Theotokos

Happy New Year!

And Happy Feast of Mary, Mother of God.


Sounds simple, a no brainer right?
Doh….Mary gave birth to Jesus. Yup. We’re n the midst of the whole Christmas season, surrounded by nativity scenes, Mary pregnant on the donkey, Baby Jesus in the manger….that’s the quintessential “mom” scene.
This IS one of the uber Catholic solemnities….one of the ones that cause some division. But in my humble opinion, that division is not justified; it’s a tempest in a teapot (to use momspeak). So, why the big deal…”Mary, Mother of God?”

Well that term took some theological argument discussion. Ages ago, literally. Way, way, before the “Big split (into the whole Protestant/Catholic deal).” Even way before any real divide between Eastern and Western Christianity. Because it speaks to Jesus and his Divinity and while it seems obvious, it wasn’t so much…and you know, folks like things really pinned down officially and academically. Hence, long ago – 431 AD – they even held a council of the bishops of the world, those who had received the faith, entrusted to them, on down in succession from the Apostles, to officially pin this all down. Because someone was teaching that Jesus wasn’t divine from the moment of his conception or even birth, but taught that he was elevated to divinity later. Was Jesus divine from the moment of his conception, or was he born only human? Did Mary give birth to a human person or a divine person? Was Mary, or was she not, in that sense, “Mother of God?” Can we even speak those words? Well, God chose and prepared her for Himself, from all the women of all time, to be the bearer of His Son. And while the first person of the Trinity, God the Father is the sole source of Jesus’ divinity, from “in the beginning”, and Mary the sole source of his humanity, by the power of the Holy Spirit these two natures are inseparably, indivisibly, united in the one person Jesus Christ from the moment of His conception – thus declared the great council of Ephesus. And as God’s Son is Divine and not only human, well, then Mary properly IS to be called the Mother of God.
The precise title “Mother of God” goes back even further, at least to the third or fourth century. In the Greek form Theotokos (God-bearer), it became the touchstone of the Church’s teaching about the Incarnation. The Council of Ephesus in 431 insisted that the holy Fathers were right in calling the holy virgin Theotokos.


Really, it just remains kind of mind blowing to me. Mary had the choice to say, “Um, nope, not doing this, too hard, too strange…really? Mother of God? I don’t get it….let me think about it.“ But she didn’t. She said “Yes.” “Fiat.“ And thus the world began to be brought back into the proper order and we were all given the best present ever.
“Long lay the world, in sin and error pining,
’til He appeared, and the soul felt it’s worth”

So today I am looking at icons. Because today, on the last day of Christmas, we celebrate the mother, the Theotokos, the “Mother of God.” And really, icons are about the only way to begin to wrap your mind around all this. Because who can imagine God, really? You can’t. I can’t — not really as He is. And as soon as you think you are…well, you’ve fallen into presumption now, haven’t you? So, icons are perfect for today. They function as “little windows into heaven.” Icons (Ikonos — Images, in Greek) are images of the true Ikon, the one who images the Father, the one who shows us the Father, the face of God, that he revealed to the world “in the fullness of time” born of a woman, of a pure and holy virgin. Whom He loves more deeply, more perfectly than any other son loves his mother, and whom “all generations shall call blessed”.

They are not meant to be realistic or have realistic lifelike perspective. They represent what we cannot fully see with just our own eyes and senses; they image the world beyond the veil, the divine, the eternal. And so today I want to look at these icons and ponder them. Ponder what it means for her to be the Mother of God, the Theotokos…what faith and trust it took to say ‘fiat’, ‘be it done unto me according to thy word.’ To contemplate the fullness of it all and take maybe one or two(or the multitude that I need) lessons from it.

Today ends the Octave of Christmas. The new year is launched. It is set in motion with a remembrance of the greatest faith and hope and love. We step into the new year on the right foot, so to speak. Today we celebrate mom, Mary. I like that so much. And, it’s really no coincidence that it’s also the World Day of Peace. Because we mom’s, we are all about peace: the seeking, the getting, the craving, the searching, the making of peace.
Peace almost always begins with the mom.

Thus, we need today’s World Day of Peace and New Year to coincide with the Solemnity of the Mother of God. It’s a big job, a big day. We need the the biggest hope and love of the best mother….because she brings us her Son.

Mother of God of the Streets, by Robert Lenz

Happy New Year!
Happy Feast day!
Wishing us all a peaceful day and new year to come!

**Reposted from last year, I’m outta town, so bear with  me.  But it’s a great feast day and I want to mark it. 

Finding Silence in the Chaos

So, it’s the night before Christmas; only a few hours of it left. Finally, a small silence is descending upon the house. Not a complete silence, no, never. But, for the next, oh, HOUR, it’s as quiet as it’s been in weeks. {Although, realistically, by the time I post, that hour will be GONE baby GONE.}

The small boys have finally fallen to sleep; though I have to wake them in an hour to get to midnight Mass. Even so, I’ll take it. Two of the girls have fallen into drowsy snooze, another is doing hair and the eldest is quietly playing piano. Coffeedoc is resting a bit, chilling before the last big push of Advent: again, that beautiful rigorous glorious midnight Mass. Granpa G is downstairs, snoozing no doubt. Booboo, well, he’s either still out sitting with his sweet girlfriend or he’s gone down to play some music himself. I have 20 minutes before I need to change, myself, and then launch the troops.

Amidst all this hustle and bustle…oh, who am I kidding, amidst the bedlam and wild careening boys and snapping moody girls and the hoisting and toting and then clanging and speeding of time and bodies and lists and on and on…I’ve found myself wishing for that silence of Advent. Wondering where it went and how to find it. I’ve been craving that, but simply yearning for ANY kind of silence, inner, outer, body, mind, soul. I have to admit, I’ve despaired a bit, here and there, of finding it this season.

But as we wrap up Advent, I am rethinking that despair of missing it somehow. I’ve changed my mind a bit. I think that I have inadvertantly found that deep, that silent part of Advent. Over the past few days, this past week especially, the conversations I’ve had with good friends, my kids, my dear Tom, have struck me. It took me some stewing over it to parse out the why of it. But, what I’ve found in the moods and tears and needs that I’ve listened to, see, felt, held, soothed, paced about, vented about, jangled through my own self, prayed about…is that it’s in there still; that deep after all.

This is a kind of tough transitional Christmas here in our house due to big changes; to Chris being absent. Thus, the whole traditional everything….isn’t. It’s hard to polish up a tradition when one big piece of it is missing. It’s easy to hang onto what it WAS and what it seems it should/must be. But, the very challenging trick is to accept that it’s morphing into something slightly new, slightly different, yet essentially the same. And this year, well, this year there is some twinge of sadness over that. Hard to do. And it seems that Advent isn’t supposed to be about the blues or grief or fussing or worry or hating change; at the same time it all seems too loud, too busy, too jangly, too much, and somehow so very much not enough.

But that’s it! Right there. That’s the whole of it, in a way, isn’t it?

Advent isn’t Christmas. Not yet.

Advent is that whole wait and prep for Christmas. It’s that wait for a messiah. To save us/me. And so it only makes sense to my old brain that if that is so, then yeah, Advent might be a boatload of work and trying to make mountains move and fail and fuss and kvetch and whinge on and on and worry and just be out of sorts. I mean, the Virgin Mary had to ride a donkey into Bethlehem as she was beginning labor! Talk about having a hard time maintaining the cheerful can-do attitude! Ya think she wasn’t sad and fretting and just wanted to get off the road and settle? Um, I betcha. Kinda like Advent. Maybe, just maybe, we are supposed to recognize that our lives (ok, me, mine) here are not, cannot be, just so glitzy blingy perfect in every way no matter how many bows we stick on them and no matter how many hours sitting in traffic we log. Maybe, just maybe, we are supposed to see it, live it, do the physical bodily weary work of it so that we can cry out with joy when God descends to JOIN us and come and live with us….to save us from our selves. Maybe one of the key parts of Advent is really the process of it. Even in the midst of the wrapping the cutting the taping the labels the cookies the dishes the finding jackets and gloves and retying shoes…we actually, by doing the job in front of us, are preparing our hearts to rejoice, finally, fully, for real, at the birth of a savior.

Well, I guess that maybe that under all those tasks and sighs and clanging and banging….there is a deep work that is happening. And it’s silent, so easy to overlook. But, I really think it’s there. I’m counting on it.

And now, I am going to go dress for Mass, wake my kids, nudge them as they grump through the dressing and driving, smile at Tom when they fall asleep in the pew and then bring them back home and tuck them in bed. Because, I think I’ve found the silence I was craving. It was there all the time. Deep and still under it all. Which means I’m almost ready to sing. Merry Christmas…almost……

Patron for the teens….

OK, yesterday it was the feast of St. Monica…today is the feast of St. Augustine!

For last years take on this, go here.  But this year, well, this year I’ve got my mind and heart all wrapped up in teenhood and those wild teen  years.  And that has Augustine written all over it!

Yeah, because as most of us know, Augustine…he was all about sowing his wild oats.   He did the whole teen “I know everything” thing….even getting all involved in some pop heresies of they day.  He was the “New Ager” of his time, or maybe the “Christian Scientist” of his time.  He loved to pontificate. He loved to party.  He loved the socializing. He loved the libations of all stripse.  He loved the women.  He lived with a girl, even fathering a child out of wedlock.  He was any mother’s nightmare, considering.

And yet, he wasn’t.  Because he still had a soft spot for his mom.  He would trek back to see her when he traveled.  He endured her entreaties to change his life around without storming off and writing her out of his mind and heart.  He ignored her,  utterly.  But he loved her.  And oh, she loved him.  And that was the saving Grace.  Literally.  Finally, the truth of real love hit him like a ton of bricks and blew his mind.  And his heart exploded. He put his prodigious mind toward what is true and started plumbing the depths of that truth….and we, even we moderns, are now the happy recipients of his writings and his thoughts and prayers.  God took his wild ways and turned them, reinvented them into something SO SO much bigger than they ever coulda been on their own measly pompus youthful steam and let them develop into something so big that he is a Doctor of the Church for the wisdom of his writings and the depth of his prayers.

His life cuts across our measly modern denominational boundaries with the keen edge of theological truth and beauty.  He grew from a standard wild youth that any mom would sigh and fret over…into a strong man, a saint, that any mom would be proud of.  So, moms…..therein is our hope during these tumultuous teen years.  Teens, here is a role model for you…if you have the courage to look closely. I dare  you!

“You have made us for yourself, oh God. 
And our hearts are restless, until they rest in you.

Happy Feast Day!

St. Augustine, pray for us!

And Many More!

It’s my wonderful Mom’s birthday today!!!!

Marta says “Grandma, have cake!”

I’ll keep this short and just say, I miss her.  I wish I lived nearby so we could have easy great visits like this past summer.  It was the best, just being able to drop in on her after Buddybug and I got all stinky  playing tennis. I could laugh about getting thrashed by my son, we’d talk tennis and she’d make him a quick lunch from leftovers.

I wish her the  most wonderful relaxing and  happy birthday that can be.

I wish her phones calls from her favorite folks in the world, her sister and her friends.

My Sis, deliver the goods (hugs) for me.

I will call and sing the birthday song to her, badly, as ever.  She will smile (I can hear it when she does) and say thank you and we will hit the highlights of her special day.  I will task my sister with giving her a big birthday hug from ME, delivered by proxy but still mine.

I know that this birthday has been weighing on her, aging up can be a psychic drag but then again, she’s doing it with flare and still going strong as can be.

This past July, such a great visit!

I love you Mom! You’re the best of moms!

I’m shouting my, and all of our, birthday wishes to the world:

Happy Happy Birthday to You!!!!!!

The knots.

As you all know – to the pain perhaps – I’ve been processing the departure of my eldest son, for a radical life choice.  I am also prepping, once again, to say goodbye on Sunday to my next son as he returns to college for his sophomore year.  Multiple friends have their kids also heading off to college this week; some their first to go, some their last {you youngsters, hang on, this may not the be phase you’re in, but you will be sooner than you realize and this post still sweeps you into the topic}.  

So, all that is to preface: my mind has been a-spinning.  I’ve been thinking about these tough parenting, family, and life transitions.  I’ve been wondering why they are so difficult.  Is it simply that I am a total baby about goodbyes and have never learned basic decorum? Is it that I’m a drama queen (hush, I hear  you laughing….be kind).  Is it that there might be more to this tough stuff; that we rarely take a closer look?  Well, I don’t want to engage in naval gazing, but I think I might do well to engage in some gazing at the very threads.

I mean, I think that really we have threads that run through our lives.  We weave them together, if you will (an old, perhaps tired, metaphor; yet useful).  Or we simply knot them together as a lifeline, literally in some ways.  Or you could use the patchwork quilt analogy.  Whatever works for you….but the point is that common feature: the knot.  We have to tie threads together as we change direction, color, pieces, pictures, parts.  It’s a job, not always easy.  Just like life, we have to tie together  the different parts places peoples, directions, changes and things.  And it’s not always smooth or simple, it can be frustrating and tricky and confusing.  Sometimes it’s really hard, even painful.  And that these transitions, the tough stuff?  These tough moments, times, events…they are the knots.

Knots are not pretty…unless you are my husband and are tying beautiful surgical or rosary knots, intentionally…or are an artist making celtic knots for the aesthetic cultural coolness.  But typically, knots are tight and looped and smooshed and twisted up, turned inside out on top of themselves, pinched and pulled as tight as can be.  And  when you get your unsuspecting finger stuck in one? Yowch!  But knots on the flip side are where the transitions happen.  They are hidden work. But they underlie the beauty of shifts and shades and pieces coming together and standing apart.  The knots tell the fullness of the story.  They are it’s very support and structure, of course.

So, why do we so often, why do I, try so hard to sidestep, soften or skip those very knots?  To stay on point with my summer knots: I hate goodbyes, they make my chest tighten and my stomach hurt.  I usually want to just end them as swiftly as I can and go recoup somewhere, distract myself from the pain of it all.  I think that is so common.  Who wants to hurt? Who wants to be sad?  But I guess what I’m thinking about so much this summer is that this very hard tight pulling from these events/times – even these knotty sad hard goodbyes, changes, transitions – they are a suffering, literally knot in my stomach.  But, in so many ways I think that knotty hurt itself provides the depth and the beauty to our lives. {No not in some masochistic way, rather in that contrast between the joys and sorrows, the experiences that shape and mold us.}

As parents, when we have to undo and retie those some of those knots…when we  have to let a young adult step forward into their new adventure…those knots are especially tricky.  You have to untie them, not to drop the thread though, but to gather that thread and retie it, looser, in a whole new configuration.  I don’t know about you, but I’m especially inept at knots and mine are messy and tangly and uneven with odd misplaced loops.  So retying the old ones that have become very tight – of a piece – into new, elegant relaxed ones…well, it’s a learning curve.  I’m no seamstress, no weaver, no quilter.  So my knotting is kind of a mess, it hurts as I tug to undo it and it catches and pulls as I remake it.  I cry and I cuss as I struggle with it.  But, even so, I know….I trust and I know… that these very knots are the important parts.  Even with the tugging tight hurt of them, they are the parts that count the most.

Almost Wordless Wednesday: Name Edition

Introducing, Brother Peter Joseph!

Yeah, they get new religious names.

A post on that very big deal, later.  For now, go see A GREAT SHORT SLIDE SHOW of the Vestition and  his new brothers…..

And, as always, for more Wordless Wednesday, click here.

Go figure….no, TRANSFIGURE

Today is the feast of the Transfiguration.

This feast is, once again, a timely juxtaposition with my mundane little life. And, for full disclosure, some of this post is from a few years ago….because we are undergoing our own transfiguration here in the Coffeehouse and it’s a little bit slamming hectic around here…not to mention, you read my last post on dropping my son off at the Novitiate…I’m still a little gobsmacked over it all.  Anyhow……I love how living the liturgical year through the Church brings me these connections and reminders of what’s real and important…and helps me see beyond my own little self absorbed tinny walls, even if only for a millisecond or two. It’s cool. It’s almost like it’s planned to do that or something, I don’t know…

This feast is the story from the gospel (Luke 9:28-36) that we meditate upon in the fourth mystery of the luminous rosary. Its when Jesus and his apostles, Peter, James, and John go up onto Mount Tabor with Christ. Then Christ appeared to them, not only as the man they knew but in all the blinding splendor of His Divine Nature, and what’s more, with Elijah and Moses beside Him. Peter, one of my fav’s, was so excited that he burst out and said, “Lord it is good to be here! Let’s put up a tent!” (well, that’s my paraphrase, anyhow). He was so thrilled that he just wanted to stay there, it was that cool! (He reminds me of my sweet Jon here, ok often, but that is just what my son would say and do.)

Well, I just really love the visuals and imagery of this story. But I also love the whole concept of transfiguration. Even as I cringe at change in general, I beg to be transfigured myself as I need it so. And this passage promises that, for each one of us. Now, the caveat is that it promises it through the cross. It was just following this event that Christ went to His Passion, the Cross. He went to suffer. But the transfiguration was a promise to his disciples, his most beloved, that the suffering would not be the end. That there was more and it was Glorious, breathtaking. It was also a promise to us and a path: that our suffering is not for naught, that it too transforms us.

I know, I’ve written this before. I think about this a lot. Maybe because it’s hard to wrap my puny brain and sensibilities around the whole concept. And now, especially, it’s been a struggle, because this past summer I’ve been soaking in it with even more intensity than before.  Hard to imagine, but true, and I suspect will be this year ahead. I know my son Chris will be.  And you know, suffering, um, hurts. But even so, even in the weary of it, the core of me believes it does change you. It transforms you. And you come out on the other side different. Better, stronger. No, not faster, this is not a Six Million Dollar Man cheapie tv show….. but more. Transfigured. More the You that you were made to be. Whatever that is. But MORE. And that, to me, is glorious, and hopefully, for me personally, shinier (as I am nothing but smudgy of late).

I like Raphael’s drawing, below. One, because I love drawings, but also because I love how this study is about the apostles. The actual imagery of the transfiguration of Christ is of course impossible to really know or guess; it is beyond our ken. But the apostles, this story is very much about them, and us, as well. And the wonder and the stunning awe that they must have felt, the joy, the fear, the gasp…..well, I keep finding my mind turning to that. So, today on this feast of the Transfiguration, I will try hard to remember and trust that even we regular Joes (And, erk, Janes) can be transfigured too. The promise is for us as well. In fact, I am beginning to realize it is much, much, more than a mere promise…it’s happening even now, we only have to have our hearts turned in to see it.  And for that, on this feast day….I will meditate on that in gratitude and wonder.

Raphael, study of heads of apostle’s for Transfiguration painting.
Happy Feast Day!

Mrs. Brown {Or, the Dropoff}

So. I’ve hesitated to write this post. Heck, I’ve not written anything at all for over a week…which surely tells you that I’ve kind of “gone to ground.” I’ve waffled between wondering if I have no words at all left to say/write or if I’ve just got so much too many….

Anyhow, after a week of processing all this, I’ve decided that in order to really follow through on my series about Chris entering the Novitiate, I need to at least give some account of “the dropoff.” I would have given my eye teeth to be able to read another parent/mom’s experience of this uniquely layered event. It might have prepared me a bit more, not that anything really can, of course. But, as you know, this is such a different deal, it’s not dropping your kid off at college, or his first apartment and new job, or going to his wedding….it’s much less common, and has different layers. But in entering the novitiate, he chooses to step OUT of the world and leave it and all things behind, to walk closer to God and a life of prayer.  That means even us, to a degree and it’s a kicker.  Of course, it’s also different for each and every person and their family. However, this one…it was ours. And…before you recoil in horror, those of you who know me well, rest assured I will try to spare you all the histrionics and be as objective as I can for the reporter value to any mom who comes behind me.  Read on:

Call me Mrs. Brown. That’s right, as I pondered how to get through this last month or so with my son before his big exit , I prayed and stewed and then finally came to this realization.  I was, in many ways, “the delivery mom.”  You know that ad campaign, “What can Brown do for you?

  • Well, I was Mrs. Brown.
  • My job was to deliver my boy back to God.
  • Via the Novitiate.

His dad and I were delivering our boy, this young man, safely to his next adventure and the next phase of his life.  It was our job to get him there safe and sound, with as much support and encouragement as we could muster for his excitement and anticipation of this big day.  In short, we had to try (ok, me) to work hard to be happy for him and not steal his thunder with those pesky sparking tears and the difficulty of this change.  It was momentous enough for him, he is keenly tuned into the emotional radar of the family and he knew how big this was for his folks and his sibs…no reason to have him have to bear the burden of that sorrow or feel conflicted about looking forward to getting there.

Kids with cousins (minus hannah who was in england. priceless)

So, I put on my Mrs. Brown hat and we had a great vacation at the beach, we ate meals together, I had him help with big guy chores, he hung out with his dad on a special project (‘nother post that), I cooked all his favorite foods (and didn’t season them with my tears).  He was able to visit with friends, and sibs and play bananagrams, whooping us as usual, play  music with his brother, laugh joke and relax.  I’m telling ya, I begged for prayers during this time and you all pulled through in a huge way as I was cheerful, was ok, and felt like I was  wrapped in a a mantle of grace. Really, there is no way I can thank you all for those prayers, except to return the favor, anytime.

Anyhow, so I thought it was going really well and it was.  But by his farewell supper, I broke.  As we went around the table in our usual way of each person saying what they are thankful for that day…I just kinda broke down into tears.  I think the “night before” is always SOO hard. .  The night was busy with packing and prep, Chris, his dad, and I ended up staying up too late, well after midnight, despite knowing the tough day ahead.  The puppy was a terrific distraction, still is.  Finally we all fell to bed for a few  hours sleep.  The morning came early, I woke with knots in my stomach and hot tears behind my puffy eyes.  Tom and Chris went to an early Mass, the kids slept and I got final things ready to load into the car.  I’ll spare you the tough details of the next hour or so, but the short version is that they came back and we loaded the car, the kids all woke and then we had to have them say goodbye. It was just as sad and wrenching as you might imagine, for us all.  As Chris hugged one, and then another, I went behind him, soothing hugging tears falling all around, tom did the same on the other side.  Quickly, hugs had been made, sibs were crying and we had to just go.

And so we did.  It was a quiet start, some coffee, a letter dropoff, then heading out of town.  Chris looking out the window, me driving to use the distraction.  After awhile we all prayed the Office and Morning Prayer together, Chris and Tom reading the prayers while I drove, streaming. It was a beautiful day, hot, sunny.  We had five hours of driving ahead.  Soon we could start talking and joke a bit here and there, we tried to find some music to listen to but all the songs off  his ipod made me cry. I had to box that idea.  We settled into sports news and a book on tape.  As we got stuck in a huge construction project we took his new rosary, 15 decades, for a spin and prayed them all . That was tough again, that searing cold poker stabbed through my chest, causing tears to stream again, especially in the sorrowful mysteries.  What is it about prayer that makes you so vulnerable? Oh, yeah, doh, it’s prayer – opening up that heart.  Gee whiz.  Ow.  Once finished we were pulling into Cincinnati.   Perfect timing. Of course.

We had about 30 minutes to kill.  So, we went to get him a sandwich. I got a cup of coffee, no eating gonna happen for me, went to freshen up, nervous, knowing we had about one hour left with my boy.  Jittery.  Tried to make my bullfrog eyed self presentable to meet the Novice Master and anyone else we might have to say hello to.  Don’t want them to think his folks are unstable or horrible, right? Sigh.  Fail.  I not sure there IS makeup that can cover up a nose like that or cheeks flushed.  Give up.  Coffee cold.  The guys choked down a sandwich, conversation was tough.  You feel like you have to say those last words of wisdom, but they’ve already been said.  So, we all decided to head on over, we couldn’t stop the clock. It was time.

Driving to the Novitiate was a 5 minute hop.  Through Madeira, a very charming little town. I thought, “I could live here, it ‘s lovely.”  That was a comfort.  The parish is beautiful and they had white tents on the lawn, receiving parents, though it was a small group.  Chris was nervous and excited.  Tom and I were just nervous.  I dreaded meeting the Novice Master, being such a mess.  Chris was calm.  He had a smile on his face.  We walked over and one of Chris’ pals from college was there, finishing his Novice year; he strode over to hug and greet Chris.  Chris grinned, happy to see him.  Other brothers came over to say hello, and there was Fr James Sullivan, right before me, hand out to say, “Hello Mrs Gautsch!”  I kind of burst into tears behind my big sunglasses.  He’s no fool and said, “I seem to have that effect on mom’s....” I laughed and said hello and told him he was funny and apologized for being a mess.  He took it all in stride, God bless him.  Fr. James asked two of the postulants to show us three around the priory a bit and off we went for a quick tour.

St. Gertrudes Parish

The priory is where the community lives, rather like a dorm, but not overrun with freshman moving in with stereos and boxes and bedding.  It’s not fancy; it’s modest but serviceable.   The refectory, where they take their meals has three long tables connected in a U shape and a bank of windows across one wall.  It is bright and pleasant and cheerful.  We couldn’t see the bedrooms, community only.  We saw the library, the laundry, the exercise room, the chapter room (where they have weekly meetings to go over biz and whatnot), the lovely chapel.  And I have to say, part of me thought, “Oooh, maybe I shouldn’t have gone on this tour.”  Because my mind was shouting at me: “I could never do this!”  Which made my heart kind of seize and I kind of stopped breathing a bit.  Then, as we went back outside….it was time.  Time to hand over his one suitcase, his mandolin, his guitar and backpack.  Time to hug our boy goodbye.  I tried to sear the image of him hugging his Dad long and tight into my memory and heart.  Then I held him one last time (break……..blink blink blink  blink  blink………………………………..breathe…………..exhale.  Ok, typing again) and (wait……blink blink blink) kissed his cheek, made a cross on his forehead and told him I loved him so, and turned and walked to the car.  Tom got in beside me and we drove.  I couldn’t help but turn to look at him, there in the parking lot, and was happy to see  him standing and talking with the other new novices as they loaded their bag(s) into a van.  They took the newbie’s to a retreat  house nearby to stay for a few day, as the exiting novices were still living there and there was just not room in the priory (their home).  So, as we drove off, my son was smiling and talking, even as I could see he was a little on edge and nervous.  But he had begun.

Tom and I had completed our task.  It was heartbreaking, so much more so that we had anticipated (which is saying something) but also exciting and worrisome and a whole sea of emotions; a mini tsunami of feeling.  It was hard.  Make no mistake.  And even as I keened as tom held my hand tight tight tight and he drove….we talked and I said “I couldn’t do it.

But we both immediately knew and know the answer to that cry: we don’t have to.  Nor does he.  But we were NOT called to.  We were called to marry and parent.  This year is for our son to decide if he truly IS called to this life, this radical life that will take major adjustment and transition just to go and try it out.

We did our part.

We delivered our boy back to God, and into his new life.

Call us Dr and Mrs. Brown.

Inhale, ahhh, exhale: fresh air.

So, the Fresh Air Fund is a great program that gives city kids a two week breather in the country…or burbs. I’d love to put up a video or some of the pics from their site but I’m computer challenged right now due to my location.

But think about it. The program isn’t for everyone, but it might be for you and it’s worth a thought, just in case.

“If you or someone you know is able to host, please sign up now. In 2010, The Fresh Air Fund’s Volunteer Host Family program, called Friendly Town, gave close to 5,000 New York City boys and girls, ages six to 18, free summer experiences in the country and the suburbs. Volunteer host families shared their friendship and homes up to two weeks or more in 13 Northeastern states from Virginia to Maine and Canada.

Thanks to host families who open up their homes for a few weeks each summer, children growing up in New York City’s toughest neighborhoods have experienced the joys of Fresh Air experiences. “

Worth thinking about. They need Hundreds more families for this summer. Go, see.

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American Girl: second year

Today is the second anniversary of Marta’s arrival on American soil. Today she is an American Girl, two years ago today she became a citizen. Now, you might wonder why we make a big deal of this…it’s because it’s a big deal to her. We don’t do “gotcha days” for all our kids who were adopted….I’ve got conflicted feelings on that. We stop marking every homecoming and such. Gabey has been home three years now and we didn’t do his American Boy day. But it doesn’t have the same meaning for him, as he was 18 months old at the time. But for our Marta, it has huge meaning. Almost as much as coming into our family – and yeah, I could do multiple posts on that concept. But I probably won’t.

Anyhow, you might wonder why we make it a big deal. Well, a couple of reasons. First, is because it’s fun to have some hoopla; especially if we are out of the birthday seasons. Second, this one is a big marker for her and one that she can understand fairly well. She remembers her fear and nervousness going through customs. She remembers how hard it was to get permission to leave Ethiopia. She remembers her relief when we said, “We are in America and it was all ok, done.”

Why don’t we celebrate the family gotcha day? Well, because that is a bit more conflicted for her; some days that’s something to celebrate for her and some days, not so much. Going from an only child, losing both parents, and then launching into a big ol’ family is no picnic. And if you have some challenges and delays, it’s exponentially more difficult. Processing all that, the challenges, the grief, the trauma, the attachments, the good, the new, the better, the worse…is all so much. And so much harder lacking language and cognitive maturity and ability. So. We don’t really make a fuss about any family or gotcha day.

But American Girl day can be just good happy fun. Not as loaded. Something to smile and grin and talk about, simply. Easy remembering and easy looking ahead. And here we are at the beach..across America….my favorite spot in the world and, I think, soon enough one of hers. Last night she told me, “Every summer, California!” You betcha honey, sounds perfect to me too. And yes, in case you were wondering…any celebration worth it’s salt still must involve cake. And so we will have it: an American Girl Cake. {And no. not like the dolls of same name. Just a festive cake will do.} She’s already reminded me four times, and it’s only eight a.m.

Our Marti: our Ethiopian, Teen, American Girl.

{I have pitiful net here and can’t load new pics. Its the cost of doing biz at the beach}

The Chair

I looked across my room to my son, sitting in the armchair by the light of the lamp.  I wished I had my camera, not only the grainy phone camera.  I wanted to freeze that image, keep it.  But even as the wish whizzed through my brain, I knew I wouldn’t.  I knew this was one to try to see, really see, all the details and sear into my brain.

I really looked at him in the lamplight: his face, now settling into his manly face and features and structure.  No longer the softer baby-child face of the boy, but filled out now, settled into a thicker stronger man face.  His long tall self spilling over the chair, feet beyond even the recliner footrest, big feet.  His computer on his lap, the light from the screen also filling his face with a glow, reflecting off his glasses.

I gazed at him, he didn’t notice.  He was seeing the faces and bios of his novice class-mates, his soon to be brothers, for the first time.  He was intent and focused on reading them, his first intro to his ‘new family.’  And I, the matriarch of his old family, his first family, could only look hard at my son, and send out a silent prayer for his happiness, for the goodness of these new men in his life, for him to find joy.  His dad, snoozing next to me after a long day, unaware that his boy was looking first glimpse at his future and new, possibly lifelong friends…brothers of a kind.

I’ve been trying hard these past weeks and months to step away from  the tears that come unbidden…because those tears are for me.  They are a selfish yearning to grasp what I don’t really have anymore…and to hang onto the known that I do.  I have been trying hard to trust in the joy that I have been told and that I hope is just on the other side of this goodbye.  Some days I do better and I can simply laugh and enjoy his company. Some days I have to walk away and do laundry or some automatic chore so that I can sidestep the sharp stab in the middle of my chest, and blink back the tears that are springing again, leaking.

Last night was a moment, in the lamp glow, frozen in time and marked in my brain and heart.  It was a still long look at my son, on the very cusp of a new life, “meeting” his new brothers in the Dominican Order, the new novices who will spend next year with him, and very possibly beyond.

And I blinked.

Then, I took a deep breath, smiled, and asked him if I could “meet” them too.

 

**Again, written earlier, a few weeks ago.  The timing of this process has been lifted out of real time to protect the privacy of this time, in a small way**

Measuring tape

Mom, can you bring a measuring tape?”

“A tape measure? Um, ok, but aren’t you packing up?” 

“No a measuring tape, you know, to measure.”

“Right that’s what I said.  Ok, if you need it, don’t you have one, a tape measure? What a measuring tape? Right, that’s what I said…..”

Who’s on first?

That’s how that conversation felt like.  I didn’t get it.

Not until a few days later. Below is the entry from that day, a few weeks ago:

Today I measured my son.

It wasn’t the standard – the heels against the wall, book on the head, marking of height that we’ve done since he was small.

No, it was a once in a lifetime measure…and one that is not so common, perhaps.

 

Today I measured my son for a habit.

 

I took the measuring tape, and he sat in front of me in the kitchen on the counter stool.

I pulled the tape along his shoulders, left to right.

I gently pressed it to his clavicle and circled the tape to measure his neck.

I laid it on his shoulder bone and measured to his elbow, then wrist.

He stood then, I had to measure his chest, his waist.

I had to measure from the base of his neck to his heels.

The tape wasn’t long enough.

I had to measure from his clavicle to his feet.

The tape wasn’t long enough.

We laughed and teased about it all.

But I could feel my heart thumping as I did it, at first.

Then it just all got kinda still, one of those “time out of time” moments.

 

I measured my son for his habit today.

It was kind of surreal, kind of hard, kind of funny, kind of wonderful.

 

They don’t ask for a measure of his heart though….that is what this coming year is for.

This year he and the order will measure his heart and parse out where it is to go.

But I don’t need to do that, so I can let him go to find that out…..

Because I measured his heart so long ago.

 

Today I measured my son for his habit.

Troop movements

So, how do you get a humungous big old family ready for a vacation?

First you hire security: your familia big brother with anger issues and 200+ pounds of pure muscle is asked to stay at your house, manage your viscious guard dog and keep a sharp eye out for anything unusual.  You alert your state of the art security company to be, um,  on alert.

Second, you make endless runs to Target and Walmart for all the last minute forgottens: snacks and plane trinkets and coloring books and shoes and underwear.  Yes, we need new underwear to travel it seems, because the old ones just won’t do.  Go figure. It’s a “big family mystery”, but it’s real.  I’ve got the Hanes action figure boxer receipts to prove it.

Third, you make sure that mom has a minor rampage of overwhelmed tearing through the house the day before, trying to remember everything that needs to packed, prepped, labeled, and stowed.  Laundry churns without a break for a few days running, in order to pack what few clean socks and underwear we do have.

Fourth you direct all smalls to deposit all bags and backpacks to foyer, for counting and for corralling, so that the exit tomorrow is smooth and without that exciting last minute, “Wait, I can’t find my________!”

Fifth, you buddy up.  You plan out seating arrangements on the plane in advance.  It’s as serious an  undertaking as planning a State Dinner.  Just as certain countries and their ambassadors might need to be seated far apart in order to quell tension; the seating of siblings on a plane must too be undertaken with great care and concern for underlying tension and tendencies to snarl and/or wail.  Hard ones are paired with easy, bigs with littles and Mom and Dad are separated for maximum parental real estate coverage.  The seating arrangements on the plane is a big crapshoot  gamble as well; if we are on our game, we will get different boarding groups and have two go ahead to score seats as the rest of the tribe shuffles aboard.  Worst comes to worst, we pull out the trump card.  I hold the one with the runny nose (there is always one with a runny nose) as Dad leans in and asks a passenger or two if they wouldn’t mind moving so we could sit together…though if not, we think this one could probably be ok on his own next the passenger.

Lastly, you make arrangements for troop movements to airports, in multiple cars.  That’s right.  When you are a large family, you can’t get to the airport in one vehicle.  NOPE, it’s gotta be a minimum of two, sometimes three, depending upon the suitcase situation and the length of trip and the possible addition of friends and/or nephews.  Happily, one of the upsides of the ridiculous and obscene airport luggage restrictions is that it cuts our vehicular caravan down to a more reasonable two, most of the time nowadays.  You have to beg godchildren and best friend to drive you to the airport and return the large vehicles back to the house, because big angry brother and  his family will be needing them as well.

And, if all goes well, you all make it onto the plane, on time, and take off without tears or fuming and a minimum of rolling eyes.  It’s rare, but it can happen.  If you hit the jackpot, two or three kids will fall asleep (and not just the teens).  Yes, we are that family.  The one that gets the goggle eyed looks and stares, that is asked if we are a school group, and sometimes even gets actual sneers.  We have learned to smile and look those folks directly in the eye.  We are as polite as we can be, we deplane last, we actually have some skilled little travelers.  But, man, we look alarming when we roll through the terminal and onto that plane.   And, until we get there and hit the beach, it’s go mode, baby.  That means, the tribe is on the move.

Verso L’Alto!

It’s the feast of Pier Giorgio Frassati.

This is the young man that inspires my son in so many ways.  Like him, he aspires to go higher and higher.

Go here for a good round up on this remarkable young man: Blessed Pier Giorgio.

And, to know a bit more (from todays Office of Readings): From a Fr. Stanislaus, a Dominican Bishop, on Blessed Pier Giorgio:

“He only had time to be a student; but already the man he might have been one day was presenting itself in him: not precisely an intellectual, that is a man capable of putting all of his life at the service of his thought, but rather a man of action, resolved to put all his thought in service of life.”

Happy Feast Day Buddybug! 

Feast of Corpus Christi!

This is a very important feast in Christendom and our Catholic church.  It’s a beautiful feast and last year we had the privilege of being in Orvietto for the famous Eucharistic Procession there at the Cathedral.  Truly a once in a lifetime experience!  This video is the classic chant for this feast, written by St. Thomas Aquinas, himself and simply uplifting and beautiful.

Enjoy while you scan the pics from Orvietto below…it’s almost like being there!

Orvietto Cathedral

And, just because this is another one of those “mysteries” that is all but impossible to wrap  your mind around; it’s to be accepted and embraced by faith with heart and soul.  You kind of open up the heart and eyes of your soul and then this song and this feast floods in.

I totally believe it, even as I will never intellectually understand it fully.  But that doesn’t matter……It’s all grace.  And so very very good.

What’s a Novitiate, anyhow?

Novitiate, it’s all the news here at the Coffeehouse….. But, it’s not exactly the local college now, something everyone is familiar with, been to, done that.

I mean….just what exactly is the Novitiate, anyhow?

I know, right?

Well, as you know by now, maybe, my son is going to the Novitiate for the Eastern Province of the Dominicans of St. Joseph.  A mouthful, to say the least. We typically shorten it to say, “He’s entering the Novitiate.”

But what does that mean?

Well, (and this is mom-speak; not officialese) the Novitiate is a little like the freshman class at a graduate program, and a little bit like boot camp, and a little bit like a year long spiritual retreat. What it means is that he has discerned that God might be calling him to religious life, specifically to the priesthood, and with the Dominican Order (as opposed to the more familiar neighborhood parish priest).

It is only open to college graduates, it is not for boys, or the elderly – strength is needed to answer this call. Thus, Chris has applied and been accepted into the Novitiate class for this summer. Meaning, my son and 14 other guys will live and work and pray together as they live as Dominican brothers (little brothers, in a  way) at a parish about five hours away.

This is the year for them to live as Dominican’s and see if the call they are discerning is real. It is a “final answer” kind of year.  Sort of.  Really, they have until final vows, years from now, to really change their mind if the need to.  But this year, in particular, is the one that they usually find out for sure, if their call is real.  This year is the year that they go through some of the spiritual rigor, the loneliness, the changes, the giving up most things, the stepping out of the world, and by living it learn if it is for them, or not.

Most often, this year leads to a confirmation of their vocation and great joy.  And, with that, first profession of vows (“First Vows”, “First Profession” – same thing) next August.  {The second and “final vows” come about 4.5 years from now, usually…and the Ordination to Priesthood happens around seven years in}.  But this is about THIS big year.  And sometimes, this year of discernment leads to the realization that this is just one step on a different journey and they leave the Novitiate house and step into a new direction, maybe back to grad school, a different job…That’s not a fail, that’s a listening, discerning thing.  It is part of the work of this year ahead.

But this is the year that these young men attempt to answer the call to leave the world behind and live for God, any way and any where he calls them. It takes great courage I think, especially in our modern age and culture.

My son will be allowed to bring only a few things with him: a few books, his guitar and mandolin (Dominican’s love music and the Novitiate has a piano, yay), some work clothes, some exercise clothes, a 15 decade rosary, breviary.  That’s it.  Nope, no cell, no computer, no email.

Yeah, this is where I kinda have to remind myself to keep breathing….

We can all use snail mail, and he will call now and then.  But we won’t see him for a year; except for one short parent only weekend.

He will live in community with the other novices.

He will be given a habit, white robes, belt, rosary.  He might well be given a new name.  (Ok, that’s a whole ‘nother post, isn’t it?)  They mostly have their own rooms, I think.  Simple rooms, bed, desk, basic.

What do they DO?? They get up to pray together, they have classes, they work, they eat together, they have time to play basketball or read, they help out in the parish, they sing, they pray alone too, they study. They learn to give up their comforts and their crutches, they learn to lean on God and prayer and to find the joy in that and in service.  They detach from the world, even from their families and old friends….

That sounds so hard, especially for me as mom, but I have been assured that they then become closer than ever to their family, after the novice year…..perhaps because some of their youthful selfishness has been burned away. Perhaps because we will all have learned how to love better, with less leaning on our own desires for physical proximity, instead, leaning on the sturdy bridges of deep love and faith…the stanchions that are firm, strong, made to last through all.

I don’t know.  We wait to see that, with hope and continued reminders to each other to breath….deep breaths as we miss our Chris.  But the key for him, this year, will be our continued prayers for him and his continued prayers for discernment.  I believe he is called to this, so does he or he wouldn’t go.  But the prayers are key, for him, for us…for two reasons.  One – because great things and changes are best done prayerfully, every step of the way.  Two – because prayer unites us, it is the best kind of connection because it beyond time and place.  And if that’s how I can be close to my son this year, that’s where you will find me.

The Novitiate, not for sissies.  For men.  And now, well, in one more month – for my son.

For the Dads

Since we are talking about Fatherly love, {see post just below, there, on the Holy Trinity}…..let’s talk about the Dads.

There are two Dad-people in my life: my own Dad and the Dad to my kids, my Tom.

They are both remarkable men.  And today, is their day.  Sure it might be an artificially contrived holiday, but what’s not to love about a day to stop and say, “Hey, we so appreciate you!” And, because neither of them are stupid; I suspect they both know how to sit back and enjoy the attention.  And well they should.

My dad is that dad, the one that little girls use to measure others.  Fair or not, it’s how it plays.

As dad’s are supposed to be, he was larger than life to me as a little girl.
And I suppose in many ways, he still is, because he’s still the dad…it’s a lifetime, ya know?
He’s part of many of my favorite things:
Riding horses, yakking about everything and nothing.
Sipping hot strong coffee, yakking about everything and nothing.
Reading the paper in the morning, commenting on the news and everything and nothing.
Comparing wines, and yakking about everything and nothing….
You get the idea….
I love him for his loyalty and his steadfast grit, no matter the tide,or his opinion on my choices and my opinions.

He’s my dad, forever and always and I love him.

And then, there is my  Tom.  The father of my kids, and my partner in raising them.  Oh, I don’t know how I’d do it without him.  I’m not sure I could, as he makes up for what I’m missing.  He is the yin to my yang, he is steady rock solid where I am an emotional rollercoaster.

He’s such a great dad; such a great partner in raising this tribe.
He pulls up the slack when I am a slacker.
He pulls me up out of the indigo when I fall into the blues.
He can make me and/or the kids pound the table in laughter, so funny.

He loves his kids to distraction.
He is easily distracted by fun new adventures and toys, to their delight and my sometime consternation.
He is a born teacher, to my delight and to their sometime consternation.
His love and gift for music has carried into his children, all of them, in one way or another…enriching all of our lives.
He works far too hard and carries too many burdens; and without complaint, though he sometimes does daydream about moving to islands….
He is an adventurer, but stays close to home and it’s needs regardless, tamping down that wanderlust and craving for new thrills.

He is strong inside and out, steady and sure, kinder than me and a softie on the inside.His girls totally pegged that, right away.
His boys don’t always believe it.
But he is.
He’s the dad.
He will go to the ends of the earth for his children, and has.
He’s the dad, and we all love him so, and are so grateful for him.
I love this man, the dad of this clan.

 

He Aspires

He Aspires.

Aspirant.  My son is an aspirant.
What, you might well ask, is that.
Well, I will tell you, and I should do so with fair warning that this may well begin a series of blogs about this subject.  Because its a lot for us all to process, not the least of which is me.  And you all know well that I process through blogging.
But I digress.
Anyhow. My son is an Aspirant.

That is what it is called when your son is seriously considering life as a religious, with an order.  In this case, the Dominican order.
It’s the step before the formal application, sort of an understood verbal or written “notice of intent;” which means he’s let them know he is seriously considering this and they said “Good news!”.
Now that may seem huge to you.  Or maybe not.  But if you knew my son, you would know that he does not make decisions, any decisions, lightly….not even ordering a chicken sandwich.  So when he called them up and said he’d like to be considered an aspirant…..he might have well as jumped off the cliffs like the divers in Mexico.  So it feels like a big darn deal to him. And it is.  It does to us too.

Oddly, and on an inconsequential aside, we all keep getting hung up on the pronunciation:  “aspire- rant” “as per ant?”.  Ok, maybe its just me.  The vocations director says it as “aspire-ant”. I suppose this most apt.  But my years of reading too many books tells me I should pronounce it like “asper-ant”.  Though one of my girlfriends tells me that pronunciation reminds her of someone who has aspirated something and is choking to death.
Maybe that’s not the image we are going for.
Hmmm.
With that visual I suppose the vocation directors version is better, eh?
I suspect my hesitancy with the speaking of this word reflects the hesitancy of this new thing in our lives.  In my sons life.
And yet, even so, its not hesitant at all, really.

I know in my very bones and deepest corners of my soul that he is made for this.  Indeed, I know and believe he was made for this, from the beginning.
I think I knew it before he did.
But maybe all moms say that.
But I’m getting ahead of myself.  Or him.

That running ahead is part of the difficulty with all this.  He has to discern slowly, listening and praying and listening some more to hear the will of God.
Sounds like a tall order, no?
I mean, we aren’t talking audible voices, or voice, like the classic Bill Cosby routine about Noah. Although come to think of it, listening to that routine on the radio on long car drives unfailingly made my sons just fall over laughing.  Maybe I should’ve taken note?  Anyhow, the point is that this discerning thing is a tender nurturing thing.
It’s his call.
Oh, so literally.  It is his call.
And while I could see it coming, yeah, a long way off and his dad and I saw it sooner than he did….its still his to discover, unwrap and examine with wonder.  And he is.

If you want to know what its like…well obviously I can only say what I see.  But…on his part, in some ways, it seems its kinda like falling in love.  I see that same rush of wonder and excitement and quiet marveling wow.  His eyes sparkle and his words spill over as he describes what’s “so cool” about this or that.  It makes me grin to sit and listen to him.

So.  For now, his dad and I watch and listen and pray for our son as he prayerfully considers and discerns Gods call.  If you’ve a mind to, please pray for my boy.  And maybe throw one or two prayers our way too as his dad and I look ahead to this special road, filled with different challenges and joys and very big adjustments for us all.


Because what WE aspire to, for our son, is for him to joyfully step forward into whatever life God is offering: teacher dad plumber or priest.

* Note: this post is not precisely real time. I wrote it months ago. But only have permission, now, from Chris to post it. And so I will, a short series perhaps, about a rather unique process and time in all of our lives. *  

Stitched together

See this quilt? Right there?  Well, it’s mine! Yup! And, out of a spirit of decorum I will not whoop, too loudly, so as not to make you all feel bad.

But, I want to say…it’s gorgeous, beautiful and wonderful.  You see, I won this quilt through the silent auction hosted by JC Marie for the Kololo School through the Tesfa Foundation.  I had little  hope of winning, after seeing how beautiful the quilt was…and yet, with the help of a good proxy bidder and friend, I did and now it is already well used in my room.

The artist is an adoptive mom herself, Andrea Fox, and let me say, this quilt is just lovely.  It’s fabrics were carefully selected and designed (by another adoptive mom of a Haitian child), it is colorful and charming, it is beautifully crafted, and the back is soft as butter in sky blue. Even the note she sent with it was made from handmade paper…loveliness abounding.

The quilt is wrapable art and it is just what the best quilts are all about: connections and community.  And that is just why I’m so smitten by it.  This quilt is a soft touchable connection for me and my kids to other families like ours, across the continent and even across the ocean.  We are sort of stitched together, even in this quilt, by our love for our kids and their home country and our love of books and yearning to get access to more books and schools for kids.

Some might scoff and say I make too much of this.  I disagree.  Those connections, those stitches, are so important for us moms, our families, and especially for our kids from afar.  All those stitches sew hearts and minds together in support of things that are bigger than our doddering, pottering or crashing days.  And when my cherished little Ethiopian boy pads into my room, snuffling and sleepy-eyed, I can wrap him up in this quilt and know that he is embraced not only by me, but, in a way, by so many other hearts….connected by stitches of caring for these, our children of the world.

For any brave souls , look for the tiny “comment” below.

>More Pics from Addis!!!

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Thought you’d all LOVE seeing this wonderful photos of Tariku with his new family.  Sounds like they are all hanging in there.  The paperwork issues are definitely causing stress, but while they wait on that they are being wonderfully cared for!!!  Your continued prayers for all the paperwork to finish through smoothly is greatly appreciated!  ~Shelly

>Have Electricity?

>Shelly again:

A mix of the power outages and waiting on paperwork from MOWA they have not been able to pass the embassy appointment yet.  Trying again for Monday.  Please pray for them as they wait for all this to come together and settle in more with their new little man.  I’ll post more once I hear from her again.

>Extra Bit of Info – Prayer Request

>Hello again! … I realize there was more info I should have posted.  I’ll copy and paste Michele’s email here.  ~Shelly

Tariku is doing better, still shell shocked and shy but warming to us all, a bit to dad, but definitely to me and that is fantastic.  We are very tired.  Our embassy appt today was cancelled, still no fingerprints and so we hope for tomorrow or it will be MOnday or????????  So, prayers would be very appreciated.
Thanks everyone! …. I know she’ll appreciate your love and prayers while they wait for things to process. 

>They have HIM!!!

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Hello! … this is Shelly, a friend of Michele’s.  I got an email this morning from her as they couldn’t post from Ethiopia.  So I was able to reach her and am posting for her.  I know you’re all dying to hear how things are.  I had the absolute privilege of meeting precious Tariku recently when we traveled to bring home our daughter.  He is such an amazing little guy.  SO great seeing them finally together!  Enjoy!

We are here! It took forever to get here and we barely made our flight out of D.C.  But we did and 16hours later, ok, 18, ok, almost 30 hours total traveling, we made it to Addis! The guest house is great, simple but perfect for us, and everyone is super nice.  We are ok, jet lagged but fine.

And yesterday around 1 pm we finally met our new son!!! We were supposed to meet him early in the morning but he had to go to doc for embassy appt medical and so we had to meet him around 1, outside this local restaurant in Addis, Antico (Great food, pizza).  Weird, nervous, but then all fo a sudden there he was!!!!!!!!! Tiny, dressed in red warmups, and no he didn’t want ot just come to me, so I patted him, as i cried and cried, and cooed at him and then Travis (the in country reP) placed in my arms regardless of his feelings about it. He didn’t cry but was stiff and scared, which make me cry more.

But he felt SO SO SO good.  Perfect.  Perfect.  He felt just like my boy.  And he held on tight.  but he snuggled in and stayed there, all through a long lunch (all meals are LOooonnnng here) and then back to our house so we coudl all snooze and collapse a bit.  Finally I was playing quietly on mybed w/ him and a few toys.  Hannah got the first smile and laugh, and then he giggled. He smiled!!! And so, we think he has some great personality in there, but he is stilla  big shell shocked and so it’s gonna take a while to full bloom.  He is very watchful, but so sweet, and cuddly, and he hides his head in my shoulder or chest when he is uncertain, and he looks out of his corner eyes,.

So, we have a son.  Gabriel Tariku.  He feels just perfect for us.  He is gorgeous and tiny and wonderful.  we are all great and will send more mail when we can, but internet and email is all but impossible.  VERRYYY slow and very difficult to find.  we are doing this for fee at the Hilton downtown.  Hey, anyone who wants to call, Jean and Sarah P, at my house, have our cell phone number here and they also have a cheap calling card number for us.  So call!

Miss you all, can’t wait for you to see him,  MOm/Nanc…ok all of you: you’re gonna flip over this boy!

All our love, Ciao from Addis!

love M