Monday, September 28, 2015

Can't Stop, Won't Stop: Powerful Posts

I always tell myself I'll slow down.  I'll stop writing so much.

But I cannot.

Ideas, questions, experiences:  they are restless.  They are bursting.  They are simmering.

These past few weeks, I've shared my heart in several articles.  Here are just some of them:

Happy reading, Sugars, and cheers to a great week!   

Monday, September 21, 2015

Open Adoption: Heart-On-My-Sleeve Truths

"My days and heart are full. I have three babies who are part of three different open adoptions. What I know is that I know nothing. That every situation, every child, every day is different. That my heart has been broken and put back together more times than I can count. That adoption is intricately interwoven with the fibers of my heart and because of that, I’m relentlessly pursuing the right things in the right times, always with education, empathy, and empowerment."

Sugars, if you are struggling today with open adoption, wondering how open adoption works, or considering if open adoption is right for you and your family, please head over to Lori Holden's blog and read more.   Lori is the author of The Open-Hearted Way to Open Adoption, and the book includes contributions by Lori's daughter's birth mother.  

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Adoption Talk Link-Up: Names

Parents-by-adoption often have a lot of questions about naming their child:
  • Is it ok to change the child's birth name if we don't like it?
  • Is it ok to change the child's birth name if the name doesn't fit the child?
  • Is it ok to change a hard-to-pronounce name?
  • Should we offer to co-name the child with the child's biological parents?
  • Is it ok to give a child we adopt a family name or name the child after dad making the son a "junior"?
  • Is it ok to merge the child's birth name and the name we like?
  • What if we give the child two middle names?
  • What if teachers struggle to pronounce our child's name?
  • What if our child gets made fun of by peers for his or her name?
  • What if the expectant parents will only choose a family who will allow the expectant parents to name the child?
  • Does the child's name need to be common in his or her racial culture? 
These dilemmas can be solved, I think, by asking oneself a single question:
  • What will most benefit and potentially please my child?
Every adoptee and adoption situation is different, but ultimately what should matter most is the child and what will work for him or her.   If you are uncertain what would best benefit your child in terms of names, I suggest asking some adult adoptees what their opinions and experiences are.

For more on naming the child you adopt, check out pages 42-43 of my first book Come Rain or Come Shine:  A White Parent's Guide to Adopting and Parenting Black Children.  

Monday, September 14, 2015

Don't Blink: The Truth About Distraction

Last week a book arrived in my mailbox, a book I had pre-ordered some time ago.  A book I knew I needed but was thankful that there would be a season between when I ordered it and when it arrived.
Was I ready?

I dove right into the pages the same day the book arrived.  I had my pen in hand, underlining line after line that spoke to my heart.  The words shook me up and spoke truth.

Reading the book felt like a splash of cold water to the face, the first mug of hot tea on a fall night, and a needle's sting.  Simultaneous refreshment, comfort, and pain.

It felt like conviction.  It felt like hope. It felt like fear.

Chapter one talks about filling the spaces:  taking short spurts of time and filling those with living rather than distraction.  Noticing rather than ignoring.  Relishing rather than rushing.

So I did just that.  That evening, my kids were rather rowdy, but we couldn't go outside since it was pouring rain and lightening.  I pulled out two huge tubs of Lego Duplos and started building.  My oldest daughter and I built a zoo and a shopping center, my middle daughter sat nearby looking at family photo albums, and my son built and played with a train.  We put some jazz music on.

It was magical.  It was relaxing.

This is doable, I thought.

The next morning, I walked my oldest daughter down to the bus stop.  We held hands.  It was picture day, so we practiced all the smiles that one shouldn't express when a photo is taken.  It was silly and glorious.

Suddenly my daughter said, "Wow!  Look mommy!"

Behind us, in the midst of a large overgrown area, was a single flower peaking out.  It was beautiful in a quiet, non-demanding way.   Just waiting to be discovered and appreciated.

It was something I never would have seen if I hadn't been listening and engaging.   It would have been another thing that went undiscovered.

Later that day, I was carting my younger two kids around town, running errands.  We were flipping through radio stations when an old favorite grabbed my attention.  Don't Blink by Kenny Chesney.

A sign?


Or maybe it's just the fact that I'm intentionally listening and living.

This isn't an easy battle for me.  I have a disease that requires control.  I have a type A personality.  I'm an oldest child, so I may be a bit, er, bossy.  I'm organized, punctual, and driven.   Not exactly things that help me ease up and enjoy the moment.

But I'm trying.  And that counts for something, just as Rachel Stafford shares in her book.

Sugars, I cannot express enough how important it is to be in this moment.  Whether you are considering adoption, are waiting to adopt, or have already adopted.  No matter where you are in your life journey, being present is the best give you can give yourself.   And if you are like me, you don't know HOW to do that.  That's why I'm so thankful that Stafford wrote her book, and I had the courage to buy it (and trust me, it takes courage)...and then pick it up and read it.

Today, I want to encourage you to buy (or borrow) Stafford's book.   Consider her humble, direct, and heart-centered messages that teach us to re-embrace the beauty that surrounds us.  To look people in their eyes, to listen to their words, to hold hands.

Choosing to live in the present doesn't drain you like distraction does.

To get a taste of the fabulousness Stafford's book contains, check out her recent Huff Post article called The Single Most Important Parenting Action We Can Take Today.

And to learn more about how your child might feel as you spend more time with your IPhone than the people right in front of you, check out this Huff Post article.

Also, Elite Daily featured a fabulous article called How Sex Isn't the Only Form of Infidelity.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

COMING THIS MONTH!: New Book for Young Black Girls

Hi, Sugars!

I'm so excited to provide you with this preview of my newest book, Poems for the Smart, Spunky, and Sensational Black Girl.  Illustrated by Sharee Miller, owner of Coily and Cute, and authored by me!

Poems include: birthday, beads, art, Black history, slumber party, church, fun at the beauty shop, Santa, new sibling, and much, much more.

The book should be available this month.  I'll keep you posted!

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

"These Are a Few of My Favorite Things": When It Comes to Hair Care for my Kids

I was at Michael's this morning picking up a few odds and ends when I ran my cart directly into a Christmas decoration display.

Don't get me wrong. I LOVE Christmas.

But it's 90 degrees here in St. Louis.  Christmas isn't really on my mind....

However, the decor run-in had me thinking about the song from The Sound of Music, "My Favorite Things."  So today, on this rainy, hot Tuesday (which feels like a Monday), here are some of my favorite things:

The Magic Twist Hair Sponge:  fabulous for creating coils in my little guy's hair.  It's very easy to use, and his coils usually last 2-3 days (without him wearing a sleep cap).

I Love My Hair:  Sesame Street video

Africa Sleeps Sleep Caps:  Beautiful, durable, and they stay-put!  (This company is owned by a mom-by-adoption!)  Last Christmas they sold the most amazing holiday lotion that smelled like cookie batter and had glitter in it (GLITTER!) that I put on myself and my girls.

Ballies for hair from Osh Kosh:  If you want ballies beyond the solid colors (and ball shapes), Osh Kosh has a rotating selection of colors and shapes.

Curls Creme Brule (hair cream):  Smells like cake batter, doesn't leave any residue, and isn't greasy.  This stuff smells like a holiday!

I Love My Hair:  One of my girls' favorite books about hair.  For a complete list of our favorite hair books, check out one of my articles.  

Ribbon barrette from Spritely Girl on Etsy:  Have a daughter who wants some color in her hair, but you aren't willing to alter her hair to get the color?  My oldest adores her rainbow ribbon barrette.  It easily clips (and stays) into her cornrows, giving her outfit another pop of color.

What are your favorite things?  

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Adoption Talk Link-Up: Grow Where You Are Planted

I'm a stay-at-home mom and writer.  Neither are necessary very glorified in society.  I got far more impressive responses when I was teaching at the university for eight years, responses like, "Oh, so you are a PROFESSOR?"  I got mail from organizations that was addressed to "Dr. Rachel Garlinghouse."

I chose to stay at home with my children for the long-haul when my son was born.  I had three kids under the age of four, and grading papers, prepping curriculum, and responding to student messages was next to impossible.   I was tired of trying to grasp balance, impossible balance.

When I elected to stay home full-time, I wondered what my life would become.  Would I wear mis-matched sloppy clothes all day, un-washed hair pulled into a messy ponytail, with no makeup in on?  (Yep.) Would I wonder what my purpose was?  (Yes.)  Did I try to fill voids with projects? (Uh-huh.)

A few weeks ago, my mom and I were having a conversation about how our home was always open to family, friends, and neighbors.  We never knew when someone would pop by.  Mom would offer them a snack or a meal or a ride or sometimes a bed for the night.  There was no such thing as turning away a guest.

Our conversation evolved into my mom saying, "What if each of us just ministered to the people right around us?  Then everyone would be ministered to."

We talked about where those individuals whom we extended hospitality toward were today.  Did something we did or said impact them?  In most cases, we will never know.  In a handful of situations, we learned the forever-impact that our kindness had on them.

I like to dream big.  I like to think that my books can reach thousands of people, bringing hope and education and inspiration.  And thankfully, they do.  But this isn't my most important work.  I feel that my motherhood is my ministry.  I'm pouring into the three young ones who I'm in charge of raising, loving, and nurturing.  That alone is a huge task.

I'm trying to grow where I'm planted.

It's not always easy.  First, motherhood isn't glam at all.  There isn't much glory in wiping noses and bottoms, sweeping up crumbs for the eighteenth time that day, or breaking up sibling arguments. There's a lot of snot and poop.  There's pick ups and drop offs and shuttling.  There are a lot of mysterious stains on my clothes.  I feel like I always smell funny (probably from the mysterious stains or the fact that sometimes my kids use me as a human Kleenex).  

Second, when people learn about my previous life, one where I had a title and an office, I am met with smiles and nods.  And then, "Will you go back to teaching soon?"  The implication is that what I'm doing now is ok for now, but I should be hopefully be moving "onward and upward" in the future.
Third, motherhood is HARD.  I don't think I've ever been more challenged in my life.  Curveballs are the norm.  Each day is its own adventure.  I almost feel like I'm living in some sort of wild experiment like Hunger Games.

I try to remember that what I'm doing right now is the most important work.  I'm living in the present not focusing on prestige.  I'm proud of what I have accomplished, but what I'm doing now is where I'm supposed to be right now.   It is enough.  It is challenging.  It is rewarding.  I juggle writing and babies---both are beautiful, meaningful, and worthy of my time and attention.

I'm growing where I'm planted.  And I'm trying to make an impact on the immediate people around me:  those God has put in my path and me in theirs.

What about you, Sugar?  Where are you right now?  Are you nurturing yourself?  Are you standing proud in this moment rather than living in the past or future?  How do you stay focused on today?


This week, check out:

10 New Adoption-Themed Books to Add to Your Reading List over at America Adopts

8 Things You May Not Know About Adoption over at Huffington Post Parents

Infant Adoption Guide:  Answering Transracial Adoption Questions

and I just started posting on Instagram!  Mostly my girls' new hairstyles.  Follow me, Sugar!   You can also reach my ever-growing FB blog page and on Twitter where I post news stories, hair styles, new adoption and race books, and much more!

STAY TUNED!  My fifth book will be released this month!