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Sunday, November 29, 2009

Getting the "phone call"

At some point during the darkness of the night, when you're not sure whether you're dreaming or you're awake, my phone rang. It was our caseworker letting us know that Tracey was on her way to the hospital. Her little boy would be joining us six weeks early! My heart raced... almost as fast as my thoughts.

The car seat... it's still sitting in its box downstairs. All the baby clothes still need to be washed. I should have put up the bassinet this weekend, like I had planned to. Okay, okay... don't worry about any of that stuff... just get yourself in the car and on your way down to meet her.

So, that's what we did. While Marc warmed up the car, I was getting together a bag of snacks for the trip. Apples, oranges, almonds, carrots, pretzels, bagels. I knew we were in a hurry, but I swear I was going at the slowest possible rate. My hands were fumbling everything and I was making a huge mess. My thoughts still racing. 

In my mind's eye I saw her. I couldn't tell if the look on her face reflected pain or nervousness or doubt, or some combination of those feelings. Was she having second thoughts? Is she going to be okay? Are we really ready for this? Can we take care of her baby like we've promised? My heart offered a silent prayer for Tracey. Please, God, give her comfort and strength, bless her for her faith and for this sacrifice.

It wasn't until I got in the car and all of these really strange things started happening that I realized I was actually dreaming. 


But, I woke up still in a bit of a panic. My heart still racing just a bit. There is so much still to do. And, my subconscious revealed a lot more fears and concerns than what I would admit to having. There is a certain aspect of adoption that appears very simple and easy, but when thrust into the middle of a real-life situation with real-life emotions of real-life people on both sides... my heart teeters between wanting to burst with joy and break with pain. 

I worry about obstacles that might interfere with placement. I worry about Tracey and how she'll handle the grief that follows placement. I worry about my abilities to measure up to the responsibilities of motherhood.

At the end of the day (or in the case of today, at the start of the day), what it finally comes down to is making a choice to lay all of my worries on the Lord. I have a plethora of experiences from which to draw confidence that in His perfect love and omniscience He knows how to take care of me and He knows how to take care of Tracey. In many ways I feel like He has walked with me through the last year of my life. When life felt its loneliest and its darkest, I always felt this abiding assurance that He was there. And, as long as I continue to seek Him out, I know He will always be there.

As crazy as my dream was last night, I'm glad to now have a list of things to get done. Hopefully when that real phone call comes we'll be a little more prepared.

Is there anything else I should add to my list?

**Oh, and by the way, thanks for all the love. I was overwhelmed to tears, again and again, reading all of your emails and comments and listening to your phone messages. I was reminded of the proverb - a shared joy is a double joy and a shared sorrow is half a sorrow. 

Monday, November 23, 2009

Blessings - Part 1

After writing that last post, I intended on writing a follow-up the very next day. I thought I would finally find the right words to share what happened next. But, I'm still struggling.

Have you ever experienced something that feels so special that, while your heart shouts for joy, shouting it from the rooftops seems inappropriate? Instead, you want to whisper it quietly into the ears of those who are closest to you, hoping that they'll feel the sacredness of what you're sharing.

Over the last couple of months, we've felt completely overwhelmed with feelings of gratitude for the healing we've found in the last year. Choosing to go through every grueling part of the grieving process has turned out to bring a new beauty to life. And, in seeking to know and understand my role and purpose in this season of my life, I've found answers come in the form of blessings that I never expected, that I never could have dreamed of.

Here's me whispering in your ear...

On the last day of August, we received the first bit of unexpected and joyful news. Even though we hadn't officially gotten back into adoption, we received an email from Tracey, a birth mother, letting us know she had chosen us to adopt her baby boy. The experiences that led her to find us have felt so clearly Divinely guided. From our first contact with Tracey, we have felt the Lord's hand in this blessing, this miracle. And, I can't help but wonder what role certain angels have played in helping this all to happen.

It is difficult to express the love and admiration we feel for Tracey. I have struggled a bit with the contrast of emotions that come with this approaching adoption. While we feel joy at the blessing this little boy will be in our family, we know the choice for Tracey is not an easy one. It pains me to think of the grieving process she faces. We know something of pain and heartache from losing a child and it hurts to think that she might be experiencing some of that. That's why I'm so relieved with our mutual feelings about having a very open adoption. I hope that through the years we can somehow find a way to adequately express our love and gratitude to Tracey.

As expressed in this article about adoption, our greatest hope for Tracey is that she will find "that from the ashes of [her] deepest pain, [God] has made something beautiful."

I find great comfort in my firm assurance that she and I share the same loving and merciful Father who sees the full picture of our lives and knows the details of every feeling, every unspoken yearning, every hurt and every fear. Because of His perfect love, He knows how and when to send the right joys and pains that will teach us lessons of life that will help us become who He intends for us to become. He clearly works in mysterious ways... and I'm constantly amazed at how perfectly those mysteries are resolved.

Baby Boy is expected to arrive January 11th.

(That's only seven weeks away!)

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The process takes time

Within weeks of losing our twins, we were bombarded with all kinds of well-intended advice, some from perfect strangers.

Jump back into adoption.

Become foster parents.

Go back to school.

Find a new fertility specialist.

We weighed all of these options and then some more. Ultimately we knew we just needed time. Time to grieve. Time to heal. Our broken hearts wouldn't heal properly by simply rushing into the next phase. We knew that. And, we felt confident that the right answer would come at the right time.

Plus, to be completely honest, for the first time I was questioning the one possibility I had always been too afraid to consider.

Maybe I wasn't meant to be a mother (in this life). 

That was around the time when my prayers changed. My pleadings became drastically different.


In the early springtime, I started reading the biography of Ardeth G. Kapp, an amazing woman who has lived a life of joy and satisfaction while still yearning for the blessing of motherhood. 

I've been struck by her faith, encouraged by her perspective, and inspired by her example. This part especially sunk deep into my heart, and swirled around for days and days of quiet pondering:

"One night, as my husband and I were reaching for that 'kindly light' to lead us 'amid the encircling gloom,' we read a statement from President David O. McKay: 'The noblest aim in life is to strive... to make other lives... happier.' "

"Peace of mind comes from keeping an eternal perspective. Motherhood, I believe, is a foreordained mission. For some, this glorious blessing may be delayed, but it will not be denied. Motherhood is an eternal reality for all women who live righteously and accept the teachings of the gospel."


Sometime in May we went to see this awesome movie. It hit so close to home, especially those first ten minutes. I felt like we were watching our-animated-selves on screen. As we walked home from the theater afterward, we made silent promises to ourselves and each other that we wouldn't put off our fulfilling our dreams and living our adventures (with or without kids in tow). 

Within weeks we bought our tickets to Italy, our own Paradise Falls, a dream that had been put on hold for far too long already.


One evening in mid-August, after returning home from a particularly powerful Church meeting, with messages that seemed to come directly from heaven straight to my heart, I voiced some feelings to Marc that I never imagined I'd ever experience.

If this is it... if this is the way our life is meant to be lived - just the two of us - I'm really okay with that. We have a happy marriage, we enjoy life together, we really have it pretty good... how can I be disappointed with what I've already been given?


I don't know if it was necessary for me to get to this point of acceptance - not that acceptance means losing the desire to have children - but, taking the time to go through this process has been good for me. In daring to ask some hard questions, I've found a new measure of peace and healing. I'm learning to completely entrust my desires and my dreams into the hands of God, seeking to know and accept His plan for my life.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

A Day in Rome

Our last day in Italy was spent in Rome.

Knowing it would be impossible to see everything we wanted to see in Rome, we decided on a walking route that took us to just a few of the highlights of Rome. It ended up being a long loop, but it was nice to enjoy walking through some of the side streets of Rome that weren't completely bombarded with tourists.

While in Rome, I decided that I hate being a tourist. In general, they can be a rather annoying group of people. 

La Piazza Spagna

La Fontana Trevi

Throwing our coins in, ensuring a return to Italy.

Marc caught this guy taking a photo from his hotel window of the Trevi Fountain. I think he had a much better view than us.

Just another random photo.

The Pantheon

Pantheon column detail.

Back-side of the Pantheon

We stopped to enjoy some gelato on the steps of an old building, and captured some Italians going about their daily activities.

Some young artists, sketching a tower in front of the building.

A guy on his bike.

 A conversation that looks very interesting.

A stylish Italian woman.

A large Museum - I think.

The ruins of Rome.

The Colosseum.

And, a chalk artist on a sidewalk in Rome. Pretty amazing stuff.

And, that is a re-cap of our trip to Italy. There are a few stories that I haven't recounted yet... still deciding how much I want to embarrass myself. 

Food, Food, and More Food

We ate so good while we were in Italy! I'm still trying to figure out how I came home having lost weight... not that I would have cared if I had gained, because it would have all been worth it! That is my one rule while in Italy - Eat Everything Without Regrets. Actually, that's pretty much my motto for any kind of eating in any place. I love good food, I love eating good food, I love running so that I can eat all I want of good food. And, we had far more than our share of REALLY good food in our two weeks in Italy. Below are just a few pictures of some of the things we ate.

At the wedding, we started off taking pictures of the first few courses, but we got distracted by eating so much that we didn't get photos of every course.

This is the second course of appetizers. And eggplant something, prosciutto crudo, and a few other little things.

This was the first round of the primo piatto, which was a risotto with chicken. I love risotto!

This was the second round of the primo piatto - Ravioli.

The bottled water - natural and frizzante - and the wine.

This was one of the two or three meat dishes, with some sauteed vegetables on top. 



Lunch Feast out in the country

So, the day after the wedding, Debora's family all gathered out at their country home to celebrate with a huge lunch together. I took some serious notes while learning from Debora's mom how to make her version of Italian pizza crust and Scaccia (which is Sicily's way of saying Foccaccia). I haven't tried either recipe yet, but I'm so excited to.

Salvatore (Debora's dad) and cousin Simone working the BBQ and the huge wood-burning oven.

The final outcome... is your mouth watering?

The Wedding

We quickly discovered that there are some different traditions that come with an Italian wedding that were really fun (and crazy!) to be a part of. 

"Fare il letto" - Making the bed - This tradition is done a week before the wedding and involves all the women in the family and girlfriends meeting at the soon-to-be-home of the bride and groom, and they all participate in helping to make the bed. With incredibly meticulous detail, they put on the nicest sheets, pinning them to make the most perfect folds and corners, and then use a fancy cover that is often hand-sewn or an heirloom in the family. The bride and groom won't actually ever sleep in the bed when it's made in this way... this tradition is purely for show for the following tradition. (As a side note, the scripture written on the wall above the bed was hand-painted by Marc, when the girl who was supposed to do it flaked out at the last minute.)

As soon as the bed has been made, guests start arriving every day up until the day before the wedding. They come with their gifts for the couple, which are then opened and displayed for everyone to see. Besides leaving their gifts, the guests take a tour of the home, admire the beautiful bed, look at what other gifts have been given, and have some light refreshments provided by the bride and groom. 

This is Vincenzo, sitting in his new chair, relaxing in between greeting guests.

The day before the wedding the bride and groom are not allowed to see each other, so they each spend the day with their families and making last minute preparations for the big day.

On the morning of the wedding many of Debora's family and close friends gathered at her parents' home, to get the first glimpse of her in her wedding dress. This is me, anxiously watching for her descent. (Strangely enough we didn't get a photo of Debora coming down the stairs.)

Then, we all made our way to the beautiful old building in central Noto where Debora and Vincenzo were married. Since I was one of six bridesmaids,

I was chauffeured with two other bridesmaids in the car directly behind the bride. Luckily we were in our places just in time for her arrival.

Here we have Debora and Vincenzo (post bubbles and rice-throwing), as very new newlyweds.

Following the ceremony, the wedding party and guests all traveled to Ispica to the Prince's villa for a huge lunch. There was so much food! I think there were 9 courses. I kept thinking we had reached the end and then they would bring something else out. It was amazing. The lunch went from 1:30-5:30pm. It was delicious food, but not nearly as good as Debora's mom's cooking.

They had a live singer at the wedding, doing all the music during the lunch. At one point he walked around the entire room of 150 guests and played his saxophone. I'm normally not a big fan of the saxophone, but I was definitely enamored by this particular song.  

Right before serving the final course of the afternoon (evening), the Head Chef came out along with all the waiters. It was quite the spectacular moment with the platters on fire and the saxophone serenade still going on in the background. 

Debora's father, Salvatore, dedicated this song to her - Ridera' (She will Laugh). Tears were streaming down my face while watching them dance, as I remembered my own transition from daddy's little girl to Marc's lucky wife. (I think there's part of me that will always be daddy's little girl, though.) It was such a sweet exchange between father and daughter. 

And, one last photo of the bride with her bridesmaids.

And, to top off the night, for part of the drive home Marc got to drive an Alfa Romeo. It was clearly his elevated excitement that made the car stall. The couple we drove home with, Genaro and Laura, stayed in the family's country house with us that night. We played some games and had fun hanging out with them that night.

An incredible sunset at the end of a very long day.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Sicily at its Best - outside Noto

A week before the wedding, Debora and Vincenzo had to make some final preparations for the wedding party/lunch that would follow the actual ceremony. We didn't want to miss the chance to see the Prince's villa, where they'd be having their celebration, in advance. This little jewel of a place is found in a little town called Ispica. Apparently the Prince lives here during the summer and then rents it out for weddings and other big events during the rest of the year. 

Marc and I wandered around the outer courtyard while the bride and groom went about their official business inside. As you can see, it was a beautiful evening in a beautiful setting.

On another day, we took a day trip down to the very southern tip of Sicily, where apparently on a clear day you can see the northern tip of Africa, namely Tunisia. The following photos are from a little town called Portopalo. 

They told us that this little lookout is a popular place for teen lovers to come make-out... catching them in the act seemed fitting.

Proof that I got in the Mediterranean Sea. The water, for mid-October, was surprisingly warm. The sand was so soft and loose... my feet just naturally sunk right in. It wasn't hard and compacted like our sand in Northern California.

The following photos are taken on the same day we were in Portopalo, but these are from another little town along the southern coast called Marzamemi. We were totally mesmerized by the pure ancientness that still stands in this historic little fishing town.

On our last full day in Sicily, we made a day trip to Syracuse, which is famous for it's Greek architecture that dates back hundreds and hundreds of years. This particular Duomo was once a Greek Temple that was bought by the Catholic Church at some point and re-constructed to look more like a duomo. Along the side of the outer walls, you can see where the columns are and how they just filled in walls in between the columns. Really, quite amazing. I love that they didn't tear down the original structure and start over, but that they just added to what was already there. 

Stopping for a little chat, before heading to a Chinese restaurant for dinner. I was surprised at how much they loved Chinese food. I wasn't such a big fan, especially after daily meals for two weeks made by a real Italian Mama cook.