Saturday, December 25, 2010

**First Christmas Time**

When first coming across Christmas decorations being put up in Target:
Me:  Oh, Avé!  Do you know what these are?????
Avé:  (unimpressed) Yes Mommy.  They are trees.

While looking at a large selection of stockings in a store:
Me:  Oh, Avé!  We need to buy you a stocking!  Which one of these do you like?
Avé:  Mommy.  These are all WAAAAAAAY too big for me.

It's been super fun going through this season with her!  Here are a few highlights in pictures...

We saw The Nutcracker!

With Auntie Kelly and Annie!

And she talked through the whole thing!  ;-)

We saw Santa!
And I bribed the boys to be in this pic!
I'm totally not joking.
(bribed, threatened... toMAYto ,toMAHto.)

And maybe sweetest of all, she DANCED in our church Christmas production!  I thought I wouldn't cry b/c I had watched all the rehearsals... but of course I did.  I just saw this precious little girl on stage dancing and thought of where she was last year at this time and just, well, just.... well, you can imagine.

I mean... really.... 

Love.  Just love.

Merry Christmas everyone!  More to come soon...

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Just for Fun

Worth the watch just for the last 5 seconds.

Worth the watch just to see a brother being so sweet about his sister.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Oh, Night Divine. Or just regular. Or pretty crappy, depending on your level of involvement.

"Oh, Holy Night
The stars are brightly shining
It is the night of our dear Saviour's birth..."

"Silent night, holy night..." 

Well... it was and it wasn't.

Holy- yes.  God was executing His great rescue plan for humanity.  Showing us His great love by sending His Son to earth to live as one of us.  Holy, and divine and sacred.

And also pretty regular.  Except for some shepherds near Bethlehem who had this completely surreal experience that they MUST have been doubting was even real just a few hours after it was over; unless you were them it was just another night.  I mean, if you were living anywhere else- in a Mayan village or China or even up the road in Jerusalem, that night was nothing big at all.  Just a night.

But I bet it was actually pretty crappy for those actually involved in the story- the ones we sing about in those songs where we call the night "silent" and "holy" and "divine."  I've given birth.  It's pretty gross.  And it hurts.  A LOT.  And it turns out giving birth for the first time is pretty terrifying even with epidurals and episiotomies and c-sections and doctors and nurses galore.   Imagine being in a barn.  Alone.  No mid-wife to help.  And barns are filthy and smelly and uncomfortable and WRONG for having a baby.  Just wrong.  I imagine young Mary thinking, "Surely this isn't how it was supposed to be."

And that's also me.  Right now.  In a deeply important part of my life.  Looking around me and thinking "This is wrong.  Surely this isn't how it's supposed to be."  I'm lonely and afraid and terrified of how dead I feel inside but also terrified of waking up again because to wake up means to HOPE.  And when you hope you make yourself vulnerable to pain.  And disappointment.  And crushing, heart-breaking realities.  And so it feels easier to just stay asleep.

But when I'm asleep, I'm not ME.

And God created each of us to BE US.

I'm not a good mom when I'm not me.  No- I'm probably good.  I'm probably okay.  But I'm not GAYLA.  I'm not Gayla-as-a-mom if I'm asleep inside.  Nor am I Gayla-as-a-friend, Gayla-as-a-wife, Gayla-as-a-person even.  I may be saving myself some pain (or at least I tell myself that's what I'm doing), when in reality I'm just delaying it.  Or worse- exacerbating it by letting it pile up un-dealt with.

The past several Christmases I always seem to struggle with feeling like there is something I am missing.  In my younger days- not just childhood, but far into my 20's- I used to be able to tap in to the Spirit.  The feeling you are "supposed" to have at this time of year.  I could ponder the miracle and the gift of the season and be filled with wonder and aching beauty.  I felt an aching longing then too, but I had HOPE.  Hope that one day this ache would actually be replaced with fulfillment.  But instead of fulfillment I have received disappointment.  And as Proverbs says, "Hope deferred makes the heart sick."  Today, right now, I am heart-sick.  Maybe even soul-sick.  And I'm tired of hoping.

But today I also chose to lean into those around me who continue to hope FOR me.  I lean into my friends when my heart and soul are too sick and sad to hold my own arms up anymore and I borrow their strength.

And... I am comforted by the thought that THAT holy, divine night may have felt a lot like THIS sad, lonely night.  And that does not make it any less holy.  Any less divine.

In fact, maybe THIS is what holy really feels like.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

The Second Podcast!

Episode #2: "Happy Holidays from the Moms" is up both on iTunes and on our Podbean account!

Tune in to hear my friends try to shut me down when I suggest that a local Bible college turn off their exorbitant amount of Christmas lights for one night and donate the money saved in electricity to dig wells in Africa!  

(do ya get the feeling these girls have heard me say it all before???)  ;-)

Friday, December 3, 2010


(stole that title from Lindsey!!!)


One year ago today I went to work.

One year ago today my phone rang and I didn't answer it.

One year ago Mick and I rushed home to see the sweetest, saddest face ever.

One year ago.


What a difference a YEAR makes...

PS- I just showed Avé those pix of her that we saw last year and I asked her if she knew why she was so sad.  She said, "Yes, because me no have a family."  Seriously.  That was her answer.  No prompting from me.  For real.  

Blown away...

Tuesday, November 30, 2010


Well, I've done it.  I've accomplished the goal of blogging every day for a month and can officially call myself a NaBloPoMo member!  (are there members?)  And you know what?  I really enjoyed it!  It MADE me sit down and write about some things that I have been putting off for a very long time.  It made me think through some topics I thought I wasn't ready to write about- but when I started writing I found out that either I was ready, or that I would never be ready and so I may as well put it out there as-is.

The last thing I want to write about this month is Gratitude.  I want to live a life that is full of thanksgiving.  Mind you- absolutely nothing in my life is exactly the way I want it to be.  Nothing. My dream life is 100% full of meaningful conversations with my spouse and tidbits of wisdom passed on to my eager children who eat delicious meals made by me with all organic ingredients before we make time to read the Bible and a deep, meaningful chapter book before bed.  My REAL life is 100% full of days when my husband and I hardly have time to speak to each other and my children ignore every single word that comes out of my mouth and we have cereal for dinner and I tell them I'm too tired to read to them before bed.  But STILL... I have SO MUCH to be thankful for.  And I truly want my children to appreciate all that they have too.

In the adoption world there are always people talking about how we can't expect adopted kids to feel grateful for their adoption.  And they are RIGHT.  I mean, that's a bit like saying that kids whose parents have gone through a painful divorce should be thankful for it because each parent has remarried.  Maybe they can really, really love their new step-parents, but that doesn't mean that they have to be grateful for the divorce that brought them all together.  So I'm not writing this to say that Avé has to be grateful that she has us for a family.  But I AM saying that I want my children- ALL of them- bio or adopted- to be grateful for their lives.

We have so much given to us in this country.  So much that we don't even NEED but think that we do.  And somehow I have a sneaking suspicion that on the day we stand before God He is going to ask us about our gluttonous lives and why we continued to live in such a selfish manner when we knew that others' suffering could be eased if we would would give more away instead of accumulating more "things" for ourselves.

Nothing makes me crazier as a mom than ungratefulness in my children.  I mean- if you really wanna see me just go bananas, come over some day when my kids have been able to stay late after school to play soccer, had a friend over for a play date, then went someplace fun for dinner... and THEN complained b/c they didn't get to go out for dessert afterward!  I seriously go berzerk.  One day we were leaving Sonic's "happy hour" with slushies in their little hands when we happened to drive past a Braum's and one of my kids said in a really sad and pathetic voice, "We haven't been to Braum's in like, forever."  My other kids chimed in, equally sad and pathetic.  I whipped the car into a parking lot, demanded their slushies and tossed them into the nearest trash can.  I mean, AAAAAUUUUUUUGH!!!!  Can you say SPOILED????  That just infuriates me!!!

And then comes the part that I always regret later- the lecture.  I JUST CAN'T STOP MYSELF!!!  Really!!!  I just start going off and off and off and off and even though there is a part of my brain that says, "Simmer down, G!  They tuned out like, 5 minutes ago!" I just can't stop until I have said all I have to say!  And by the end I'm usually crying.  It goes something like this:

""We haven't been to Braums...???  WE HAVEN'T BEEN TO BRAUMS???"  What, exactly, is that in your hands???  And yet you are complaining because WE HAVEN'T BEEN TO BRAUMS????  Oh, no.  Oh, no, my friends.  (dramatic pull over into nearest parking lot)  Give me those drinks.  (dramatic toss into the trash can) If you can't be grateful for what you have, then you don't deserve what you have!!!!  Do you think every child in the world gets to swing by Sonic after school?  Don't you realize that there are kids in this world who not only don't get to drink Blue Coconut Slushies, but they have to hike for 1/2 a day to get water to drink?  And then when they get it, that water is dirty and filled with things that will make them sick???  There are kids who can't even have the PRIVILEGE of going to school because they have to hike back and forth every day to get their family DIRTY WATER to drink and bathe in and cook with... and yet MY CHILDREN, who are holding slushies in their hands are sad because they haven't gotten ice cream???  Oh, that is just ridiculous.  Don't you remember when we saw that village in Africa on TV where the only toy in the whole village was a long sleeved shirt rolled up to use as a soccer ball???  And don't you remember the children begging on the streets and living in the dump in Ethiopia???  And yet you feel sorry for yourselves because you got slushies instead of ice cream..."

To be fair, I *ALWAYS* apologize to my kids later for acting so nutso.  But I also make it very clear that that a crazy, raving fit is very likely to happen every time they act so ungrateful for all they have.  That is just who I am and they need to realize that if they want to see their mother go berzerk-o, acting ungrateful is the best way to do it.  One morning I threw a pair of socks at Jack's head when he told me that the reason we were ready to leave and he didn't have his shoes and socks on is because he "didn't like any of his socks."  AAAAUGH!!!  Berzerk-o time!!!!  (again... I apologized later and told him he had full permission to mock me for the day I threw socks at his head.  ;)

But the really pathetic thing?

I do the same thing.


And maybe that's why I react so strongly when my kids do it.  I hate it in myself.  I hate going to the mall because it makes me feel like all my clothes are stupid.  I hate watching TV because it makes me feel like I need more money to spend on my hair and my shoes and my make-up.  I hate reading fashion magazines because the ads all make me feel fat.  I hate it when I do get something new and somewhere in my heart it makes me feel just a little bit superior.  I HATE that.  I hate that I fall prey to all those marketing tricks that tell me that if I just had this product it would change my whole life.  I love my country, but I hate those things about our materialistic culture.

Because being unsatisfied means being ungrateful.

My life is far from perfect.  But I want to be grateful for every broken, messed up, heart-breaking, imperfect piece of it.  And if I want grateful children, well, they are only going to learn that one way: by example.  My lectures and dramatics may make an impact for a short period of time, but really I think they will only teach my kids not to be ungrateful OUT LOUD.  On the inside they will feel the same way.  Unless I can show them another way to live.

God, help me.  Because really- I have every single thing I need.

And then some.

And I wanna be grateful.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Her Lifebook - Her Story

-Mommy, read me a book!
--Okay.  Which book do you want to read?
-Read my Avé Story!
--You want to read your Lifebook?
-Yes!  Read about me!

And so we read her story.  Again.  Again and again and again.

"After the rainy season ends in southern Ethiopia a very special time begins.  Spring-like weather makes everything start to grow!  Flowers are blooming everywhere.  Trees are putting on their best leaves.  The farmers are planting their crops.  It’s a beautiful time in a beautiful country.  And after the rainy season ended in 2006 something else beautiful happened.  In the area called the Sidama Zone, in a village called Luta Bongodo, a very beautiful baby was born.  Her family thought she was so beautiful that they decided to name her “Flower!”  And that baby was YOU!  Abeba Lilah Gower!  The word for flower in Amharic is “Abeba.”  And so that’s what your name means.  “Beautiful Flower.”  *  **
*A few details have been changed or deleted for privacy.
** And if you read something up there that you know is incorrect, please let me know!!!  I'm just using info I've gathered and cobbled together from many sources.  I want it to be correct, so correct me if I have been misinformed!

I can't remember specifically who introduced me to the concept of adoption lifebooks, but I'm forever grateful.  For those not in the know- a Lifebook tells the adoptees story- as much as you know of it- from birth to the time he/she came  to be your son or daughter.  Every teeny-tiny piece of information is important to the adoptee.  After all, their life doesn't begin at the moment they join our families.  For my daughter, she had 2 years and 9 months with her first family and then 8 more months in an orphanage before she came home with us.  That's a lot of living and a lot of information she's going to wonder about someday!

We are fortunate to know some great details about her life in both of those circumstances.  I'm sure these details are going to mean so much to her.  And we are fortunate to have some great pix from the area where she was born.  (Thanks again, Heidi!)  But truthfully?  It was very challenging to write.  

It was challenging because my daughter's story is hard.  And sad.  And because although we know some things, other details will forever be a mystery.

The unofficial (or maybe official?) Lifebook guru is Beth O'Malley.  She has a website and a "how-to" book on the subject.  One thing she stresses is not to sanitize the story.  Not to leave out hard truths or difficult facts.  Because, well, because they are facts.  And to hold back information is just unfair and ultimately unkind.  But she does give you great suggestions for language to use at each stage and in many different circumstances.  I found all of the information she offered very helpful while I was writing Avé's lifebook.  

I was motivated to start writing her story after an interesting event last summer.  My boys were talking about when they were in my tummy (I honestly can't remember why this had come up... seems very random, but that's kids) and Avé said, "Tell me about when *I* was in your tummy!"  I simply told her that she didn't grow inside my tummy- that she had grown inside the tummy of her first mommy- Mama Meselesh.  She asked why, and since I wasn't prepared to give her the birds-and-the-bees conversation I just said something lame about that's how babies are born- from the tummies of their first mommies.  She had a lot more questions about how she was born and I knew that was just one reason I needed to get her lifebook written- so that I could tell her her whole story.  Or as much as we know of it.  

Right now I just have a rough copy printed out from my computer, but she loves it!  We read it all the time.  And when she is grieving it is the first thing we turn to.  It reminds her of who she is and where she has come from.  It connects her to her roots and to people and places I don't want her to forget.  It reminds her that her first family loved her so very much... and that her second family does too.  And above ALL it tells her that God loves her and has been watching out for and protecting her through all of her story.  And that He has big plans for her life.  And that while God didn't orchestrate the parts of her story that are sad or painful, He was there with her through that time and was always, always, always holding her so close and loving her more than she can even imagine.  More than her first and second families combined.  

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Podcast is UP!

The "Three Moms and a Podcast" podcast (hmmm... I sound like Lady Redundant Woman...) is ready for downloading!  You can listen in a couple of ways.

You could go HERE - that will take you directly to the podcast on our hosting site and you can listen on your computer.  Or you can go to iTunes and do a search for us (you'll have to scroll down a bit b/c music comes up on top... podcasts further down the page) and from there you can even SUBSCRIBE if you so choose!  (it's FREE!)  That way when we record a new episode it will automatically download into your iTunes and then you can have it on your listening device of choice and listen at your leisure.

We would love to get lots of people participating and giving us feedback and input.  You can "join" us on facebook (just do a search for "three moms and a podcast" and we come right up.  then just click to "join").  If you do decide to join us on fb, then you will be able to write in and add your 2 cents for us to read "on the air"!  Our next episode is on the holidays and we are wanting people to write in and share two things:
1.  Favorite Holiday Traditions
2.  Favorite gift you ever received

YOUR stories are what are going to make this fun!  I mean, my friends and I can have a good time, but we pretty much know all each other's stories.  YOUR input is what will keep us coming back.  So join the fun and participate!!!


We are HUGE Narnia fans here in the Gower household. The books have been treasures to me for a very, very long time. I've read the entire series aloud to every group of kids I ever taught and now I'm loving sharing them with my own kids. Can't WAIT to see this movie w/ my boys on opening night!!! Avé still can't be quiet through movies and can't follow the language, so she'll have a Daddy-date while the boys and I go watch.

December 10th!!! Can't wait!!!!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

LOVE this book

Because when I read it to Avé she always says, "I think you look like my Mommy."

Friday, November 26, 2010

My Creative Sons

All created and  photographed by the Gower Boys.
(not really sure of the story line... so don't ask for details)

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving

Hope the squirrel finishes off those pumpkins before we get home.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

...because it's Wednesday.

Unless you've been living under a rock you have probably experienced the absolute ecstasy that is "Business Time." But it's so good, it deserves a second listen. (or third, or twentyseventh...)

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Grieving (so far...)

It hurts to write this post.  It hurts because my daughter hurts and it's a pain I cannot take away.  It's a pain she is going to have to reconcile herself to for life.

There is just no way to get around it: adoption is rooted in loss.  A child has lost the opportunity to grow up with their biological family and through that loss may have also lost a homeland, a culture, a language, and too many other things to count.  The reason that there is a need for adoption is because the world is broken.  Adoption gives a child a second family, but it doesn't negate the first.

This past summer we marked a very important and tragic day in Avé's short life.  I wrote her a letter on the anniversary of this day- a letter I will not share in full b/c it's just for her.  I will tell you, though, that in that letter I let her know one very important fact about herself and her life:

Her first family LOVED her.

No- her first family ADORED her.

How do I know this?  Because of who she is.  You only learn how to be in a family by being in a family.  And you only learn how to give and receive love by giving and receiving love.  My daughter is a girl who KNOWS how to be ADORED.  And that tells me that her first family gave her such a gift- they gave her all of their hearts.

I'm still not really sure how to talk about Avé's past online in a way that shares her story in a way that can connect me with others who are dealing with the same things, and in a way that might help others on their journey- but at the same time still respects her privacy.  It's a delicate balance.  So, I'm not going to tell you everything, and if you know us in "real" life, I'm asking you to kindly NOT share with others what I may have already told you about her life or what you may read on this blog.  Think of it this way: SHE does not fully comprehend her whole story yet.  So it's unfair that others in our circle of acquaintance know more than she does.

But I do want to share some things we have been going through.  I'll do my best to walk that delicate line.  I have decided that I am comfortable sharing the info I am going to write about today because Avé has shared or has asked me to share things along these lines with others.  And if she's comfortable with it, then I am too.

We talk a lot about her first family.  We call them by name- Papa Debiso and Mama Meselesh.  She does not remember her first mother- Mama Meselesh died when Av was still a little baby. But we talk about her to build memories of her.  I am able to tell her that she looks like Mama Meselesh.  I am able to tell her that she is silly and funny like Mama Meselesh.  I am able to tell her that she likes music just like both of her first parents.  We are blessed to be able to know these things.  They will be a treasure to her.

But just because I know she doesn't really remember her first mother doesn't mean she isn't grieving her loss.  Toward the end of summer she experienced a lot of grief.  She asked a lot of questions over and over and over.  "Why Mama Meselesh die?"  I answered her questions truthfully and openly as I could.  A couple of times she would be playing with a little friend and then come to me and say, "Mommy- tell her about Mama Meselesh die."  And so I would... often to the shock of the little friend's parent!   But I saw this as a good sign- she wanted her friends to know this important fact about her.  One day we were driving in the car- just the two of us- and she just burst into tears and said, "Mommy!  Me no want Mama Meselesh die!!!"  I pulled the car over, unbuckled her seat belt and put her on my lap and we both just cried and cried and cried.  I told her that I wish Mama Meselesh hadn't died either.  And I mean it.  I wish she could still be with her first family- surrounded by their love and the culture she was born into.  It's not fair... it just really is NOT fair...

We had several episodes like this and sometimes they take her hours to get over.  All I know to do is to hold her and cry with her and then get out Karen Purvis' book and see what else I need to be doing to help her through her grief.

I don't always handle it well.

At one point she started saying things like, "Me no like this house. Me like Ethiopia house."  and I would just say, "Yes- Ethiopia houses are very nice, aren't they?"  One night we were having Mexican food and she picked up a tortilla and said, "Me no like this America injera.  You injera no yummy.  Ethiopia injera yummy."  We all stifled a giggle and then just agreed, "Yes, Ethiopia injera is better than this 'injera'."

But then one night she said, "Me no like you to be my Mommy.  Me want Mama Meselesh be my Mommy."

And I was STUNNED by the pain that went through my heart.

I responded by putting her on my lap and holding her close and saying, "Yes, I'm sorry that Mama Meselesh can't be your mommy too.  I know you miss her so much."  and she started crying onto my shoulder and I started crying into her hair... but this time my tears were partly selfish tears.  I was crying- at least partly- for myself.  I was crying at how ashamed I felt about my poor reaction in my heart, and I was crying because, well, dammit!  It hurts to feel rejected!  I know she wasn't really rejecting me... I know that.  And I'm not telling you this b/c I'm proud of it.  I'm just telling you this b/c it's the truth.  Immature- maybe.  But still the truth.

But what this told me is that while she deals with everything so well on the outside, there is a very deep inside where she hides her true feelings.  And it's going to be our job as her second family to help her dig those feelings out and help her deal with them.  It scared me a little bit.  It let me know that she may be the kind of person who holds everything in- and I don't think that's healthy.  Because the grief is there.  Some people deal with it head-on and let their anger and sadness all hang out.  And others bury it deep.  But it WILL come out- if we don't deal with it in healthy ways we will be dealing with it in unhealthy ways at some point.

And really?  I'm not too sure how to do that.  I can love her and help her to talk about and process things... but I do think at some point we are going to need to seek some professional help in encouraging her to deal with her grief in a healthy manner.  I'll do the very, very best I can... but I know it won't be enough.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Sibling Adjustment (so far...)

I'm gonna be honest.  Before we brought Avé home one (of the MANY) things that I was terrified of nervous about was how my boys were going to adjust to this new sibling.  I wasn't all that worried about specifically how she would adjust to them... I was more just generally worried about how she would adjust to, oh, you know... everything.  But for my boys I was really concerned about how this was going to shake their world.  They are very tight, my two boys, and I wasn't worried that that would change.  But I was worried about pretty much everything else.

(Are you sensing that I can be a worrier?  Before I had children I was NEVER like this!  But this is what tends to happen when you discover that you never really knew what love was before...)

Some specifics that I worried about:
1.  Ben's adjustment; losing his place as the baby of the family, etc...
2.  How the boys would feel (or how others would make them feel) about being a transracial family
3.   What if she was extremely needy and took up all my time and energy and I had none left for my boys?
4.  What if adding her to our family really screwed up this great thing we had going?

I won't say that I wasn't concerned about her feelings and her adjustment, but the truth is that I was much more worried about the kids I already knew and loved rather than the girl who I wanted to love but had really only seen in pictures.  

One thing I think I may have done right before we ever adopted was to sit my boys down and tell them the following: "Guys, you know that bringing home your sister is going to be a big change- a big change for ALL of us.  And I'm sure you know that Mommy is probably going to have to spend a lot of time with her- helping her adjust to our home and our family, as well as to our food and our language and everything else.  And I'm going to tell you something that is very, very likely to happen.  It is VERY likely that you are going to think some thoughts like, "Mommy likes our sister more than us."  or, "Mommy only has time to spend with our sister."  or something along those lines.  And so right now I am going to tell you: THAT IS NOT TRUE.  In fact, if you do think thoughts like that you need to come and tell Daddy and I right away so that we can know how you are feeling and so that we can pray with you.  Because you know who likes to spread lies?  The devil.  And he would LOVE to mess up our hearts and our family in any way he can.  So if he can lie to you and tell you that I love your sister more than I love you and get you to believe it- well, he will count that as a very great victory.  So you need to know that in advance so that you'll know what to do if it happens."  It did happen once, and the boys came to me and I was able to remind them of that conversation and we prayed about it and it was all good.  

#2: I blogged about the transracial thing yesterday- but didn't really bring up anything about my boys.  The fact is- they think it's totally normal to have a sister who is from Africa.  And so do all their friends.  That adjustment has been a non-issue so far.  Which I think says a lot about the positive direction this country has changed in the past few decades.  Not that it won't ever be an issue- I'm sure it will at some point.  But for now it's been all good.

#'s 3 and 4 did not materialize (yet) and so I wasted my time worrying about that.  (actually worry is ALWAYS a waste of time.  you think i would learn that lesson... i've had so many opportunities to see that truth made obvious...) 

But #1.... hmmmm...

One of the biggest surprises for me was how quickly my boys attached to her. They just adored and doted on her right from the start.  It was sweet to the point of nauseating.  ;-)  Seriously- sometimes I would have to tell them to get out of her face and stop kissing her!  Especially when we were in the car and she was trapped in her car seat in between them.  I mean, let the girl breathe!!!  

THAT was a good surprise.  The next was not.

The next surprise was: she liked Jack more than she liked Ben.  

And she made it obvious.

As often as she could.

From as early as our first week together in Ethiopia. 

She was never outright mean, just rude and snarky.  Around 5 weeks home she would say , "Love Mommy.  Love Daddy.  Love Jack."  ...and then leave a very obvious silence while she looked Ben right in the eyes as if to say, "You ARE picking up what I'm throwing down, aren't you?"  

And it hurt his heart.

And that hurt mine.  

When his Kindergarten teacher said to him, "I bet your new sister is having so much fun with you!" he replied, "No.  She only likes Jack."


One day as we were dropping the boys off at school they both kissed her and told her that they loved her as they were getting out of the car.  She told Jack she loved him, but refused to say it to Ben.  And I saw the look in his eye.  The look of a 6 year old heart being crushed.  And just remembering that look has brought tears to my eyes once again.  

When we got home that morning I put her on my lap in the rocking chair and bawled as I told her, "You CANNOT treat Ben like that.  You just really CANNOT.  He's my baby too!  It hurts Ben's heart... it hurts Mommy's heart.  He loves you and you are GOING to be nice to him!  You just can't keep hurting his heart this way."  I have no idea how much of that she understood, but I do think she got the message.  When we went to pick up the boys that afternoon I very seriously told her that when she saw Ben she had to look him in the eye and say, "Hi Ben!  I love you!"  I didn't even care if she didn't mean it at all- she was going to say it.  We even practiced in the car.  And she did!  And because he didn't know I had FORCED her to say it, his eyes lit up!  Seriously... he fell for it.  Which made my heart hurt in a completely different sort of way.  He wanted her to love him so badly... he was willing to take whatever she would give him.  

Ben's teacher mentioned to me that he was crying at school over very random things.  Crying at school at all for Ben was very unusual.  I knew it was a symptom of his adjustment- losing his place in the family and making way for this dynamo of a sister and then having her not like him on top of it all was a lot to take in all at once.   Looking back I wish I would have had him go talk to our awesome school counselor about it, but the school year was coming to an end and I just determined to help them both work on getting along over the Summer.  

AAAAAAAND... I talked about it with a child psychologist.  Because, you know.  Let's just go right to the top.  Actually she is a friend and a fellow mom at my kids' school and I really trust her wisdom and advice.  I described the situation to her- how she just adored Jack and he could do no wrong, but how she and Ben just fought at every turn and she just did whatever she could to tick him off!  (and to be fair... Ben started giving as good as he got.  I don't think he would have done it to the same degree had she been sweet to him, but a boy can only take so much.)  My friend said some magic words to me that I treasured and will never forget.  She said:

"You know that's very normal, right?"

NORMAL!  Oh, how I love that word!  Seriously.  

She said, "She will probably have Jack on a pedestal her whole life.  He's the BIG brother!  And he's a kid who kind of lends himself to being put on a pedestal.  He's sweet, he's loving, he has time for everyone.  Of course she is going to adore him!  But the truth is... she and Ben are going to be a lot closer in the long run.  They will have to work out their issues, and in the long run that will make them really close."

I could have just kissed her right there. 

That really made sense to me and put my mind and heart at ease.  And over the Summer I did make sure that the two of them got along and had plenty of one-on-one play time while I worked with Jack on things like reading Sequoyah books and memorizing all the times tables.  And it really seemed to help.  They started to learn how to enjoy each other's company and to discover that they could actually have fun together.  Now don't get me wrong: it is very, very NORMAL around here.  Meaning that they are just normal siblings who fight and tattle on each other and break each other's things and hide them... But it's better than what it used to be.

Oh- and one time this past Summer she came in the back door crying her eyes out and telling me that Ben had kicked her in the NECK!  I was so mad... I called Ben in- of course he denied it- and started to read him the riot act about how to treat his sister when I noticed Jack looking really strangely in the background.  Then he started shaking his head and running his hand across his throat and mouthing, "That didn't happen."  So I said, "Ooooohhhh...  So that's what's going on..."  and then proceeded to try to explain lying in English to a child who had only been here for about 3 months and let's just say it didn't go very well but she was put into time out for three minutes and I think she's a smart girl and knew exactly what was going on.  ;-)

I snuck into their room just now and
snapped this. Don't you love the flags?  
Over the Summer I also let all my kids sleep in the same room.  Jack and Ben had been sleeping together either on the top or bottom bunk in their room for over a year, and so I just pulled out Avé's trundle and let them sleep on it.  I think sleeping in the same room is very bonding!  I just loved listening to them giggle and tell stories as they were falling asleep.  And they loved it too!  When school started I told them they were going to have to go back to their room and all three of them rejected the idea and promised to fall asleep quickly and not stay up late talking.  And really, I think they are doing a great job!  Recently we took down the bunk beds and set them up as twin beds in the boy's room.  Avé sleeps on one by herself (because she is still wearing a pull-up at night and, well, no one wants to wake up in a puddle as occasionally happens) and the boys share the other twin.  This probably won't be able to happen much longer- Jack is getting so big!  But for now... what a treasure.

So it hasn't all been smooth and we still have bumps or even boulders in the road.  But... it's gonna be okay.  And 'normal' makes me very happy.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Transracial. It's what we are.

Justine... I bet you thought I was never going to get around to answering your question!  But here I am, and I'm gonna give it my best shot.  Justine had asked about my feelings and other's reactions to us as a transracial family.  (Justine is a strong and courageous mom of 3- 2 bio and 1 adopted this year from Hong Kong.)

I remember how it felt to take Jack out with me when he was a newborn.  I felt so self-conscious!    I felt like anyone who looked at me was thinking, "Oh, she is OBVIOUSLY a new mom and doesn't know what she is doing."  I remember being in a Walgreens and putting his carrier on the floor to look at a magazine and then absolutely panicking b/c I thought, "What if I forget about him and leave him here???"  I picked him up and immediately left and went straight home.  Nutty?  Yes, perhaps.  But going from not having any children to having a baby was a BIG adjustment.  And this was a baby who looked (almost exactly!) like me.

When we first came home with Avé I was very, very, very, VERY disappointed with myself about how self-conscious I was when we would go out in public. I was uber-aware of every eye that noticed us, every head that turned our way, every question that flittered across someone's face.  I was truly SHOCKED at how self-conscious I felt.  It was akin to that new-mom self-consciousness, but with a much uglier twist.  I'm not proud of this.  But ultimately I learned a lot about myself.  What I think it came down to is that I do not want to be judged.  We are noticeable.  I knew to expect that.  What I didn't know to expect was that with that "notice" might also come judgement and disapproval.  It hasn't happened a ton, but it has happened.  And whether the instances of judgement or disapproval were all real or all in my imagination or a little bit of each, it took some getting used to.  But I'm happy to say that it only took a few months before I didn't even think about "those looks" anymore.  Now-a-days it seems I have developed a spidey-sense for "those looks" and I just make sure not to even turn my head and make eye contact.  I do the same for the overly-approving, "oh, I see what you have done here and aren't you a wonderful person" looks, although I have a bit more grace for those b/c I think I used to do the same myself.  :-/

There have been a few "awkward" conversations.  Once at church a lady who I do not even know cornered me and started asking questions about our adoption.  I answered the basics: where she is from, how old she is, how long she has been with us.  But then she kept asking for more information.  About how do we know her "real" birthday and about her "real" family and how they died.  Mind you, Avé was STANDING RIGHT BESIDE ME this whole time.  (luckily it was a very noisy area and she didn't understand much English at the time)  I deftly avoided giving direct answers to those questions but she didn't take the hint.  When she asked me, "Did she have any siblings?" I just smiled my biggest smile and said, "She does now!"  But she still didn't stop.  I was really afraid I was going to have to be flat out RUDE to her but luckily Mick and the boys walked by and I said something about how they were looking for me and I had to go... and just walked away with her disapproving look staring behind me.  It did not help that she was an African American woman either.  That made me feel all the more judged and uncomfortable.  But REALLY!!!  As if I'm going to tell a total stranger details about my daughter's life that she herself doesn't fully grasp yet!!!  Geesh!  I was so ticked.  I've seen this woman a few times since and always feel like she's looking at me weird.  So I just do whatever it takes to avoid her.

There are those out there who say that transracial adoption (and even just adoption period) is just flat-out wrong.  There are even those out there who say that transracial adoption is a plot by the "white man" to eliminate black culture.  (both of these are examples of opinions on those adult adoptee blogs that I no longer read.  and I WON'T link them for you.  so you'll just have to trust me on this.)  People can hold all kinds of beliefs.  So once again what it comes down to is God asking me, "Who are you going to listen to?"  

I just started reading a fantastic book called Growing Up Black In White by a transracial adoptee named Kevin Hoffmann.  I was so encouraged by some words he wrote in the first chapter of his book.  He wrote, "It is my belief that each adoptee is divinely matched and placed with their adoptive family."  I loved reading those words. Especially since they were written by a transracial adoptee and even more especially since they came at the end of a story of horrible racism that his family endured in the late '60's.  To be honest, there are times when I struggle to believe that.  If you know me and you know Avé, you probably think it's completely ridiculous that I would ever doubt for one minute that God had his hand in putting us together when she needed a second family.  I truly think the reason for my struggle is filling my head with all those blogs who say the opposite of what Kevin is saying.  I wish I had never discovered them- certainly not so early in our time as a new family.  The seeds of fear and worry that were sewn in my heart are proving difficult to get out.  But get them out I will.  Because I do believe that God made us a family.  And I do believe that God works everything for good.

Right now all the looks and comments go over Av's head.  But there will come a time when that won't be true.  I need people in my life and good information in my head to help me navigate these waters.  I am not trying to be naive nor ignorant about racism.  I am fully aware that the only people who use the term "color blind" are white people.  Ignoring race is akin to ignoring gender.  It's there.  It's obvious.  And it DOES matter.  I know that I don't know everything I need to know to handle all the various situations our family might encounter.  And I also know that I do not know much at all about teaching my daughter to handle racism.  But if I truly embrace the fact that this is how our family is supposed to be, then I also have to trust that God will place people in our lives (and in Av's life specifically) who can help us learn to be the transracial family we are supposed to be.

Friday, November 19, 2010


So it took me 3 days to tell the story of how Mick and I met.

What I would really, really, really, really hate is if someone were to read the past three day's posts and think, "Oh- her life/marriage is perfect."  I would really, really, really, really hate it if someone were to read anything that I write and go away feeling bad about their own life.  And you know why I think someone might do that?  Because I do that all the time.  I read people's blogs- read about their wonderful, exciting lives and the incredible places they live and the amazing things the do with their kids and husbands and families and I go away feeling depressed about my very, very real, very, very daily life.

Cause here's the thing:  we can all paint any picture we want on here.  We all only show what we want to show, reveal what we want to reveal.  All of us.  Some of us are more transparent than others, but even the gut-wrenchingly honest ones are still just sharing what they want to share.

I have a pretty amazing story about how I met my husband.  It's true- every word of it.  But if someone went away from reading that three-part story and imagined a perfect life following that perfect meeting, they would be wrong.  I refuse to go into any details, but I also refuse to act like my life is perfect.  My life is hard.  My life is great.  I live in a constant flux between allowing God to give me peace and joy and longing for connection and happiness to come in other forms.  That's just me.  These are the cards I've been dealt and most days I do a pretty good job of finding the joy and focusing on the good.  I fail a lot.  It's not always easy.

And I guess after three days of sugary, sunshiney posts I just needed to put that out there.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

How I Met Your Father, Part 3

So there he was in the front seat.  The man I would one day marry.  Only at the time I had no idea.  I just thought of him as the super good-looking tour guide who was probably really full of himself and a big jerk who was in love with his own accent.

I could not have been more wrong.

Except about the accent.  I was dead-on with that one.  ;-)

But I went on ignoring him for the first few days of our tour.

Pondering the mind-boggling beauty of Oz
Oh, and by the way, a cyclone was hitting the coast and so it was dumping rain on us this whole time.  But it's Australia!  And they don't let you care about that kind of thing!  You just keep on going- and so you get wet?  Who cares?!?!  Well... me.  I care.  But there was no way I was going to let on.  I just sucked it up and made everyone think I was a super-outdoorsy-kind-of-gal.  (probably, in hindsight, that was a big mistake and a big let-down-waiting-to-happen for Mick.)

On day 3 of this tour the guides told us that usually at this point they have their groups hike about a kilometer and a half (no idea what that is in REAL measurement ;) to these really amazing waterfalls.  But now, because of all the rain, that hike was completely underwater and was a flood plain... but the waterfalls would be just incredible.  They thought it was still pretty shallow so we were just gonna hike through water.

Like you do.

And so off we went.
In a river.
And did I mention that Alexis went to college on a SWIM scholarship???

Does this look stupid to you?  Yeah.  Me too. NUTS!
The first thing I ever said to Mick was, "Um, excuse me.  Are there crocodiles in this river that I am standing in up to my waist like an idiot?"  His answer?  "Crocodiles aren't very good swimmers, so if there are they will just float past you.  They can't swim against the current."


I said (trying to laugh and be cool...), "Well, could a crocodile grab me and then keep floating? Ha ha ha ha ha!"  He gave me a 'look' and a fake courtesy laugh and looked away.

I guess he felt sorry for me b/c a few minutes later he said, "Actually there are two kinds of crocodiles: salt water and fresh water.  'Salties' are dinosaurs- they will hunt you and eat you.  'Freshies' are all that are around here and 'Freshies' are just like fish."  And I said back to him, "You know what else is 'just like a fish'?  A SHARK.  In fact, a shark IS a fish!  You know what else is 'just like a fish'?  A PIRANHA!  A piranha IS ALSO a fish!  YOU ARE NOT MAKING ME FEEL ANY BETTER!!!"

And again... the 'look' and the courtesy laugh and the looking away.

Obviously we were not off to a running start, so destiny had to step in and lend us a hand.

In the form of me drowning.

I'm not joking.

So we come to these places where it is too deep to keep walking.  Remember- WE ARE IN A RIVER, FOR HEAVEN'S SAKE.  So one of the guides swims a bit upstream and grabs a tree trunk and all the tourists swim to him as he helps them onto the next "bank".  Well, Lex is gone.  Swimmer, remember?  And apparently all the Europeans were stellar swimmers too.  And then there's me.  I can swim.  IN A POOL!!!  But apparently NOT upstream in a CROC-INFESTED RIVER!!!  But, like a huge dummy, I just try.  And I find myself floating the wrong way.  But my head is above water and I'm trying to play it cool.  But inside I'm thinking, "so THIS is how I'm going to die..." The guide helping the swimmers yells, "Hey MICK!  Go help that girl!!!"  Which meant ME.  So now the entire group is watching me as Mick swims out to RESCUE me and drag me up on to the next bank.  It sounds very romantic, but everyone CLAPPED when we made it to shore, which meant that they thought they were going to see a DEATH and were relieved that they didn't have to watch me drown nor get eaten by a crocodile- so relieved that they had to CHEER.  So I'm thinking it wasn't quite as romantic as it sounds.

But then??? I was smitten.  I mean- good grief!!!  He had saved my life!!!  And he wasn't a jerk after all!  And when I started drifting down stream again (two more times on the way to the falls!) he made sure HE was the one who was nearby so he could jump in and help me!  Aaaaaahhhhh....

Alexis asked me if I was faking it.  And I said, "Yes.  I'm faking my death so that I can meet a guy.  What?  NO!  I'm literally going to drown here and YOU are going to have to call my parents and tell them that I died b/c the handsome Aussie didn't rescue me one last time!!!" ;-)

So that was 3 rescues on the way to the waterfalls... and then we had to go back the way we came.  So that's 3 more rescues.  By the return trip I was just telling people, "You can go ahead and go in front of me.  Apparently I need to wait for THAT guy."  :-)  And he told me later that he was strategically placing himself so that no one else would be near me when I needed help.  We even joked with each other and the other tourists and guides, "Well, I guess this will make a good story to tell the grand-kids!"

And that, Jack, Ben and Avé, is How I Met Your Father.

Now, how I convinced him to leave Australia and come live in America... well... that will just have to wait for NaBloPoMo 2011.  ;-)

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

How I Met Your Father, Part 2

Taken at one of my student's
mountain villa.  Mountain.  Villa.  
So there I was- living in paradise and teaching at this great school.  We had lots of opportunities for travel and visited Bali on several occasions, as well as islands that are not as commercialized as Bali.  Islands like Lombok and Sulawesi.  (I stepped into a volcano on the northern tip of Sulawesi- but I stayed on the holiday and just made sure I went snorkeling every day so that the salt water could "clean" my burns.  Smart, right? and I've got the scars to prove just how smart it was...)

A group of SPH teachers on a rainforest trek.
I'm in the pink jacket.

We also traveled a lot around Java- the island we lived on.  I spent some time in Yogyakarta- the city near Mt. Merapi which is the volcano that has been erupting and causing so many problems for the people of Indonesia.  Say a prayer for them today...

Hiking up a volcano

Lex and I in a beautiful rainforest 
If you look on a map, Indonesia is the series of islands to the north of Australia.  So of course we all wanted to visit there while we were living so close.  I used my "summer" holiday to go to Australia for the first time, and I say "summer" in quotation marks because of course seasons are reversed in the southern hemisphere, so it was actually winter there.  I traveled with two other teachers from my school (Sean and John) and we went to Sydney, the Red Centre, and Cairns on the Gold Coast (Great Barrier Reef area).  It was an amazing trip!!!  Really incredible to just travel all around this amazing and beautiful country- it has such a "wild" feeling about it- like it hasn't quite been tamed.  We had a BLAST.

Lex and I hiking around Oz
It was such a great trip that I decided to go AGAIN with Alexis when we had our Christmas holiday.  Alexis is quite the adventurer so we just decided to do the "outback" parts and leave out the cities entirely.  So we booked ourselves on a couple of outback adventure tours where they cook your food over an open fire and you sleep outdoors in 'swags'  and climb crazy stuff and hike in amazing places and everyday you just look around and can't believe how beautiful the land is.  I had been on one of these tours already when I visited the Red Centre with Sean and John over the summer, but it was so incredible I was happy to do it again with Alexis.

With Stefan learning to play the dige

Side story:  I wanted to buy a digeridoo while I was there this time- that's the Aboriginal instrument made from the trunk of a tree.  It makes this incredible sound when you blow into it- almost unearthly.  A group of guys from Switzerland were hanging around with us a the time, and one of them- Stefan- also wanted a digeridoo.  So we went shopping together and even took lessons!    At one point I was blowing into my dige without much success when I just decided to entertain myself by imitating those cough drop commercials where the dude in lederhosen blows into the big pipe/horn thing and it says, "Riiiiiiicolaaaaaaa!"  Remember those?  So I said that into my dige and then Stefan from Switzerland says to me, "Vat did you say?"  And at first I just tried to laugh it off like it was nothing, but then I thought- wait!  Aren't those cough drops supposed to be from the Alps or something???  So I told him what I said- "Um... I said 'Ricola', but I don't really know what it means..." Stefan told me that ricola is a word used for herbs that are good for your throat or for when you are sick... and I totally wigged out and told him about our commercial and he told me the name of that pipe/horn thingy... it was the weirdest moment between an American girl and a Swiss guy while in Australia... so crazy... 

So, Alexis and I hopped into a jeep/truck thingy on January 2nd, 1997 (see?  I AM getting around to the real story here!) to travel up north to the tropical area where they filmed "Crocodile Dundee"- a film I remember seeing, but have no actual recollection as to anything about it other than the line: "now THAT'S a knife."   As we got into the jeep I looked up to see a VERY good looking tour guide in the passenger seat up front.  He had a great smile and green eyes and long, shaggy, surfer-blonde hair and he turned around and introduced himself to us by saying, "Hi.  I'm Mick."  And my first thought was... "I bet he is a really big jerk."

Because... really.  Good-looking Australian tour guide?  Please.  I could just picture all the sweet European girls on his tours swooning over his accent and I decided then and there that I was going to ignore him.  Because, you know.  THAT will show him.  (???)

Tune in next time for croc-infested waters and near-death experiences!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

How I Met Your Father, Part 1

I met Mick on January 2nd, 1997 while riding in a jeep/truck thingy through the Northern Territory in the Australian Outback.  That is the absolute truth... but it does get stranger than fiction from here!

But before I can get to all that I need to explain what on earth I was doing in the southern hemisphere at all...

So... I was 26 years old and had been teaching 4th grade at Anderson Elementary for several years.  I loved it... but I was getting a bit burned out.  It was a tough school and although I loved teaching there and loved my students with all my heart, it was a big challenge and took a lot out of me every day.  I needed a change.  And then one morning my friend David Desmond (AKA: M!lo) called me at 5:30am to tell me that he had moved to Indonesia and had a job teaching 3rd grade at this amazing new school that looked like Club Med and that wanted English speaking teachers and I should fax my resumé, etc... etc... etc...  I told him that I didn't know where Indonesia was and was he aware that there was a time difference???  But on the way to school that morning I told this story to my friend Tamara who I carpooled with and who taught music at my school.  She also knew M!lo and so I told her all that he shared about how amazing this school was and how they were hiring and how we could get a job teaching five degrees below the equator and living in paradise.  There was a lull in the conversation as we both contemplated the days (and the kids!) ahead of us... and (no lie!) she looked over at me and said, "I'll do it if YOU do it!"  

And that's how I made the life-changing 
decision to move overseas.

Sekolah Pelita Harapan in Karawaci
on the island of Java near Jakarta, Indonesia
But it turned out to be a fantastic decision!  The school I taught at was AMAZING.  Absolutely beautiful- 2 swimming pools, one "lagoon" style, one Olympic sized, and 4 outdoor basketball courts where we played roller hockey- taught by all the Canadian teachers, of course!  The "hallways" were "breezeways" and it was just way too incredible and beautiful for my limited writing abilities to describe.  And the students were just precious and SO. FREAKING. SMART.  I taught 3rd grade and my students spoke 3 languages: Bahasa Indonesia, English and Mandarin.  Yeah.  I felt like a moron. Teachers came from all over: Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and of course us Yanks.  The students adopted whatever accent their teacher had and so it was so funny to see the kids speaking with an American English accent vs. a New Zealand English accent. One day my student Ketty came up to me with a stricken look on her face and asked me, "Miss Gayla... why when Mr. Michael want to say 'today', he always say 'to DIE'???"  And I very calmly told her that Mr. Michael was from Australia and that meant that he didn't speak English very well. ;-)

 A few of my students:
Sharonne, Laura, Dismas and Andrew
So the job was incredible but the perks it came with were even better.  The school set us up with housing and of course the house we lived in had it's own maids quarters so of course we HAD A MAID!   My two housemates and I (Tamara, mentioned above and Alexis- TOO much fun we had!) "shared" her and paid her a measly $75 per month which we were told was a bit lavish at the time. I lived there for two years and seriously couldn't tell you where our maid bought our food, nor how she cooked it, nor the process used to clean up after us.  She washed and ironed all our clothes, made our beds, kept the house spotless, bought, prepared, and cleaned up all our food, and took letters to the post office for us each day.  OH- and since I brought my cat with me (that's a whole 'nuther blog post) she changed Miles' litter box.  Aaaaaaaahhhhh... my life was so easy...

This is MILES.  I loved him so much
that I took him overseas with me!
Okay... so where were we????  Oh, yeah... living in paradise with someone waiting on me hand and foot, that's right.

All these words and I'm still in Indonesia- not even in Australia yet!  So we're gonna call this 'Part 1' and call it a day.  Tune in tomorrow to hear about shopping with the Swiss and saying "Riiiiiiicolaaaaaaaaa" while blowing into a digeridoo.

Sampai jumpa nanti!  (Bahasa Indonesia for: "see you later"- Yes!  I can speak Indonesian!  And dang it!  It NEVER comes in handy...)

Monday, November 15, 2010

A Podcast and a Promise

Guess what?  Two friends and I are starting a podcast!  My friends Kaysie and Kelly and I decided we needed a creative outlet and also wanted a forum to discuss mommy / parenting / marriage / women issues, so we decided that we would get together and host these conversations.  We are interested in creating a community where women can:
Share stories
        Laugh a little
Ask questions
        Get answers
Debate ideas
        Be inspired
Inspire others
Identify w/ others in same season of life
and most of all, learn that we are not alone!

We recorded our first episode last night and had a blast doing it!  It will be ready for listening enjoyment sometime soon.   We are calling it "Three Moms and a Podcast" and soon we will be on iTunes ready for downloading, and we will soon have a Facebook Group for people to join as well where they can write in their questions and participate in discussions.  I'll let you know when it is up and running.  Tune in and let me know what you think!

The MOMS from "Three Moms and a Podcast"
Kelly, Kaysie, and Gayla
And now for the promise.  Several of you have asked to hear the story of how Mick and I met, and so tomorrow you will be able to read that story.  Well, Part 1 of that story anyway.  I found that in order to put it in proper context I needed to tell a few other stories as well.  I PROMISE you won't be bored!

Selam! G'day! Hello!