A Twelve Year Winter

A Twelve Year WinterImage

The Rose


Some say love, it is a river

That drowns the tender reed

Some say love, it is a razor

That leaves your soul to bleed

Some say love, it is a hunger

An endless, aching need

I say love, it is a flower

And you it’s only seed

It’s the heart afraid of breaking

That never learns to dance

Its the dream afraid of waking

That never takes the chance

It’s the one who won’t be taken,

Who cannot seem to give

And the soul afraid of dying

That never learns to live

And the night has been too lonely

And the road has been too long

And you think that love is only

For the lucky and the strong

Just remember in the winter

Far beneath the bitter snow

Lies the seed that with the sun’s love,

In the spring, becomes a rose.


Writer(s): Amanda Mcbroom

Copyright: Third Story Music Inc., Warner-tamerlane Publishing Corp.


I have always loved the song “The Rose” with its sad melody and haunting lyrics.  I sang it for a talent show when I was much younger, I found solace in it after a tough breakup, but until we adopted our son John I do not think I really had a grasp on the truth these simple words brought. 


When we adopted John and Christian in 2001 adding them to our family of four, my idealism was at an all time high.  We had struggles leading up to the adoption as anyone who has been through the process can attest to, but the day we saw our two sons for the first time is etched in the memory of my soul.  The dreams and desires of my heart for these two children was palpable.  The joy of knowing we were making a tangible difference in two lives as well as enriching our own families global perspective was intoxicating. 


Reality hit hard within weeks of their arrival to the USA.  John was diagnosed with Glaucoma, and every year seemed to get harder with him.  His anger at the world was focused directly on Scott and me.  His times of happiness were rare and short lived.  A river of tears, angry shouting matches with God, Scott, John, questioning my ability to parent, heart break for my son who has so much potential, so much to offer, so much life to live.  Sleepless nights praying for a miracle, praying for sanity, praying to get through the next hour.


Glimpses of hope, a wonderful Summer, an emotional break through, the volcano dormant for a bit.  Perfect in school and public, stubborn and fiercely independent, beautiful man-child with a world to conquer.  This roller coaster of hope, anger, heart break, frustration, helplessness, counseling, flashes of potential, and resentment, riding strapped in with a love that has not wavered but at times has remained only by the seatbelt of faith, friends, family and red wine.


Its been twelve plus years since the wonderful day we chose to grow our family.  John turned eighteen this past weekend.  He had a party with friends, his laughter and deep voice still sing in my heart.  He played his African drum that we brought home on the plane with him so many years ago.  The twelve year winter is over, the hopes and dreams lying dormant are budding into an award winning rose.  



Sunday Blessing

Sunday Blessing:

This selection from A Book of Everyday Prayers by William Barclay seemed to call out to me tonight. This weekend has brought news of death, illnesses, and made me ever more aware of the daily gift life is.


O God, our Father, who hast bidden us to pray for all men, we remember at evening time those who specially need our prayers.

Bless those who are lonely, and who feel their loneliness worst of all at evening time.

Bless those who are sad, and who at evening feel most of all the absence of some one whom they loved, and lost awhile.

Bless those who are ill, and who will not sleep this night; and those who this night will wake to ease the sufferer’s pain.

Bless those who have no home, and no family circle to call their own.

O God, who art everywhere present, bless this our home, and help us to remember that Jesus is always are unseen guest, and so help us never in this place to do or say anything which would make Him sad to see.

Keep us this night in the dark hours, and grant us kindly sleep, and make us to feel around us and about us and about us the clasp of the everlasting arms, which will never let us go: through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

A Black Cloud Week

The black cloud seemed to follow me everywhere this week. You know the one where every tiny thing you think is just one step takes one hundred? That was this week. The kids are normal teenagers, but every little thing they do not do seems like a gigantic war against you personally. One quick phone call ends up being three hours of holding, and elevator music to answer a question that they got wrong in the first place. The dog decides that you do not have quite enough on your plate, so he rolls in the mud, and covers your window in smeary dirt because you will not let him in the house. You know the kind of week.

It’s the week when the weather changes, and you step in gum in your favorite shoes. It just happens. My week has been full of these kind of moments and more. Isaac tweaked his bad knee again, Jessie, who is usually my sanity life line, had a couple of typical teenage reactions to me this week. She texted me “Yeah, Yeah” four times in one conversation, and ended it with “Whatever.” Christian, bless his heart, failed his permit test for the fourth time. Everybody I talked to had some sort of crisis big and small. Scotty was incredibly supportive, but I know he feels guilty he can not be here, and I feel bad complaining when he is sacrificing so much to help us remain in Bend. Lila was moody and well… you get the idea.

Some days are just so, I don’t know, daily. I have fought depression since I was a teenager. I take antidepressants and over the years have been learning the power of self-care. I have walked three times this week, taken my vitamins, tried to get enough sleep, and yet, still struggled to keep my head above the rising water. My tolerance level is pretty high, and I can juggle a whole lot but this was just one of those weeks.
You know the type where all those things you swore you would never do, or say like you parents did, and you find them coming out of your mouth. The times when you wonder which came first, kids or alcohol? There are weeks like that. I had one this week.

Tonight I met a friend for a drink, and we sat for three hours lamenting our busyness, the joy and despair of our kids, and parents, getting older. We shared our nightmare of a week with each other, and both listened in horror to what the other one had to go through. We laughed, cried and laughed some more. We tried to out do each other with the worst of stories. It is always good to know someone else struggles as much as you. They think you are amazing for all the things you manage, and you thank God you are not having to deal with what they are.

We left after those three hours in the same exact position we were before we met. We both still had too much to do, in too little time. I still have four teenagers, a dirty dog, and a schedule that looks like a subway station at rush hour. She still has to deal with all her craziness as well. These three hours did not change anything, they changed everything. The cloud has not gone away, but now instead of focusing on the darkness, I can once again see, that rain, is what makes the flowers grow.

Whimsical Wednesday: Grandma Dona
May 9, 2012, 10:58 pm
Filed under: blessings, entertainment, grief, humor, love, Parenting | Tags: , , , , , ,

Whimsical Wednesday:  Grandma Dona

My grand mother lived up to her name in every way shape and form.  I fight back the tears as I write this, remembering what an incredible lady she was.  I think she will be a future Saturday blog about ordinary people doing extraordinary things but tonight is whimsical and that is what we will focus on.

Edona, was a fashion model for a department store in Portland, Oregon in the 1940’s.  All I ever knew her as, was Grandma Dona.  I remember being in awe of her.  She was one classy lady.  Gramma always had the perfect outfit, and the best jewelry.  She knew how to make you feel beautiful and special.  She taught me about being a lady, and knowing when the shoe was perfect.  Her eyes always sparkled with a joy I could not imagine, and her wit was fast and true.

When she died and the family got together we all took a hat and a scarf from her collection to wear in her honor.  That woman had more jewelry, hats, and scarves than anyone I have ever met.  Not to mention the purses and gloves.  I was honored to get many of her items because I was just crazy enough to wear them.  Her hats surround my mirror, and many pieces of her jewelry line my box of treasures.

I have worn them on special occasions, let my daughter wear them and been given more compliments on them, than any other thing I wear.  Grandma was elegant and stylish and just enough of a goof to pull off just about anything.  She never left the house without lip stick and some sort of accessory.  It ranged from a hat, to a cane with a  diamond studded handle, but she always had something with Bling. Wow I miss that woman.

“Kari” she said, “women do not sweat, we glow”  “Smile and nod your head, that way they do not know what a nucklehead you think they are” Grandma would remark.  “Ladies do not blow their noses in public, we daintily wipe and wait till we are out of ear and eye shot to do our business”  “Whatever you wear, wear it with confidence and the next thing you know, everyone will want to dress like you.” These sayings and so many more fill my heart and mind as I remember her.

My children have enjoyed her boxes and boxes of costume jewelry, and I have treasured every piece as a reflection of her beauty and elegance.  I found a pair of earrings at the shop I work at, and fell in love with them.  I bought them and wore them home only to find that one of my grandma’s necklaces matches it perfectly.  It was just the reminder I needed of her incredible love, and great humor which held our family together for decades.

I put on her necklaces and I go back to whimsical world of childhood dreams and princess fantasies.  A world where anything is possible and a little bling goes a long, long way.  Thanks Gramma, I love you.

Saturday Story Time: A Country of Ordinary People Doing Extraordinary Things

Saturday Story Time: A Country of Ordinary People Doing Extraordinary Things

My life was forever changed eleven years ago when my husband and I went to Liberia, Africa to adopt two boys. We arrived in Monrovia at the end of the civil war that had been raging for ten years. Under Charles Taylor, this beautiful country had been destroyed, children drugged and told to kill their families, women raped and left to die. No one was safe unless you were part of his select regime. The war had left thousands of orphans, malaria rampant, and poverty greater than I had ever seen before.

We were told not to go. It was not a safe place. They could not guarantee our safety and it was not worth the risk. We got off the airplane and were met by soldiers with AK-47 semi automatic machine guns. It had been a long series of days and hours that had led up to this point. I was mentally and physically exhausted already. I looked at Scott and he grabbed my hand, we were where we were supposed to be.

Tomorrow’s blog is about our blessing of Adoption day. This story, is about the people of LIberia, and their incredible resilience. People who travel to third world countries often talk about their surprise, in the joy that fills the children who are in such desperate states. They literally have nothing, and do not know if they will have food or water the next day, and yet they laugh. They have joy, they sing, and dance. As a country they have seen more death, cruelty, and unspeakable crimes done against their own, by their own, than most Americans could imagine in their worst nightmares. Yet, they find ways to celebrate. The Liberian people found ways while survival was questionable, to choose joy.

When we had been there for about three days, and had just come back from visiting the boy’s mother in her “home” I completely lost it. I could not reconcile myself to the fact that I had been given so much, and could do so little for the immensity of this country in crisis. I could give every last penny I had and it would be a drop in the ocean of need. I was sitting out on a camp stool next to the woman who was doing our cooking and cleaning while we were at the orphanage complex.

Her name was Ma Mary, she was a small robust woman with a strong hand and loving ways. I was sobbing uncontrollably. The injustice of the world and the goodness of God had come to a visual reality in front of my eyes and my heart was torn to shreds. This is not a world that makes sense, this is not the way it is supposed to be. Ma Mary held me in her large bosom and stroked my hair. “You gosta stop crying miss Kari, you gosta, everyone in Liberia have a sad story, if we all cried for the pain we suffered, the ocean would take over the world. You gosta stop.” I tried to stop the flood and the hyperventilating. She went on all the while rocking me and holding me in her arms. “The world is an unfair, hard place, and no body cares about Africa. Your heart breaking is good, but you gosta stop crying and choose joy. Help us all to choose joy.”

As I write this eleven years later, I still cry. I am reminded of my wealth, and my incredible random gift of being born in the United States. I am reminded of a country of war ravaged people who found a way to choose joy. I can hear the laughter of the children on a dirt field. I can hear them singing and praising God in the chapel. I can see Ma Mary’s face and I know this is a country of ordinary people doing extraordinary things. I will dry my tears, stand with my brothers and sisters of Liberia and choose joy.

Saturday Story Time: We All Need A Hero

“Mom do you have a hero?” my son asked me one day. Not really I said, how ’bout you? He nodded his head and named a famous football player. Why is he you hero? “I don’t know, I guess because he is really good at what he does and he makes lots of money.” I smiled at the honesty and innocence. Did I have a hero, no. I got to thinking about that and it made me sad, I honestly could not come up with one person I would want to emulate to the hero status. A few years ago that changed.

It is a hard read. It is brutally honest, and a true story. It does not gloss things over or make them pretty with a happily ever after ending. It is a bit like the movie Hotel Rwanda in its telling of the horrible holocaust, but the images you imagine in your head are ten times as bad as the ones in the movie. The book is “Left To Tell” by Immaculee Ilibagiza. I can not tell you why I read it, I hate books and movies like this that portray true events in very accessible forms. They haunt my dreams and the images stay with me a very, very long time. I have been to Africa, I know what true poverty looks like. I have seen the faces of children who have been abused by a war they did not start and have no control over its ending. I have adopted two beautiful boys from Liberia who at ages four and five had lived through more horror than most of us will ever see in a lifetime. Why then do I need to read or watch a movie about it?

I read “Left To Tell” and for the first time in my life, I had a hero. Immaculee lived through the Rwandan holocaust and wrote a book about her survival, emotionally, physically, and spiritually. “In 1994, Rwandan native Ilibagiza was 22 years old and home from college to spend Easter with her devout Catholic family when the death of Rwanda’s Hutu president sparked a three-month slaughter of nearly one million ethnic Tutsis. She survived by hiding in a Hutu pastor’s tiny bathroom with seven other starving women for 91 cramped terrifying days. This searing firsthand account of Ilibagiza’s experience cuts two ways: her description of the evil that was perpetrated, including the brutal murders of her family members, is soul-numbingly devastating, yet the story of her unquenchable faith and connection to God throughout the ordeal uplifts and inspires.” writes Publishers Weekly on the back cover of this book.

It is a fascinating story of a woman who lives through the most horrible atrocities one human being can commit to another and still finds her way to not only believe in God,
but to forgive the perpetrators for what they are doing. Now I am all for forgiveness. I am all about grace, but you mess with my family, and this Mama Bear has very big claws. Immaculee is in a tiny bathroom, she is scared, hungry, tired, and she knows her mom, dad, and brother have been killed by people she grew up with. They are hunting for her, she can hear them outside the house calling her name. She is 22 and does not know if she will live or die. It is in this moment, in this place, in the midst of this unbearable pain, that she finds a path in her heart to forgive the very people that are screaming for her death. I sometimes find it hard to forgive the guy who cut me off on the freeway.

I am a good person, I try to live my life in a way that communicates love and grace and I want to leave the world a better place than when I arrived. I read this book and it transformed my understanding of what true forgiveness is. Ilibagiza was able to find a way to see God and trust her knowledge of His goodness enough that while her enemies were seeking her death she could still forgive them. I could maybe wrap my head around it, if, after she was safe, and justice was served that she could maybe find a way to forgive, but while it was actually happening, while she is still in hiding? Now that is a faith I can aspire to, that is a woman worthy of being my hero.

“Mom do you have a hero?” my son asked me. Yes, yes I do, let me tell you about her.

As a post script to this story I had the honor of meeting my hero when she was speaking in Salem, Oregon. She is a humble, beautiful woman who continue’s to tell her story to bring redemption and forgiveness to a world that showed very little to her. Love radiates from her core and she truly lives out the faith that she was Left To Tell.

Saturday Story Time: Legally Blind

Saturday Story Time: Legally Blind

It had been a whirlwind, from the moment he was diagnosed in the office in Bend to the drive to Portland to see the children’s glaucoma specialist, Scott staying with our three other children, me driving John over the mountain in our huge 79’ red Suburban. Waiting in the lobby, having John take test after test, his anger and defiance and fear all seeping through with daggers into my heart. Life was not fair. You do not survive through starvation, malaria, civil war out your back door, give up your family, home, and everything you know to come to a different country with the chance to have hopes and dreams only to be told you probably won’t be able to see it. That was not how it was supposed to go.

Sitting in the chair, holding John on my lap as we wait for the doctor to confirm our fears about his vision. I remember thinking how bony he still was, six months after his arrival from Liberia. I can remember the office had a distinct vanilla scent to it. I can remember the words surgery, try to save his vision, and then the one that screamed out to me “Legally Blind”. I am not sure what else was said because my plans for my son’s future had just been altered in ways I could not change and had no control over. “Legally Blind” what the hell did that mean?

His whole future passed before me, sports, school, milestones like driving, I am sure the doctor thought I was crazy because the first thing I asked, as I was digesting this news, was would he be able to drive? The kind man just shook his head no, probably not. My grieving process had begun.

John was legally blind. John was not going to get a fairytale ending to his rescue from Africa. We had four children under the age of seven, we had just moved to a new state to start a church. We had no supportive congregation, no family living closer than 3 and half hours and a budget that did not allow for this kind of medical issue. I don’t remember this in the adoption book or the parenting brochure.

I cried many tears that year. Tears of sadness, helplessness, anger, fear, tiredness you name it I cried over it. I cried over my future now that I had a visually impaired child. I cried in complete selfishness and egotistical pride as the “saving act of sacrifice” we had made by adopting these boys was not enough to change the cruel unfairness of John’s vision. I cried that God, who I knew could do miracles would not give John his vision, and what kind of God was that. I cried alone and with my husband. I learned to accept and of course I went on with my daily life.

I have a great family, good friends and four mostly wonderful teenagers. We are thankful for life, a home to live in and food on our table. We are so blessed. John is off to San Diego with his dad and Granpa Darrell to celebrate his sixteenth birthday gift. They will go to see the Baltimore Ravens play against the San Diego Chargers. John will have an amazing experience. He is very blessed, but he won’t be getting his drivers license.

Ten years later I still cry at the un-justness of it all. I still pray for a miracle, I still go on with my daily life. I have come to terms with the realization that my grieving for his vision will never end. My heart will always ache for him to see the world without a vision impairment, to be the starter on the basketball team with his brothers, and to not have to be so angry. I cry for my self, for John, for our family and for the world. Then I get up and go on, because, that I guess, is the only thing I can do. Most days that is enough.