What is Average?

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the average family size is currently 3.14 people. There is nothing average about that. How do you have a .14th of a person? My husband and I once had an averaged sized family, one son and one daughter. That was when I was writing the story . . .
Then I gave God the pen.

Our Yearly Tradition: Leavenworth After Christmas

Friday, April 22, 2011

Treasure in the Valpak

Last month’s Valpak arrived in the mail as usual. It was the same familiar blue envelope with many of the same coupons and offerings I’ve seen before. Except for one, and it immediately grabbed my attention.

Nestled between a tanning coupon and a buy one get one free for teriyaki was an advertisement offering a monthly payment if you become a foster parent of a child between the ages of 5 – 17. Finding this advertisement inside the Valpak seemed wrong to me. It just didn’t belong in the same venue as free meals and discounted oil changes.

Has the situation with our foster care system come to advertising our state’s children in the Valpak? Aren’t there any homes in Pierce County that are available to take in older children? Or are there so many children entering the foster care system that the need far exceeds the availability of homes?

Whatever it is, it haunts me that a foster care agency resorted to Valpak to get the word out. It was basically a job offering: take in a foster kid and get paid. Instead, it should have been presented it as a life-changing opportunity. But sadly, it’s often the money that motivates.

I write this with deep conviction. Ten years ago, my husband and I were made aware of the overwhelming need for licensed foster homes in Pierce County. There was no emphasis on the monthly reimbursements. Instead, the emphasis was to invest in these kids and give them what they have never experienced – stability and safety.

That alone was the motivation for us to become foster parents. Our first daughter was 5 years old when she was placed with us. With multiple prior placements in foster homes and two failed adoptions, she had special issues that presented certain challenges. However, through consistent structure and unconditional love, she emerged through her difficult past and is now an active, well adjusted teenager in honor classes and after school sports.

Several years after our first placement, our second daughter came to us at 9 years old. She became a constant companion to our first daughter. We recognized a musical talent in her and immediately got her into piano lessons. Now in high school, she is active in band and is involved in sports.

Several years after our second placement, we were given the opportunity to take in a 15 year old boy. We had some reservations; however, after a family meeting we agreed that we would do what it takes to offer him a life-changing opportunity. He successfully graduated from high school and is currently serving our country in the military.

It was important to us to invest in these young lives so that it would lower the risk of them repeating the cycle from which they came. We did it to “change them,” yet in the process, they “changed us” in the most amazing way.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

A Chivalrous Proposal

Leavenworth has become a yearly destination for our family. Our adult children all the way down to our grandkids look forward to this annual get-away. Friends of theirs have often joined us, adding to the joy of reconnecting. Some of our best memories have been made on this trip!

There’s something magical about being in Leavenworth, especially when it’s snowing. An evening stroll in the quaint lit village brings the illusion of being in a snow globe. You’re transported into a time where life moves at a slower pace and stress becomes a foreigner.

Our most recent trip to Leavenworth was my favorite yet! It began the night before we left. My oldest daughter’s boyfriend, Craig, who was going with us on this trip, sent a text message to my husband asking if he could meet with him that evening.

My husband told us he needed to run to the store to get some things for Leavenworth. My daughter, Ally, and I were none the wiser – until he came home. Then I knew something that Ally wasn’t going to find out until later! She was going to get a marriage proposal in Leavenworth! Oh the excitement of keeping a secret!

We knew that Craig would eventually propose to Ally. They had been dating since their junior year of high school. But what we didn’t expect, and were delightfully surprised with, was Craig’s chivalry in asking permission to marry Ally!

Chivalry is defined as courage that is presented with honor and respect.

My husband told me it brought tears to his eyes when Craig proclaimed his love for our daughter and declared that he could not imagine his life without her. He felt so honored when Craig asked for permission to marry Ally.

It’s rare for a young man to ask permission from a father to marry his daughter. In today’s society, who asks for permission for anything? Too much has been given, too much has been expected, and entitlement is the attitude.

Many of our youth have lost a sense of honor for those who are supposed to be their adult role models. Who can we blame? Those of us who parent the next generation. We often neglect to teach that courage with honor and respect wins favor and opens the door for success in every situation!

Craig’s chivalrous request escorted us into the next day as we headed out on our annual trip. And Leavenworth didn’t disappoint! The village was covered in snow and the evening was ushered in with a beautiful, quiet snowfall.

It was that first snowy evening that Craig took Ally for a walk. They left as boyfriend and girlfriend and returned as fiancées, pledged to one another for a summer wedding. The celebration of this moment created a beautiful memory for us all!

To our future son-in-law’s parents, we are so thankful that you raised a chivalrous young man who loves and can’t imagine life without our daughter!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Snail Mail is Worth the Wait!

A part of my heart flew to Ft. Benning, Georgia a few months ago. Our son, Austin, enlisted in the United States Army and just finished basic training. He is now at Airborne School.

When Austin left for basic last October,we knew he would have to surrender his cell phone and that letters would be his only form of communication for four months. Knowing that he had rarely mailed a letter, I asked him if he knew how to address an envelope.

“Mom, really?” He sounded insulted. “I’ve just filled out a ton of paperwork for enlistment that required me to write our address at least ten times.” Then he rattled off our address like a seasoned kindergartener who knows the entire alphabet.

His girlfriend jokingly gave a quick explanation of where the “to” and “from” address goes on the envelope and where the stamp belongs. We all laughed about it, knowing that handwritten letters are a thing of the past. Texting and e-mail is the preferred choice of communication.

Cartoon Parade just ran a comic that portrayed a woman who opened the front door to her boyfriend. He had a bouquet of roses in his hands. The caption said, “We broke up, Stuart – don’t you read your e-mail?” I chuckled for a moment, but the reality is that often times we receive a life changing message through electronic means.

Handwritten letters are historic, one could say. Antique shops have treasured letters dated from over a half century ago from people who were away at war or had moved far away from family.

We all wondered if Austin would actually write letters to the family while he was at basic training.

Packed and ready to go, we took him to the recruiting station. The parents received a quick briefing.

“Your sons and daughters will be able to stay in limited phone contact for a few days. After that, all electronics will be locked down and handwritten letters will be their only contact with family and friends.”

We hugged Austin goodbye, knowing we would see him the next day in Seattle at the swearing in ceremony. That evening I packed up some writing paper, envelopes, and stamps for Austin to take with him to Georgia.

Early the next morning before we left to the swearing in, I asked his best friend to put the stamps on the envelopes so that they wouldn’t get lost. I left the room for a moment, and when I returned I found Austin’s friend putting the stamps on the wrong corner of the envelopes!

I smiled to myself and thought fondly of the conversation we had a few nights before about writing letters and addressing envelopes.

Yes, a part of my heart is still in Ft. Benning. But this momma’s heart is just delighted, because we have received eight of the most glorious handwritten letters from our soldier!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Kindness and Compassion Search for Opportunities

I don’t usually answer the phone at our coffee shop. You’ll find me in the backroom doing paperwork, checking inventory and placing orders. On this particular day, however, I answered the phone. Greeting the person on the other end, I asked how I could help her. She asked to speak to our manager. He had left for the day, so I told her I could take a message.

She asked me if I was the owner, and I replied that I was. It caused me some concern! What could have possibly happened to warrant a call from a customer? Did her mocha taste bad? My racing mind relaxed as she began her story.

“I went to your coffee shop for the first time today with a friend, and the experience we had with your employees changed my day! I had just come from an appointment with hospice care and we decided we needed some coffee and found your shop. Your staff gave us an experience that lifted my spirits! They didn’t have any idea of my situation. But the greeting they gave to me and my friend was grandiose! And the conversation we bantered in completely took my mind off the inevitable – that I’m dying. Please pass on my deepest thanks to both of them. They changed my day.”

I was speechless for a moment, then caught my composure and offered her my deepest sympathy. She told me that death is a given. We all are going to face it one day. Her day was just going to be sooner than she had hoped for. As I hung up the phone, the tasks that had captivated my focus and had argued for my attention were now a blur in the background.

This was a divine appointment that changed my perspective. I didn’t catch what her name was, but her story caught me and taught me: We aren’t guaranteed a tomorrow! We aren’t even guaranteed to finish out the remainder of the day! Each moment is a gift. Therefore, life should be lived as if each day were our last day – with purpose and passion! With kindness and compassion!

I thought about what I could do to make a difference in the lives of people whose paths crossed with mine. Kindness does not look for reasons. Compassion does not ask for limitations. Both search for opportunities. That day I challenged myself to be intentional in searching for opportunities to be the smile that someone needs or the encouragement that someone is longing for.

Every person has a story. Some have an event going on in their lives that is bringing them an indescribable heartache. Others may be in great need of forgiveness or they may simply desire to be included. When we recognize the value of each individual and extend ourselves in a warm and caring way, it will change their day. And in turn, it will change our lives.