Wednesday, March 13, 2013

You Win God. You Win.

As I look back on the past 18 months of my life, I can't help but smile. Seems to me that even though I know it, that God - He sure knows what he's doing doesn't he? Here's my story...

First off, because of a series of events after my divorce I vowed in my mind that I wouldn't ever return to church. I even went so far as to tell people that I was a Christian and believed in God but didn't believe in organized religion because of things that had happened. Funny...

It was November 2011. I'm not sure how or why but I ended up at our Manager's Retreat in Gatlinburg for work. I had just decided on the Monday prior to that trip that I wouldn't be going to Africa the next summer because of the fundraising. While there, one of the managers that was supposed to be wearing a grass skirt and coconut bra at our company Christmas party in December approached me (this was for a different fundraiser I had done). He stated he just didn't want to have to do that and would "buy" his way out by means of a donation to whatever cause I had coming up. I told him no - if I let him out then I'd have to let others out and I wasn't going to do that beacuse it wasn't fair. Someone at the table encouraged me to let him make an offer, and honestly this guy has terrible bargaining skills, but it was to my benefit (and all part of God's plan). He said he'd give me $1000, I said $2000. He said $1500 and I said $3000 (more as a joke) and he said okay, agreed. The only stipulation was that he wanted it to go to a Christian organization. I was a bit shocked - I mean, really? I remember thinking maybe God is telling me to go? Nah, not possible, I don't really even talk to God these days... surely not.

I ended up agreeing to the deal and before I knew it I had fundraised the remainder of my trip funds. WHAT? How did THAT happen? I'm going to Africa. Holy sh*t, I'm going to Africa. (My exact thoughts). On a missions trip. Whoa... I kind of thought that I'd be in that population of people who goes on missions trips and says, "Oh, that was a nice experience. It was sad. I'm glad to be home." I'm fairly confident I've never been more wrong in my life.

Anyone who knows me knows that trip rocked my world. It wrecked me. It absolutely, completely, unequivocally broke me. The day it really happened was when we went to Chuko Weyama. Note this is the day I tried HARD to not go on the day trip, and even got irritated at my leader when she made me go. I look back now and laugh - again, God's plan. I just didn't see it like that at the time.  My heart shattered that day. I remember at dinner that night telling my now very good friend Andrea that I just was disappointed in myself. Disappointed in the life I had chosen to live and what I thought was important. None of that mattered.  What matters is showing love to others. Demonstrating God's love. Helping your brother or sister in need. 1 John 3:17-18 states, "If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth." Umm.. does it get any more direct than that? I think not. 

When I came home from Africa I was broken and wrecked. It took months to get back into the groove of our society. It took time for me not to want to shout at people over how stupid they were acting over the smallest of things. But looking back over the past 18 months I know that God had his hand in this whole process all along. From the manager essentially funding my trip to me going that day I wanted to stay back... it all makes sense. Now I'm in the adoption process - another thing I refused in the beginning when I felt God pulling at my heart. I mean, that's just crazy, I'm a single mom. Oh you are funny God. Now I know this life isn't my plan, it's His. I'm just here for the ride.

I've managed to find myself back in a church I've fallen in love with. I've fallen back in love with God. All that to say, I'm still me. Just with a little more love, with a long way to go in my walk. I'm still human. I still enjoy whiskey and I still let a curse word drop now and then. Being a Christian to me now isn't about quoting scriptures, perfection, and condemning people. It's about loving people. I believe that above all, we are called to love everyone around us, no matter what our differences may be.

18 months ago you wouldn't catch me in church. Now I'm loving going. I love the way God used Africa to break me and to wake me up. I love knowing that I'm soon going to be bringing home a sweet child that I can show God's love to. I love the peace and joy. Simply Love - the name of my trip to Africa. It all makes sense now. All thanks to a man who feared a coconut bra...

You win God. You win.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

101 in 1001 Days, Part 2

I did my first 101 in 1001 days on April 19, 2010, so I'm technically a little bit behind in posting this. I didn't complete my first list, so some things I'm going to be transferring to this list, along with lots of new ones. I'm definitely going to need some help with some of these!  The "deadline" for this list is November 10, 2015. (italicized and highlighted purple means completed).

Because I have never...
1. Watch the show Breaking Bad from start to finish (finished December 2013)
2. Take a yoga class
3. Host a dinner party
4. Pay for a person's food behind me in a drive thru
5. Open a cookbook and make whatever is on that page
6. Buy flowers for myself
7. Go snow skiing
8. Ride in a hot air balloon
9. Sing karaoke
10. Go to a drive in movie
11. Go golfing
12. Go to a haunted house
13. Go deep sea fishing
14. See a ballet
15. Go on a cruise
16. Go ice fishing
17. Go to IKEA

Because I love to travel...
18. Visit 5 new states (Delaware, October 2013; Oregon, November 2013)
19. Visit New York City
20. See Boston in the fall
21. Visit another country
22. See Niagara Falls
23. Stay at a bed and breakfast
24. Drive a portion of Route 66
25. Hike a part of the Appalachian Trail
26. Go on a random road trip - with no destination in mind
27. Go to 3 new zoos (Memphis, July 2013)
28. Go to Napa
29. See the Hollywood sign (May, 2013)
30. Go to the Mall of America (December, 2013)
31. Do the Bourbon Trail

Because I like to make my life insurance agent nervous...
32. Go scuba diving
33. Go rock climbing
34. Go hang gliding
35. Go 4-wheeling
36. Go ziplining (April, 2013)

Because I absolutely love Nashville...
37. See a show at Bluebird Cafe (October, 2013)
38. Take a ride on the General Jackson
39. Spend the day touring downtown Nashville
40. Give money to a street musician
41. Go to Bluebird on the Mountain
42. Do the NashTrash Tour
43. Take the Corsair Artisan Tour
44. Tour Yazoo Brewery (August 2013)
45. Eat at 10 Nashville based restaurants I haven't eaten at yet (Etch, Feb. 2013; Hattie B's, Feb. 2013; Five Points Pizza, March 2013; Wild Iris, March 2013; Sal's Pizza, March 2013; Eastland Cafe, March 2013; Rolf & Daughters, April 2013; Alegria, April 2013; Merridee's Breadbasket, May 2013; Bombay Bistro, June 2013)
46. Take the Ryman Auditorium tour
47. Spend the night at the Opryland Hotel
48. Go to the Belle Meade Plantation
49. Grab a drink at Patterson House
50. Go to the hot chicken festival

Because family is important...
51. Take the kids on solo weekend trips (Kassidy - Chicago, August 2013)
52. Do time capsules to open in 1, 5, and 10 years
53. Take a family vacation
54. Have a silly string fight
55. Write them letters to open later in life

Because I'm not giving up quite yet...
56. Kiss in the rain
57. Fall in love with my best friend (2013)
58. See the sunrise and sunset together in the same day
59. Have a New Year's Eve kiss

Because it's good to always keep learning...
60. Try 25 new foods (roasted red pepper, goat brulee, fried catfish, spinach & chickpea patty; April 2013; chata, bone marrow, tofu, tiramisu, June 2013; courgettes, lady peas, July 2013; cream cheese, crabcakes, August 2013; poutine, October 2013; shrimp, November 2013)
61. Watch 3 documentaries (Stuck, December 2013)
62. Learn how to make an omelet
63. Learn how to play tennis
64. Watch 3 foreign films
65. Make vodka gummy bears
66. Learn how to rollerblade
67. Read 25 new books (Love Does, tc; Crazy Love, tc; Jantsen's Gift, tbc; Divergent, kh; Allegiant, kh; The Fault in Our Stars, ae)

Because it's time to do these things...
68. Write a letter to myself to open in 10 years
69. Put flowers on Janet & Darian's graves
70. Face one of my biggest fears - and hold a frog
71. Face another of my biggest fears - and learn how to swim
72. Discover some podcasts - and actually listen to them

Because Kelley calls me a jock...
73. See a Preds game from Cellblock 303 (April 2013, Preds vs. Red Wings)
74. See a Major League Baseball game
75. See an NBA game
76. Go to an NHL game in another city (November 2013, Preds vs. Avs @ Pepsi Center)
77. See a professional soccer game (February 2012, US women vs. Scotland)

Because it's good to get in shape...
78. Do 3 more half marathons
79. Do another running relay

Because I love music...
80. See a concert at Cumberland Caverns
81. See Mumford & Sons in Concert (September, 2013)
82. Go to concerts in 3 different amphitheaters (Klipsch, Maroon 5 & Kelly Clarkson, August 2013; Mumford & Sons, Oak Mountain, September 2013;)
83. See Celine Dion in concert
84. Go to an opera
85. See a Broadway show
86. Go to 10 concerts (Needtobreathe, Cirque Musica, April 2013; Ben Rector, April 2013; Billy Currington, June 2013; Kelly Clarkson/Maroon 5, Taylor Swift, Sara Bareilles, August 2013; Ben Rector, Needtobreathe, Green River Ordinance, Lumineers, October 2013)

Because it just sounds like fun...
87. See another Cirque du Soleil performance (Quidam, June 2013; KA, September 2013)
88. Swim with dolphins
89. Go tent camping
90. Create a black and white wall
91. Hike to a waterfall (June 2013)
92. Ride a camel (July 2013)
93. Take photos in a photo booth
94. Ride 5 new roller coasters
95. Leave a letter in a library book
96. Take photos in a photobooth
97. Draw on a sleeping person
98. TP someone's house - or office
99. Crush grapes in a vineyard with my feet
100. Tell my hairdresser to do "whatever she wants"
101. Get food from a food truck (November 11, 2013, Deg Thai)

Monday, February 4, 2013

+1 Makes 4

So the cat has pretty much clawed its way out of the bag. Kassidy, Kayden and I are expanding our family. We're not getting a fish (pretty sure it wouldn't live too long), a hamster, a kitten, or a puppy. Nope, we're getting... a new human. That's right, a new human being to come live with us. To be in our home. To be a part of our family

WHAT?!?!?! I've gotten that reaction from some people. It's the 'deer-in-the-headlights-are-you-out-of-your-freaking-mind' look. Or the 'you-don't-know-what-you're-getting-into' look. Here's the deal. I'm not out of my mind. I know what I'm getting into to an extent (there's a lot of factors that I'll deal with as they come).

I love kids. I'd have an entire herd of them if I could. I look at my life now and think, "Wow, this sure isn't where I thought I'd be at 29." Honestly, are we ever where we thought we'd be? This isn't what I thought my life would look like. It's not even close. In fact, it couldn't be anymore opposite. But you know what? It couldn't be any better. I feel like I am living in a fairy tale. I have friends I can call any time of the day. I have coworkers I can call family. I have a solid support system. Most of all, I have 2 awesome kids. I have a daughter who is beautiful both inside and out. She makes my heart absolutely burst with pride. Sometimes I watch her interact and see her empathy and love for others and it makes me tear up. That girl is going to do great things. I have a son who has made my perspective so different and forced me to look at life better. Through a series of unexpected turns and events he changed my life. He's so incredibly intuitive to me and my feelings that I know he will make an incredible husband and father. He loves big and he loves the small things big. He pays attention to detail and above all, he loves his mama. These two, they own me.

I never thought I'd have two kids at 22. I never thought I'd be divorced at 22. I never thought I'd be faced with the challenges I was those first few years after the divorce. I never thought I'd watch children die like I have. I never thought I'd see failed relationships with those close to me like I have. But never say never, right? I also never thought I'd go to Africa and have my heart absolutely broken. I never thought that I would literally be down on my knees, tears streaming down my face, crying for God to break me of my worldly ways. I never thought I could feel the way I did. I never thought that at 29, as a single mom, I would be starting the adoption process to add to my family.

I face the stereotypical single mom challenges. However, I'm lucky that Kassidy and Kayden have an awesome dad and stepmom who love them like crazy, so I get 50% of the time to myself. However, there's dating challenges, financial challenges, and just general single mom challenges. I can't do many things my single friends do. Some of them get it, some of them don't. When my new child comes home, I'll be able to do even less. And while it's going to be a huge adjustment for me since I love to be social, I'm okay with it. Am I worried about the money? I've spent the last 10 years of my life worried about the money. This endeavor will probably cost approximately $35,000, give or take $5,000 or so. I'm not worried about one single penny. You know why? Because this is my path.

Most, actually all of the people who know me know I'm not a huge religion person. I'm not going to sit here and quote Bible verses and tell you God speaks to me audibly. I've always been spiritual but it's no secret I've had my struggles with church. However, as I've stepped into this path of adoption, I've never felt more calm or sure in a decision. I know without a shadow of a doubt that this is God's path for my family and I, therefore I have faith that He'll provide whatever we may need along the way. As Christians, we're called to love and to take care of orphans and widows. How we're called to do so is different for everyone. This is my calling.

So yeah, I'm adopting. Will it affect my dating life? Probably. Do I care? Not one single bit. Will it be hard financially? Maybe. Do I care? Nope. Will it be a hard process? Yep. Will it stop me? Watch me.

+1 Makes 4.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

To My Sweet Child: Our Adoption Journey, vol. 1

Today I filled out a very preliminary application to adoption. I'm not entirely sure how this road will look or what all is in store as I begin in this journey, but I know that I'm excited. I'm starting a journal to give to my child who is waiting for me somewhere halfway around the world. It's private, and I won't share it all here, but I do want to document this journey, so I've decided to share the first entry. Here we go.

To my sweet child,

Today, I took the first steps to bringing you home to your forever family. It was kind of surreal that I was actually doing it, but I'm not scared at all. I'm so excited to bring you home. To love on you. To keep you safe. To hold you in my arms so you know that you are loved. To be your mama.

I'm not sure where you are right now. Maybe you're not even born. What I do know is that my love for you is already as big as the world, to infinity and back. I know that every night I'll say to you what I say to your big sister Kassidy and big brother Kayden, "I'll love you forever, I'll like you for always, as long as I'm living my baby you'll be." It's a book you'll become familiar with once you come home.

I wonder what you'll like to eat, if you will be athletic or like to read. Maybe you'll have your mama's sweet tooth or maybe you'll love vegetables. Maybe you'll be tall, maybe you'll be short. Maybe you'll be shy, or perhaps you'll be the life of the party wherever you go. Whoever you are, know this. I will always love you, no matter what. No love is greater than that of a mother to her child. You may not come from my tummy, but I love you just the same.

I could go on and on but I just want you to know. Every child deserves a home, and your home is right here with me, Kassidy and Kayden. I promise to love you. I promise to be your forever family. I promise to show you God's love. I promise to be your mommy.

I can't wait for you to come home.

Love you to the moon and back,


Sunday, November 4, 2012

What If I Told You I Were Gay?

We all have our good attributes, and we all have our not so great ones. For the purposes of this blog, I'm going to highlight my better ones according to others; not to sound arrogant, but to make a point. Hopefully you'll see that for what it is and not think I'm trying to blow my own horn. If you think that, then you're not getting it.

Here's a few ways I've been told (again these are not my own, but taken from others) that I'm a good person. I'd like to think at least a few are true, but who knows. Maybe my friends just like to give me the warm fuzzies.

  • You have a huge heart
  • You're a great mom
  • You're so giving  
  • Such a hard worker! Single mom, school, work, how did you do it?
  • Always thinking of others
SO, to keep it short and sweet, my point is, what if I told you I were gay? Would that negate all of those "positive" things I said? I am sick to death of hearing how people who are gay are terrible people. They're not. They still put their pants on the same way every day. They laugh, cry, fart, brush their teeth, and go to work. They don't live a "lifestyle", they just live their life. People. Normal people.

I have friends who are gay. I love them just like my friends that aren't gay. In fact, I have a deep respect for them for not being afraid to be who they are. That's them, and I love them for it. I love them for being themselves. I know far too many people who are fake and could use a little reality.

So I encourage you to not judge them. I don't, because I feel like it isn't my place. I mean, people are going to do what they're going to do, and I'd be a fool to think a silly blog post would change that, but if you just gave it a thought for one second; those good attributes I've been told I have that I listed up there - would those disappear if I told you I were gay? Think about it. I'd still be the exact same Erin, but something tells me many of you would not feel the same about me, that is, if I told you I were gay.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

This Feeling

Sometimes single parenting is tough. Sometimes it's really difficult. Sometimes you have to make really hard decisions. Sometimes you get to share in amazing moments alone and can just bask in the joy. I got one of those moments tonight. It made my heart burst with joy so much that words really cannot describe it.

I've been a single parent for about 6.5 years. It hasn't always been easy. In fact a lot of times it has stunk. I'm always amazed when a married mother's husband is away for work for a period of time and she states she now knows what it's like to be a single mom. Really? You still have someone you can talk to about what your kid is doing, how your day was. You still have your husband's paycheck you can depend on. You have NO idea what it's like. It's day in, day out on your own. No one else to vent to, no one else's money to depend on. It's tough. Being a single parent (man or woman) is one of the hardest jobs there ever will be. On the opposite hand it is probably one of the most rewarding.

Whether or not you're co-parenting (like I do) or you're truly a 100% single parent (kudos to you, you're a rockstar), when your kid does something awesome, it's a damn good feeling, pardon my language, but it really is. I was lucky enough to have a moment like that tonight.

It's no secret that I want my kids to grow up knowing that they are blessed. I want to expose them to as much as I can - but only as they're ready. Tonight I showed them the trailer to the premiere of a movie, Man Up and Go that I'm going to see this weekend. Click here to see the trailer. I explained what some of the things are in it, and I saw my daughter's eyes widen in oblivion and her face soften and the tears form in the corners of her eyes. My kids know that Africa burned something in my heart that will always be there. They know it changed me, therefore it changed us as a family.

A little later over dinner Kassidy said they need to make their Christmas list. I asked her what she wanted and she rattled off a couple things, then said, "You know, I really don't expect anything. I'll be happy with whatever I get. What if we ask Santa to give the gifts to other kids who don't have as much?" At this Kayden said, "Yeah, we could ask him to give them to Africa. Do you think when you go back you could take them some food and water? Because they die because they don't have clean water." Any of you who know me probably know I wanted to burst out in tears right then. I just smiled and said sure, I bet we could ask him to do that.

I've never said a word to the kids about that, because I want them to believe in Santa for as long as possible. I want them to have that childhood innocence because I believe kids should have that. I don't know where they got these ideas. I encourage them to always give to others who don't have as much. But I have never done an Angel Tree because how would I explain that Santa doesn't visit those houses? So I wasn't quite sure where it came from. What I do know is that I'm freaking as proud as a parent can be right now, and I know that this is due to their dad, stepmom and myself. I don't know everything that goes on at their dad's house and I don't need to know. What I do know is that they're teaching them to love, and they're teaching them God's love. I know we're not perfect and we sure don't always do things right, but somewhere along the way we've taught them something right and God's given them both a tender heart. And I'm a proud proud mama....

So if you're a parent out there who is frustrated, at your wit's end, or wondering if a break will ever come, it's out there. Because believe me, back in the day, when things were rough there were absolutely days I never thought I could make it as a parent and days I never envisioned feeling like this. And it happened. This... this feeling.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Controlling the Uncontrollable

It’s now been just over two full weeks since I’ve returned from my life-changing trip to Ethiopia and Uganda. Part of me feels like it was just yesterday – part of me feels as though it was ages ago. I feel like I’ve experienced the broadest range of emotions I’ve ever felt in such a short period of time – it’s like a hormonal woman gone wild. From joy to sorrow, from angst to peace, from anger to happiness. I never know how I’m going to feel when I wake up in the morning, or how I’ll feel when I go to bed at night. I think a lot about the children that I met while there – I wonder if they went to bed with a full tummy, if they had someone to tuck them in and tell them how much they’re loved; or if they are lonely and hungry.

One of the most common emotions I’ve felt since I’ve returned is rage, and I’ve had to learn how to control it, bite my tongue, and keep quiet. You see, I’ve had friends go to Africa, and they always come back and just say they can’t describe it. I always kind of thought it was silly. Honestly, I fully expect all of you to think I’m silly, I never understood until I saw it face to face. I feel like I had a good grasp on what I would see and experience, but it was so much more than I could have ever expected or prepared myself for. I know everyone is different. Some people might go and think, “Well, I’ve experienced it, that’s enough for me…” and go on with their lives. Others may say, “Well it was sad, but it didn’t really affect me…” or they could be like me and say, “I’m completely ruined and broken-hearted for that country and I can’t wait to return…” or maybe somewhere in between.

I live a pretty great life. I have a job that I love, surrounded by amazing friends who I consider family, have two beautiful, healthy children. I live in a nice house in a safe neighborhood, have a dependable car. I get to go out to dinner, spend time with my friends, travel, shop. I by no means live a luxurious life, but I’m comfortable. And up until I went on this trip, I felt like I was entitled. I’ve worked really hard to get to where I am today; I deserve all of this. The truth is, for me, is that I don’t deserve it. I don’t deserve this fortunate lifestyle – none of us do. We’re a product of circumstance. We were lucky enough to be born into this wonderful country and society. We aren’t any more deserving than any other person in this world. Yet, somehow, so many of us (myself included) have taken our fortune for granted.  

This is where the rage comes in. I see and hear people constantly complaining (complain and debate are different, also) about the smallest things. Traffic was bad, they have a cold, the neighbor gave them a dirty look, the store didn’t have their size (how dare they), it rained on their vacation, the restaurant messed up their order, it’s so hot outside, or one I've used recently - tickets were sold out, I could go on. (Again, I’m guilty of all of this, I am not trying to be superior here). The thing is, I make a conscious effort to look at everything differently now. I’m still me through and through but my heart is different. I have a drastically changed perspective, and there are days it takes every single last bit of self-control in me to not shake someone and say, “SHUT UP! YOU HAVE NO IDEA HOW GREAT YOU HAVE IT!”

So that’s what I’ve been dealing with lately. My point is, when you’re complaining, stop for two seconds and think if it really matters, if you’ll really care in 5 years, better yet 5 months, heck 5 days! Be thankful. Be grateful. Soften your heart. Love others. Let others love you. Take out the negativity in your life and be the type of person others want to be around. I’m not perfect, I’m not even close, and I never will be and I don’t claim to be better than anyone else. I just want people to be empathetic. Show a little grace, a little love, a little mercy. Make a difference. Control what is controllable. You cannot control the things that happen to you, but you can always control how you react to them.

Again, I owe my friends (who are really my family), and my fellow trip goers a huge thank you. Throughout the up and down emotions, the crying, the anger, the character that really hasn’t been me over the past two weeks, you have all been supportive, loving, and exactly what I’ve needed. Some days someone will randomly say something to me that is the calm to my storm without even knowing there was anything wrong. This was a life-changing experience, and I’m so glad you all have been patient enough to let me live it out and work through it. You’ve been the light to my dark and the fuel to my fire.