goodness in the midst of their grieving. I am often the only one or one of few people in their lives who really get what they are going through. Often it’s not so much what I say in the counseling sessions, but that I’m there and available to listen and that I really care. I know I cannot take away their pain and sadness of losing a pregnancy, baby or older child, but I also know that tragedy is part of life for many people. For me, being able to help people during their most difficult times is nothing but goodness.

Csilla MSW, LCSW
Bereavement Counselor

The love I receive from my God, my wife, and my family. Watching someone get an alcohol or drug addiction in remission and restoring their life. People who serve as foster or forever parents. When people care about others more than themselves.

Bill
Judge
Superior/District Court
22 years

I find goodness through seeing lives impacted with the hope of Jesus Christ. Working in ministry and with Police and Fire personnel it can get very easy to only see the negative. With Police officers and Fire fighters we call this, “compassion fatigue.” We need to constantly remind ourselves what it was that first called us into the line of work that were in. For most it was wanting to help people and that is what we need to hold onto! You see a lot of bad stuff but you have to always remember the good and when it comes never take it for granted. If just one life is impacted it’s all worth it!

Phillip
Pastor 11 years
Police/Fire Chaplain 4 ½ years

I typically find myself turning to nature to remind myself of the goodness of this world. Many people are good and continue to do good works, but these folks are fairly rare. I find that nature has maintained a lasting innocence against our world’s corruption, and is our last bastion of goodness.

Lori
911 Senior Dispatcher.
18 years and counting

I find good in moments. I find it in the expression that says, “You are listening to me, loving me, giving me dignity, and letting me be my own man.” I find it in a sunrise, in an inexpensive can of soup or a bag of apples that will keep my stomach and bank account full. I find good selfishly – in a shared meal, a stimulating conversation, in the opportunity to choose for myself, or a new thought that leads to another path. Good does exist, it’s just hard to recognize sometimes.

Katrina
Residential Trainer
Adult males/Group Home

I find goodness in the hearts and deeds of those who want to bring happiness and encourage life change to those in the community that need/want it. The Bible calls those “the least of these” the poor, the homeless, the down and out. A meal is a basic daily human need and to provide/facilitate that to the forgotten ones in our community without judgment is where goodness can be found.

Dan
Faith Community Coordinator
6 years

I believe goodness is created not found. We all have the power to create it, but unfortunately most of us have forgotten how too. No matter how bad you feel try to make people smile (especially a child) and see what happens. When you see someone doing a carwash for charity, get your car washed. We need to stop worrying solely on our own problems every now and then and just try to be compassionate to your fellow human race and if humanity is not compassionate back to us so be it. Goodness is looking in the mirror and truly liking the person looking back. I believe goodness is given and not found.

Ed
Correctional Officer/State Prison
20 plus years

Every time I look at my children, I know without a shadow of a doubt that there is more good in this world than bad. Every time we air a story about a person in need, and our viewers come forward in droves asking how they can help I know the good outweighs the bad. I don’t need to look very hard to find goodness in the world, I just need to keep my eyes, mind and heart… open.

Shauna
Anchor Portland 10 years,
Television news 17 years

I tend to find goodness in knowing that somewhere, someday, someone will inevitably do the right thing. I think that to know one’s place in society helps to keep one’s perspective on the issues that concern us as individuals, and as a community. Anytime that you can think outside your own self is always a good thing.

Doug
Security Patrol Supervisor/Owner
15 Years

When people who share a common struggle you often find the goodness that exists within them as they find ways to cope and support each other through the challenges. In the laughter of children even when they are facing adversity. In the eyes of a dying person who has nothing but thanks to share for all the things that have been blessed with in life. In the forgiveness that one human being can give to another. Who ever thought that you would experience so much “goodness” when working with death and grief.

Mary MSW, LCSW
Medical Social Worker Hospice
8 years with hospice

During my career, I dealt daily with criminals and felt a personal sense of pride apprehending those willing to violate the public trust. At the same time, I noted that there were more people willing to the right thing by reporting the crime and testifying in court at a later date. This mirrored my belief that the public at large are good people and by far outnumber the “criminal element.” The general public by far in my opinion would be willing to do the right thing, at any given time or situation.

Ken
Retired Oregon State Police Trooper
30 years of service

Read More

My Fairy-tale Princess Dress

prettyinpink

As far back as I can remember I have loved the color pink. Mom had the painter paint my very own first bedroom at the age of 10 in the most beautiful pale pink with perfectly matching flower wallpaper. Don’t tell anyone; although I was a girlie girl, my secret passion was to be able to still climb trees too. But this was a time in my life that I truly felt like a princess.

At the age of 21, while away at college, I went window shopping for my wedding dress. In a few short months, I’d be marrying my prince who would eventually be the wonderful father of our three daughters. This love is still going strong over 34 years later.

In the small college beach town, my choices were limited on stores exclusive to brides only. Glancing in the window one day as I passed by what appeared to be an expensive shop with formal attire, a floor-length gown hanging on display caught my attention. I was a little apprehensive about walking into a store where your footprints are left as you walk across the plush carpet. I decided to venture in anyway just to take a peek at such a beautiful dress. No, most wouldn’t consider it the fairy-tale princess white flowing gown we dream of as little girls for our weddings. But for me, it was more than my heart’s desire.

When I called my mother to describe to her how much I loved this particular dress, I didn’t expect her to say she didn’t approve. Looking back, I must have been disappointed that she never suggested driving the three and one-half hours to meet me in the big city for wedding dress shopping. Instead, when I said the dress was cream-colored with some pastel pink velvet ribbon, her less-than-enthusiastic response was, “What would the relatives think?”

Each week toward the end of my last term of college, I would check to see if “my dress” was still there. Even though I knew my mother would not miraculously have a change of heart, there was still something that kept bringing me back to this store. On one occasion, the same friendly woman standing behind the counter asked if she could hold the dress for me. “Nah,” I said, “My mother won’t let me have it.” The store clerk never pried about the reason why. It would have been embarrassing if she had. Rather we would make small talk about my hometown and details about my upcoming wedding.

I never talked again about the creamed-colored gown with the pink velvet ribbon with my mother. It was pointless to even hint at what store I had found the beautiful dress; she just wasn’t a woman who one could get to easily change her mind. I hadn’t even looked yet at the traditional wedding dresses to see if there was a perfect compromise.

One afternoon, I received a phone call from my mother saying she was in town by herself and would like to see me. Oh, my, in all the time I had lived away from home, my parents had only made the trip once for a visit. That time to “inspect and approve” of my future husband.

Can you imagine how stunned I was when my mother got out of her car with “my heart’s desire” draped over her one arm covered in plastic? With tears of joy, I just looked up at her mouthing the words, “Thank you.”

I wish I could say it was the perfect ending to a Kodak mother-daughter moment and mom shared with me what had changed her mind or if her feelings were much different. However, it was when my mother handed me an eloquently hand-written description of my beautiful wedding gown that I suspected the truth. I didn’t recognize the writing. But each time I checked on my dress I believe that the friendly clerk’s small talk and questions had a hidden agenda. Somehow she had persuaded my mother that the color pink wasn’t all that bad. I believe it’s never too late to thank that kind-hearted woman for helping me make my dreams come true on my wedding day.

“Some people come into our lives and quickly go. Some stay for a while and leave footprints on our hearts, and we are never the same.” Author Unknown

Read More