Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Dear Sugar: Fall Books for Your Black Child

Dear Sugar:

Tomorrow marks the official first day of fall!  BRING ON the pumpkin-spice everything, Halloween costume choosing, apple-picking, jacket-wearing season!    And one of my favorite parts of fall: curling up on the sofa with a good book!

We are completely obsessed with books around here, and I want to share with you our children's fall favorites, all of which feature Black characters.

Click on the photo to be linked to my Amazon store where you can buy books!

Happy reading, Sugars!

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Dear Sugar: Perspectives on Adoption Book Recs

Dear Sugar:

Don't you just love a crisp new book?  With fall quickly approaching (thank you, Jesus!), I want to share with you some of the best books on adoption I've recently read and recommend.


I started and finished Black Lotus in 24 hours.  Yes, it was THAT good.   Abrams documents her journey from childhood to adulthood as a girl who is searching for who she is:  her racial identity.   Though this book is not specifically about adoption, there is SO much that resonated with me as a mom who is parenting children who were adopted transracially.   The author, again and again, comes back to her desire for empathy and honesty, something that has been shared by many adoptees.   This is a book you will want to buy as you'll be underlining poignant passages and flagging pages.  

Finding Motherhood is a unique book in that it's written by a birth mother who later also adopted two children.   Murphy's honest and heartfelt memoir is exactly the book parents-by-adoption need.   Murphy understands and explores adoption from two of the three points in the adoption triad, leaving readers feeling educated, enlightened, and hopeful.

The Secret Daughter is a fiction book that measures up to its subtitle:  "A beautiful novel of adoption, heartbreak and a mother's love."   If you want to "curl up with a good book" with an adoption theme, this is it.  I read it over the course of about three days (ironically when traveling to visit our kids' birth families).   The book's protagonist is an adoptee who finds out as an adult (as she's trying to start her family) that she was adopted.  She begins the search for the truth, including the journey to find her biological family.    I don't want to spoil the ending for you!

Ok, I know what you're thinking?  What the HECK does a coloring book have to do with adoption?  If you've adopted transracially and you have a Black daughter, snag a copy of I Love My Hair.  What I love about this coloring book is that not only is it ALL about empowering your daughter, communicating that her hair is BEAUTIFUL, but it also serves as a great bonding tool.  The book is large enough for mom and daughter (or dad and daughter) to sit side-by-side and color while chatting about the day and winding down before bedtime.    

For more fabulous resources, ranging from hair care, adoption, parenting, and more, please check on my Amazon store.  Happy reading, Sugars!

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Dear Sugar: Brokenhearted

Dear Sugar,

Over twelve years ago, Steve and I were on a mission trip, one of many we embarked upon together. One evening my mom called:  my best friend from grade school and middle school had passed away from a genetic heart condition after heart surgery.  

I spent the evening crying and milling around the school grounds where the staff and campers were housed.   I felt angry, shaky, and mostly, brokenhearted.

My friend and I had all but ended our friendship in middle school.  She had found new and cooler friends.  I was never the popular/cool girl.    I didn't wear designer clothing, I wasn't athletic, and I was rule-follower.  School to me was a place that tortured the socially uncomfortable.  

I had many happy memories with her before she drifted away.    Hours spent in her swimming pool. Sneaking her mom's makeup (Mary Kay!) and painting our nails.  Making nachos with Doritos.  Her mom letting us watch Steel Magnolias---ironically about a young woman who dies too young of a disease.  (To this day, it's one of my favorite movies.)   We named all of our future children.  One of my four daughters, and one of hers, would share the same name: Maybelline (yes, like the makeup). We called our mutual crush on her pink telephone, the one she kept all to herself in her room.  Then we'd go to church on Wednesday nights just to flirt (in our fifth grade ways) with the mutual crush.

I wondered why God would let my friend die.  She has already lost several family members to the disease, including her own mother.    Why could she not be the one who got a shot at life?  One of the lucky ones?

I recalled the time I was taking classes at the local community college, and I bumped into her.  She was beautiful as always (she had the most fabulous hair!).   We cordially said hi to one another, and then she bounded off down the hallway with another girl, one I deemed much prettier and no doubt cooler than me.  (Junior high memories die hard.)   I slumped to my next class feeling confused and disheartened.

I felt remorseful for all the ways I didn't try to reconnect to her.   The fact that I didn't attend her mother's funeral, located at a small Christian church just three miles from my house, because I felt it would just add salt to the wound.   The ways I wasn't brave.

That evening, or perhaps it was very early the next morning, I sat in the balcony of the school auditorium, my Bible in my lap.  And for the first time, I read this verse:

Psalm 34:18:  "The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit."

There have been many times in my life when this verse has helped me through another season of hardship.  When feelings of unworthiness, anxiousness, uncertainty, fear, confusion, and anger have made a home in my heart.  

As I type this post, I know some of you are in this place.  I know there are HARD and BIG and CONFUSING things going on in your life, and you are trying, oh you are trying, to deal with them.   I see so many questions being posted in adoption Facebook groups:  questions about openness in adoption, questions about which agency to choose, questions about how to answer a child's questions about his or her adoption.     These are tie-your-heart-in-knots questions.    These are the things that keep us up at night, that weigh on our minds as we are supposed to be listening to a presentation at work or helping a child with his homework, that attempt to capture our joy and peace.  

Some of these things we deal with and move on.  But some of them torture us, tempting us to make the wrong choice or telling us there is NO WAY we will be successful and hopeful.  

There are the days that your past heartaches are uprooted and thrown in your line of vision like New Year's confetti.   Maybe it's the miscarriage or the baby you always wanted but never carried.  Maybe it's the foster children with whom you fell in love with who went home.  Maybe it's the reluctant partner who just isn't sure adoption is the right choice.  Maybe it's the time you didn't say or do the right thing on your adoption journey.  

Maybe, like me, you've struggle with losing someone you loved.   Someone you still love.  Maybe you've had a traumatic experience where someone has taken advantage of you, where you were in an accident or part of something you wish would just disappear.

The Lord is there.  He's there in those murky, shaky memories.   He's there in your moments of desperation and fear.   He's there in your not-so-Jesusy-thoughts.  He's there in your future, too.

There are so many things that happen in life that are simply heartbreaking.   Do you recall your moments?    Don't they render us helpless and rage-filled and numb and apathetic and doubtful and jealous---all at the same time?

Sugar, I don't have this whole heartbreaking thing figured out.   I don't even like to THINK about those past heartbreaking moments.  In fact, this post has been written and deleted many times over the past few years.  I wasn't ready then to share with you about my friend.  I'm not sure I'm really fully ready now.

A few months ago, I found a few books my mom had given me from my childhood.   My girls grabbed one of them, a large picture book from Disney's Snow White, and on the inside cover, there was, in fourth-grader handwriting, a "to" and a "from."  The "to" was to me, the "from" was from her. I felt my chest tighten, and memories flooded back.  

I need you have Psalm 34:18, because I know, I KNOW, that someone today needs to read it.   I need it today.

I'll leave you with this:  

When I was a little girl, my mom once planted some flowers in our front yard.   They were very hard to grow, she told me.  Hard to keep alive and healthy.   But one day they bloomed, and they were spectacular:  a vibrant fuchsia color, contrasting against the surrounding greenery of the moss and grass and the gray-brown bark of the big trees.   These flowers were Bleeding Hearts.

Today, more than ever, I appreciate the effort my mom put in to growing those flowers.   They are powerful reminder of the fact that we are never fully healed from our brokenheartedness.   But that, Sugars, that brokenness in our heart, is exactly what makes us human, what makes us clumsily hopeful, and what makes is possible for there to be more room for beauty to grow.  

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Dear Sugar: Mamaste

Hi, Sugar!  I haven't blogged in awhile.  Not because I don't love to write, but because the kiddos were home with me all summer, and we were traveling, playing, and sweating. (Thank you, Midwest weather.)   But I'm back, and I've got somethin' to say.

The other day, my girls were talking in their sister-language, a conversation full of giggles and made-up words.   Then one of them said to me, "Mamaste."

I said, "Do you mean namaste?"

Occasionally (and I mean occasionally), the girls like to do yoga, including using these really cool kiddie yoga cards and lead the "class" (aka, myself and the sibs).   And last week, my middle daughter and I did a little something called Yoga Inferno by Jillian Michaels (yes, every word of that makes me nervous!) for like twenty minutes before we gave up and ate a snack.

The girls moved on, not answering my question.  And then it hit me:  mamaste.

Namaste, as I learned a long time ago in group yoga class means this:  May the light inside of me guide the light inside of you.

For someone not all that invested in yoga (we clearly are not), it's a little weird.  Vaguely spiritual and "out there."  Like we should burn something herbal and start chanting.

But it is a lovely way, if you think about it, to wrap up a workout session.  Something to expect to be said.  Something that means that for just a moment, everyone doing that workout is speaking the same language.   (That's pretty darn rare today, right?)     Plus, the whole idea of being interconnected, of guiding one another, is beautiful.

So if that's namaste, what's mamaste?

Mamaste:  my light is guiding my children's light.


What do I want for my children?  What do I want them to know about life?   What examples am I setting for them as I use my light to guide theirs?

As a writer, I write.  You should see the number of post-its, lists on scraps of paper, and notebooks I have--all full of scribbles, arrows, bullet points.   I have goals.   But it's been a long time since I've thought about what I want my kids to know and to carry on.  Mostly because, like every other mom out there, I'm consumed with the day-to-day.  I'm usually not contemplating tomorrow, because today, as the Bible says, has its own things to deal with.    Today there are sibling arguments, boo boos, cuddles, school assignments, drop offs and pick ups, dinner.  Today is ENOUGH, right Sugar?

But if I stop and think about it...

What an incredible responsibility it is to mamaste.   A privilege.  An honor.  

What is my light?  And what is it doing (or not doing) to guide my children, so that as they grow up, they are guiding others around them.

I saw a meme on Facebook a few weeks ago that said that moms are all a hot mess.  All of us.  But I tend to disagree.

Though life is messy, it doesn't mean WE are a mess.  Just because your house doesn't look Pinterest worthy, just because your hairstyle isn't Instagram worthy, it doesn't mean YOU aren't worthy.   Being messy is just being human.

As I've contemplated what it means to mamaste, I've been thinking about what's important to me. What I want my kids to be:   authentic, honest, kind, empathetic, assertive, intuitive, proud (not prideful, though), and respectful.  Am I always these things?  No, of course not.   But do I need to strive to be?  Of course!  Because in order to best MAMASTE (it's a verb now!), I need to be the person in whom my kids can proudly say, "That's my mom!" And when my children make a choice and act in particular way, right now, that is often a reflection of me.

However, I also want that guiding light to give them permission to be their own light:  certainly gently shaped by me, but not exactly like mine.    This is where the authenticity comes in.    I want to continue to empower my children to be who they are:  proudly.   Who they were created to be without apology, shame, or shield.

There are a thousand ways to mother, and thousand ways to mamaste.   And as much as I am type A lady (planner/organizer/analyzer), I'm continually surrendering to being in the NOW, in the today, in order to let God guide me, moment to moment and hour to hour, as I parent my children, as I let my light guide theirs.

So no matter where you are in your motherhood journey, I hope today that you give yourself permission to mamaste:  authentically and passionately.  There is no greater privilege.


For more faith-based encouragement on your adoption and parenting journey, check out the book I co-authored with Madeleine Melcher:

***This post contains Amazon links from my personal e-store.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Dear Sugar: Taking a Sweet Break

Hi, Sugar:

I'm taking a blogging break to focus on book #6 (you are going to LOVE it).  I'm still posting on social media (buttons to the right), writing a few articles, responding to e-mails, and doing media appearances.  

I wish you a SWEET summer!   Join me on my Facebook page for the latest and greatest on all-things-adoption!

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Dear Sugar: To Our Babies---Don't Defer Dreams

Dear Sugar,

I first remember reading this Langston Hughes poem in high school, and it has stayed with me ever since.

There are many, many limits that others attempt to put on our children.   This is done out of ignorance and fear.   It stems from hundreds or years of oppression and privilege and evil.  

Yet, I strongly believe that parents have a lot of power.  We can raise confident, resilient, empowered children, children who don't defer dreams.  Children who live their life's purpose, accomplish their goals, discover their dreams.

I think there are practical ways we can do this:

1:  Model the behavior we want emulated.  Are you one of those people who has always wanted to do X, yet you've never done it?   What is your dream?  Start a business?  Learn to swim?  Take a weekend all to yourself?  Whatever it is, no matter how big, or small, or "silly" it seems, how can you turn your dream into a reality so that your children learn that dreams are for DOING?

2:  Talk to your kids about their dreams, and then find role models in that general field.  Do research, read books, talk about the dreams and who has accomplished similar dreams and how.  

3:  Discuss what it takes to accomplish a dream:  determination, commitment, and confidence.  There are many reasons people don't just GO FOR IT---most often due to fear, lack of commitment, and lack of confidence.   Sometimes the most exciting things in life are the most scary, but you'll be there to support and encourage your child.  Work on the skills needed (determination and commitment) in other (smaller) areas in life, so when it comes to dreams, there's a skill set already in place!

4:  Talk about consequences, positive and negative.  What are the consequences of not going for that dream?  What about consequences to go for the dream?   Note that consequences aren't always negative.   The Hughes poem is a great way to start this discussion.

5:  Surround your family with do-ers!   Whatever a person's dreams are, find those people who are relentlessly pursuing their dreams and hang out with them.   It will inspire you and your kiddo!  

I cannot tell you how many times I've been approached by someone who says they've "always wanted to write a book" (and have told me this multiple times over a span of several years) and simply do not do it.   These individuals seem remorseful.  Always yearning.  And always a bit disappointed.  

Don't let your dreams EXPLODE or FESTER or STINK.

If something is stirring in your heart (and in your child's heart), why isn't today the day you say YES and take that first step to DOING?

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Dear Sugar: Coffee Table Books

Dear Sugar:

Today I want to share with you my favorite "coffee table books" to have around your home to help racially support your kiddos.   Certainly, books of this size and quality can be pricey, so I suggest searching for used copies, putting them on your b-day or C-mas wish lists, and buying them yourself over time.  Also, great places to look include used book stores, library book sales, the used books section on Amazon, and the bargain book sections at your local book stores.

Here are some of our current favorite coffee table books.  Click on the photo to link to a page in which you can purchase the book:

Happy reading, happy exploring, and happy learning!