Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Shelly and Todd Make a Video

So, here’s the story.

About a month ago we were asked to participate in a school project on adoption for one of our family members.  We weren’t really sure what the nature of our participation would be, but we were up for just about anything.

Then, she asked us to make a video. 

Oh, dear.

We don’t actually have a digital (or any other) video camera.  We have a camera in our point & shoot Canon, and a webcam on our laptop – that’s it.  I also have an aversion to video cameras.  I am far FAR more comfortable being behind the camera rather than in front of it.

So, of course we procrastinated.  A lot.

In our defense, we’ve had a really busy month.  It was pretty easy to procrastinate.

Until, of course, there was a deadline.  And that deadline was – the next day. 

And we REALLY REALLY wanted to be involved in this.  We want to share our experience.  We love talking about adoption and how it’s affected us and how we anticipate it affecting us in the future, and all the wonderful positive things that we see in adoption.  We absolutely, 1000% wanted to participate in this project.

On Monday night, after a long, stressful, kind of awful day at work – we decided to do it. 

We had to do it quickly – the deadline was fast approaching and we had literally waited until the very last minute.  We also had, as I mentioned, only our limited tools available to us.  I spent about 20 minutes getting the camera propped up on our laptop, an empty box and three books, so that it would be just the right height.  I babbled senselessly into the camera for a few “practice” takes.  Then, it was “go” time.

What you see is what you get.  We look…kind of terrible.  I am struggling with that.  Of course we want to only present the very best sides of ourselves and this is hopelessly unflattering of both of us, however, it’s very real.  It is what it is.  This is us, at the end of a long, kind of terrible Monday, talking about something that we feel very passionately about, and booting cats off the couch.  This is our life.

The idea behind the creation of this video was that it would just be used for a project and would probably not have much of an impact on us personally.  Then Todd uploaded it to his personal Facebook page and suddenly people were commenting on it, and they apparently loved it.  It’s taken me almost 24 hours to agree to show the rest of the world, but I guess we can’t do this outreach thing halfway, right?

The lighting is bad, we look pretty dorky, and Miss Shadow gives a brief cameo.  I’m not sure you’re ready for this, but here it is anyway….

Monday, October 24, 2011

Our Other Furry Kids

 So in our previous posts, We have talked about 2 of our 4 total furry kids.  So you have met Oliver and Daisy, so now its time to hear the story of Shadow and Bubba.

To start things out, both Shadow and Bubba are litter mates and I have had both of them since the day they were born 11 years ago.  We had 2 cats at my parents house at the time, both Siamese mix and both litter mates as well.  One was named Spike and the other was named Daisy ( go figure ).  Well, Spike was an outside/inside cat that would go outside for like 3 to 4 days at a time, then he would come and meow at the door and then he would come back inside until for a couple days to rest.  But after a couple days, away he went again.  Spike was probably one of my favorite cats because every morning when he was inside, he would come up to my room, jump on my chest, and just press his nose against mine as if to say " Hey, Bum, Get up!!"  Once I was awake though, he would jump down and go about his business.

Sadly to say, Spike is no longer with us.  When I got sent out to New York for a month when I worked at IBM, I would talk to my parents every couple of days to see how things were. Well, one night when I called, I got the bad news from my parents that Spike went a little too close to the road.  Well, you probably know the rest.  It was weird coming back home and not having that usual wake up call but we still had Daisy to keep us company.  One thing we never got around doing to Daisy was to get her fixed and one day she got out.  Well, she was gone for a few days and then she came back.  Within a couple weeks, we already started to notice the belly she was starting to get and we put 2 and 2 together.  After a couple months, she had kittens in our utility room, 3 grey ones and a black runty one.  Well, my parents and I both agreed that 5 cats was 3 too many so we found a loving home for Daisy and one of her grey kittens and another home for one of the other grey kittens so we were left with one grey and the runty black kitten.  So we named the grey one Shadow ( or we even call her Miss Shadow ) and then we decided since the black one was small and scrawny, we would do a play on words and call him Bubba ( Bubby for short ). 

Daisy and her kittens
Baby Shadow
Baby Bubby

It was so funny to see these two as kittens,  They would run around everywhere in the house, chasing everything from flies to each other.  Bubby even had a very weird habit of his own. He had managed to find an old Barbie Doll that was missing its body so, basically, just a Barbie Doll Head.  This was his adopted baby.  He would carry it around by its hair, meowing the whole time with it in his mouth.  He could not live without it.....if he was in the room, the baby had to be with him.  If it wasn't, he would hunt it down and go find it.  Oh, and if you think this makes Shadow sound "normal, you are terribly wrong.  When we brought her to the vet to get "fixed", it took 3 vet techs to handle even had to have leather gloves to the elbows on to handle her.  Yup, these 2 got along just perfect with our family. 

So after living at my parents for a few years, we all packed up and moved to Dodge Center into my first house.  We all got along just fine........My work hours were kinda weird but whenever I went to bed, they both would jump up, curl up next to me, and we were all out like a light. We would play and living in that house is also how the cats became afraid of the noise of plastic bags rustling ( trust me, it was ALL their own doing........I still get a good chuckle telling the story). Every so often I would play the part of the weird neighbor and put them on leashes and take them for walks in the front yard.

Then I started dating Shell and they started getting a little less attention.  I started spending more time in Rochester then at my place in Dodge Center and I could see this was starting to take its toll on them.  I would come home to see them and it was like they were attached to my feet the whole time I was home.  At this point, me and Shell talked about it and decided it was about time I just sold my house, move to Rochester, and then we could combine our 2 families into 1 happy bunch.  I still remember the day we decided to bring Oliver over and introduce everyone.  Well, I had totally forgotten the part about the cats had NEVER had any sort of interaction with a dog before.  Yeah, now that I think about it, that was a pretty important point to forget.  Well, needless to say, there was barking, there was hissing, there was scratches on my arms.  Everyone suffered a little bit of mental trauma that day I think.

Oliver and Bubby ( Notice how Scared Oliver looks!!)

So then came the day when we moved them to the new house.  We setup some blankets, their litter box, food, and water upstairs.  Well, needless to say.......They.......Were........Pissed!!!!  We didn't see them for 2 days until finally they started to venture down, a little at a time, but after about a week, they had total rule of the house.......Even total rule over Oliver since they would hiss at him and, well, he is not the most brave dog in the world.  So things were just fine at the house again until me and Shell both decided after we got married, we needed a bigger house.  So we ended up moving out to Shell's folks for about 7 months but the cats went and lived with my parents again.  The reason behind this is because Shells folks already had 2 Golden's living there, No One wanted 5 animals under one roof.
Miss Shadow

So once we found our new house, The cats moved yet another time but this time, the drama was next to nothing considering all parties knew each other by then.  No drama at all......Until a puppy named Daisy entered the picture.  The cats were OK with the puppy, since she really didn't do much except sleep and maybe play for like 5 to 10 mins at a time.  They didn't mind the puppy until she started to get older and also, Daisy loves it when the cats hiss or make any sort of noise.  So they pretty much went from a dog would is afraid of them to one who has no fear of them.  Needless to say, they now know every spot in the house that Daisy can't reach them at.

We have had our ups and downs with the cats.  But I feel they are just as big of a part of our family as the dogs are.  Bubby still thinks he is an outside cat so he tries to go outside at every moment he can.  Shadow loves to jump up on Shell as she is reading before bed and then thinks Shell is just perfect to sharpen her claws into.  Sure they can be needy at times, but they are my kids.  You always love your kids no matter what.

Bubby LOVES his neck pillows!!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Crazy Acres

Todd and I went to Crazy Acres this weekend.

Crazy Acres is a piece of land in Northern Wisconsin co-owned by my parents.  It's big enough to bring your camper (if you have one), and houses a trailer to sleep people (like us) who do not own a camper.  It's one of our favorite spring-summer-fall destinations. 

Trips to Crazy Acres typically involve shopping trips (to exciting stores such as "the meat store" and "the bulk food store", garage sales, and trips to the nearby casino.  They also involve lazy afternoons with friends and family, potluck meals, and anywhere from 4-10 dogs running around, playing with each other, or sneaking down to the pond for a swim. 

There's a playhouse at one end of Crazy Acres, complete with sandbox, swingset, and the possibility of sleepovers for the older kids.  The kids up there are never at a loss for things to do.  In the summer they have swimming pools.  Yesterday afternoon when I walked out to the fire pit, the kids were playing in the dirt, telling me they were "building a quarry," except for my nephew who told me he was "building me a birthday party."

There is a quarry nearby, and plenty of 4-wheelers to go exploring.  The quarry, the pond, and lots of secluded land full of wildlife.   At night you can see every visible star in the sky - no city lights dulling the view. 

It's quiet and peaceful up there. At least this weekend it was, with just a handful of people taking in these gifted beautiful days of late fall.  Other weekends, particularly holiday weekends, it can be fill with as many as 15-20 other people (and their dogs).  Whether it's just a small group of us getting away for the weekend, or a whole bunch of us celebrating the holidays, it's the perfect retreat from the daily grind of everyday life. 

Crazy Acres is closing up for the winter.  This will likely be our last getaway until next spring.  The dogs played (though, thankfully, stayed out of the pond), the kids played, and Todd and I enjoyed the cool quiet one last time this year. 

See ya next spring, Crazy Acres!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011


I was 18 years old when I got my first tattoo. 
I remember feeling so cool - out with my friends, doing something my mom wouldn't approve of.
I didn't really have a game plan going in -- I just knew I wanted something on the inside of my right ankle.  So we paged through the books of our options and then I found it.  The one.  I had to have it.


I have no idea.  This single tattoo inspired a years long frog collection.  I got frogs for every gift giving occasion for years.  I mean, I like frogs, but I cannot tell you why I chose to immortalize a goofy looking one on my body.  Obviously I would make a different decision if I were to do it today, but the plus side of the whole thing is that kids LOVE it.

A year later I went with some other friends so that they could get tattoos.  That really was how it was supposed to play out.  They were getting tattoos, I was just moral support.

Needless to say, things didn't work out quite like that.  This one hurt.  A lot.  In fact, it was never fully inked in (and has lost more ink over time) because I was too much of a weenie to let them finish it.  I love it though, it's in that space between the ankle and the heel.

Several years later I again went with friends to offer moral support while they got their tattoos.  This time, however, I did not come away inked.  Oh no.  On that day, I got my nose pierced instead.  Oh, how I loved that nose ring!  That piercing is long gone, I had to take it out when I took a new job about 9 years ago.  Nothing is left but a tiny little mark where it used to be, and memories of how cool I used to be.

For years I've been plotting my next adventure.  I have always known that I want another tattoo.  I have also always known that this one would be more meaningful.  My days of getting tattoos just for the heck of it are over.  I had always figured that I would work my children(s) name(s) into it somehow, or in some way have the next one be a reflection of my family.  Then, a few weeks ago, while wasting time on Pinterest, I found these beauties: 

That's the symbol for adoption.  The triangle represents the three sides of adoption -- the birth family, the adoptive family, and the adoptee.  The heart intertwined represents the love involved in the relationship of adoption.  I'm a sucker for symbols (and quotes!). 

I think this is "the one".  It'll still be tied to my family, to my child(ren), and also my child(ren)'s family.  

It's perfect.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Death of Me

Last Friday Todd took Oliver to the vet.  He wasn't acting like himself, he wasn't getting up to follow us from room to room and he'd stopped trying to come to the basement for "family time" in the evenings.  He was hobbling around, something was wrong with one of his front legs.  We were both very nervous.  Todd texted me from the vets office and I sat on pins and needles, just waiting for the call that would send me running to the vet to say goodbye.

Oliver's prognosis?
A variation on pulled muscle.  He was prescribed some anti-inflammatory medication and limited activity for 4 weeks.  Aside from that, he's healthy as a horse.

Of COURSE he is.

Here's the thing about Oliver:  he's been trying to give me a heart attack for at least 10 years.

I was 23 when I got Oliver.  I was single, living alone in a one bedroom apartment in North Carolina.  I wasn't sure I was ready for the responsibility of a puppy, but if I didn't take him, he was going to the pound.  So -- I figured I had to give it a shot. 

He fit in the palm of my hand the day I brought him home.  We had some trials and tribulations with potty training, and Oliver chewed up everything: blankets, shoes, and later, once I had a roommate - many many of her bras and -- on at least one occasion -- a plate piled high with leftover pizza.  He was your average, run of the mill puppy, and we were making it work.

Then, one day, we were enjoying a leisurely ride home from a friends house, the car windows half rolled down to enjoy the night air.  We were rounding the corner, approximately 30 feet from my apartment when Oliver spotted a cat.  The dog lost his mind!  Before I even knew what had happened, he had thrown himself out the back window, catching his back legs on the window and coming down hard on his side.  I slammed on the brakes and sat there, completely stunned, SURE that I had just killed my dog.  And then, there he was, trotting around to the drivers side door, a completely bewildered look on his face, tail wagging slightly -- totally fine. 

That was the beginning.  After that, there was the time he stepped on the window button while his head was out the window, and raised the window on his neck.  Once again, I slammed on the brakes, pulled over to the side of the road.  My heart was racing as I tried to remove his paw from the button pushing the window and pried my dogs head out of its self imposed vise. He, of course, was just fine.

Another time, I was walking him at a cabin resort while on vacation with my family "up north".  A car was coming up behind us, so I tugged to pull him over to the side of the road and and bucked and jerked himself out of his collar, stumbling backwards and causing the slowest car accident I've ever seen in my life.  That is, a car traveling 3 miles per hour -- hit my dog.  It was like a slow motion nightmare wherein the car literally tapped my dog and knocked him over. I was a wreck. Oliver?  Totally fine.

Shortly after I met Todd, Todd and Oliver were playing fetch at my parent's house when Oliver let out a yelp and began hobbling on 3 legs.  He'd torn his ACL and required surgery.  Less than 2 weeks post-surgery, the other ACL went out.  I was so sure that he was never going to recover, that I was going to have to make some really tough decisions.  He was only 5.  I cried and cried.  That was six years ago, and Oliver - of course - is fine.

I know that he's getting older.  He's 11 now.  Given his track record, he's already lived longer than I ever expected him to, and someday I really am going to have to make some tough decisions.  In the meantime, he seems to enjoy being our resident drama queen (well, one of them) and he is, apparently, as healthy as ever.  He still plays fetch until he falls over from exhaustion, and still gives big slobbery dog kisses every chance he gets.

He may be older, slower, but he's still keeping us on our toes!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Fall is in the Air........According to Todd

So, We hit the 400 mark.........Looks like its time for me to keep my end of the bargain then.

Ever since I was young, I remember fall always a busy time growing up on the farm.  The memories I have the most were of either riding with my parents or brothers in the trucks as we hauled everything from soybeans to corn.  According to my mom (who has one of the best memories of anyone I know) I was pretty much a rider in the truck from a very young age......and by very young I mean like riding in a infant car seat strapped into the truck.  When I was younger, the memories were mainly of just riding out to the field, getting the load, and then driving back.  Once I started to get older, I took on a little bit more responsibility.  I don't remember the exact age it was but I would guess it was close to 10 years old.  The responsibility was mainly to jump out of the pickup or the tractor, unhook the empty wagon, then run over to the full one, guide back the vehicle to hook it up, hook it up, then jump back in for the ride back to the farm. 

Then came the time when I was actually able to do the driving.  We would just add an extra vehicle so there was no need for unhooking and I would drive it out to the field, jump out of the empty vehicle, then jump in the full one and bring it back to the farm.  The one thing I only got to do once or twice was to actually drive it up to the auger to unload.  I can remember doing it more with my Dad then with my brother Doug........I think its because Dad more patience with me then Doug did with me.  And I NEVER climbed the grain bins!!!!  ( For anyone who does not know me, I have a HUGE problem with certain kinds of heights and certain kinds of ladders )  This flurry of activity usually lasted until at least thanksgiving or until we were done, whatever came first really.

This looks EXACTLY like the combine we used
OK, there is a reason for that back story.  I tell this story because this is why Fall is my 2nd favorite time of year ( Fall, a tie between Spring and Summer, and Winter DEAD LAST  ).  Its always such a flurry of activity to get any last clearing of garden work done, along with other outside projects before Old Man Winter sets in. I think its the farmers blood in me that likes the activity of the fall so much. Even if it is just cutting down bushes or even mowing leaves with the rider, it feels like I am busy and that's kinda like my own sort of Zen really. Another thing about Fall is its kinda like the calm before the stupid cold storm.  Its also not too hot out and at the same time its not too cold so sleeping weather in the Fall is some of the best in my opinion.

Years ago, I had actually thought about moving South..........Some place where the winters are in the 50's and you never get any of the snow.  Honestly, I probably would have went crazy without the actual changing of the seasons.  I know, I may sound crazy but I need to see an actual change in environment when the seasons change, not just a temp change.  So once all the yard work gets done, Winter can come any time.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Where God Lives

On Friday our Craigslist ad was flagged and removed. I don't really know what happened. Some strange things have been going on with us and craigslist lately though so I was kind of shaken up about it on more than one level. On top of that, it turned into a sort of crash course for me on how craigslist works, and a crash course for the craigslist help team on how adoption works.

When I first submitted the ad to the help team to figure out why it was flagged, the immediate response was that it was flagged because we were trying to buy a baby and that's illegal. When I clarified that I did not have it in a "for sale" category of the website, I was then told it was because I was trying to circumvent the legal process for adoption by doing something shady on craigslist.

Not a single one of the team of helpers had ever seen anything like my ad, although I, myself, have seen at least a half dozen in my own searching. Only one of them knew that this was a legitimate (and perfectly legal) adoption process. We're not circumventing anything, we're home study approved and working with Lutheran Social Services of MN. We're on the waiting list to go into their "book" - and in the meantime we're making an attempt to do our own outreach, to let everyone know what we're doing, and hoping to connect with someone who wants to connect with us. This is a perfectly legal, and actually normal - in this country - way for adoption to work.

What a learning experience, for all of us, I am sure.

Speaking of learning experiences, we got to spend the afternoon today with members of Todd's family who have up close and personal experience with adoption as birth mother and adoptee. What a gift that was! We (well, I did -- Todd was off playing kickball with the kids) had a wonderful time learning their story and picking their brains. They are wonderful people with a beautiful story and we were both struck by how much love is in that family. There is a sense of wonder that I feel every time I watch a family (my own included) band together in hard times and demonstrate what unconditional love means. God lives there, in all that love.

It's interesting because, at the advice of our adoption worker, I've been reading this book:

This book tells the stories of birthmothers who surrendered children, mostly between 1940-1960, and it highlights perhaps better than anything else ever could the reason that adoption works the way it does now. As I've been reading it, I've been thinking a lot of my paternal grandmother who would have been a birth mother during this time. I keep wondering if any of these scenarios were things that she experienced, and wishing that she were still here so I could ask her about it. These were dark years in adoption, and I feel blessed and happy that our experience will likely be so much different. That we are pursuing adoption in a time of openness and understanding. That we will likely have a relationship with our birth family free of secrets and shame. When we were interviewing for our home study, I kept telling our adoption worker that I have no secrets. There's nothing off limits for me. My life is an open book - and that extends here. Adoption is something we will be proud of, and we hope to make our children proud of it as well.

Sometimes, we get things right. We realize that we have a broken system and we fix it. We hope to be part of the solution, and to bring positive things to other peoples lives. We may have to blaze some trails along the way, but we've never shied away from that before. Besides, we have God here, in all this love.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

For Love of Words

It's a terrible picture, but that's the light I had to work with when I got home today.  And that, also, is the surprise I came home to!  Todd's dad has been working on building us two bookcases for our upstairs living room area and one of them made its debut in our living room today.  I love it so much!   It's a project Todd worked on with his Dad so - not only is it beautiful, but also homemade and thus 100x more awesome.

PLUS - now my books have a home!
My poor books have been living in plastic totes since we moved into this house over two years ago.  This house was approximately three times bigger than the house we lived in before that, so when we moved in - our rooms  looked a little something like this:

Our upstairs - 3 months after we moved in. 
The bookcases Todd's Dad is making will flank the TV.
The final piece of this project involves acquiring a flat screen TV to mount between the bookcases.

Our basement - as it looked the first 3 months we lived here.

We've done pretty good at filling it in - I mean, we're not sitting in camping chairs anymore. Somehow, though, bringing my books out of exile makes it feel more...homey.  Todd does not necessarily share this feeling and does not, in fact, fully understand this love I have for books and words - although he came awfully close once he discovered Star Wars books.  I often have to consciously stop myself from turning my house into one big book - with words covering all the walls and possibly even the ceiling.  When trying to decorate people would ask what I like, what my style is?  And I have nothing -- just words. I love words.  So - we're trying to strike a balance.  It certainly helps that we've found a theme for our basement. 

In the meantime, I'm planning ways to share this love of books...and words...with our future children.  To start, it'll look a little something like this:

Saturday, October 1, 2011


As we've mentioned a hundred times (or so) already, the support we've received in our outreach efforts has been inspiring.  I keep telling people, in conversations, that I am continually amazed by what the world has to give back when I open myself up to the world.  This support energizes our efforts and keeps our hope alive -- that we will be parents soon.

So, of course, not everyone in the world is awesome.  Part of the risk that we run when we put ourselves out here in this fashion is that -- we are not the kind of people who appeal to everyone.  I mean, who is?  If it were that simple, we'd all marry the first person we ever had a crush on. What you're getting here is a sliver piece of the pie of who we really are.  We're trying to fill in the areas that we think are important, but of course it's never going to be comprehensive because some things are just irrelevant and some things aren't going to make a difference either way.  That is:  either you like us, or you don't. 

I get that.
I mean, I won't pretend that I don't walk around just assuming that everyone likes me all the time.  But I do understand that that is not a realistic state of mind.  It's just easier to deal with the world when you just believe everyone likes you. 

What happens then, when someone doesn't like us, and feels the need to communicate that with us.  Someone we don't know.  We've never met.  Hidden behind an anonymous email address attached to an anonymous craigslist response.  Someone who, despite not knowing us and having never met us, feels in some way entitled to make assumptions about our lifestyle and insinuate that we are unable to raise a healthy child. 

Of COURSE these people are out there.  They've been out there since the dawn of the internet when the entire population of the world realized they could say whatever they wanted to say about anything in their pointy little heads and nobody could do anything about it because it's all faceless, nameless anonymity.  I am not new here.  This is not a surprise.  I mean, I read the note, briefly composed a scathing response in my head, and then clicked delete and walked away.  I know enough to know that it's not supposed to bother me, and yet there it is in the back of my brain nagging away at me as I make dinner. 

I am 34 years old, and bullies still exist.

And - if it's not good enough for my future children, it's not good enough for me.  It starts HERE, right?  With how we treat each other?  How the grown-ups talk to each other and about each other.  How we may sometimes look at a situation that we can't possibly know anything about, and still somehow feel superior and perhaps entitled to spout out a few hurtful, nasty little words in an attempt to make someone feel small. 

I am a grown up, so I know better than to be swallowed whole by this.  My go-to response is anger and outrage not depression and hopelessness.  I cannot imagine being a teenager dealing with the same sort of random cruelty and judgement.  Here are three things I know:
  • Our glaring, blatant, unignorable imperfections will allow us to enthusiastically and without hesitation love the glaring, blatant, unignorable imperfections in our future children.
  • We will forever take great care to teach acceptance, love, and humility as a way of life.
  • We will raise our future children healthy -- of body, mind and spirit.