Welcome All – You Are Home

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Dear Ms. Feverfew –

I just bought this totally awesome print from Fresh Words Market. It arrived at my old home the day the movers arrived so it took me a few days to get it on the wall at my new one.  It’s now one of the first things a person will notice when they come into my home, and for some reason, my soul is satisfied and a calming peace fills my heart every time I read it.

I know that you were raised in a fairly strict LDS home, but I have a feeling you would be comfortable with this on your wall, too. It pretty much sums up my philosophy of life – all are welcome in my home. After all, who am I to judge another when I walk imperfectly? His law is love and I intend to live that law as fully as I can.

Much love –

M.

The Sisterhood of the Snickerdoodle

snickerdoodlesDear Ms. Feverfew,

In my younger years, my Mom was involved with some activities that had her away from the home long enough for us older kids to get into mischief make a mess of her kitchen make cookies, those illicit baked morsels of sugary goodness that were verboten by my Mom-on-a-diet.  So while she was away, I mastered chocolate chip cookies at a tender age and my older sister mastered Snickerdoodles. Frequently, we could have an entire batch mixed, baked, eaten, and all the incriminating evidence cleaned up before my mom got home. (Eating all those cookies wasn’t as a monumental task as it sounds. After all, there were twelve of us kids!)
snickerdoodles_1Now, every time I make Snickerdoodles a smile steals across my face and I think of my older sister. How could I not? The buttery golden sweetness of the dough wrapped tight in the embrace of the warm of cinnamon will forever be synonymous with her. Some things stick with a girl – this is one of them. The recipe she used made enough Snickerdoodles for…well, for a family of twelve children who were eager to eat them all before Mom came home and found out we had used up all the butter making cookies. (Now that I stop and think about it, I wonder what my Mom thought all those times she would come home to find the pantry raided. It would have been pretty obvious where all the staples went, even if we did clean up the mess and try to air the house out before she got back.)

snickerdoodles_2Recently I made them for my other children, I realized this is a recipe that should have (would have) been passed down to you, too. So here it is now, your invitation and passport into the sisterhood of the Snickerdoodle. I hope you enjoy them as much as we did growing up and as much as Captain Knuckle, The Professor, and Poppy do now.

Much love,

M.

Soft Snickerdoodle Cookies

Ingredients:
2 c. butter
3 c. sugar
4 eggs
6 c. flour
1 Tbsp + 1 tsp cream of tartar
2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp good vanilla
1/2 c. sugar
2 Tbsp cinnamon

Directions:

  1. Bring all ingredients to room temp.
  2. Cream butter in large bowl. Add 3 c. sugar and then blend until light and fluffy.
  3. Add eggs one at a time to butter mixture, beating well after each addition. Blend again until light and fluffy, scraping down sides of bowl as needed.
  4. Sift dry ingredients together. Blend into butter mixture, along with vanilla. Be sure not to over mix, as this will create a cake-like cookie. Dough should be fairly soft.
  5. Chill dough in fridge for 1 hour.
  6. Meanwhile, mix 1/2 c. sugar and cinnamon together in a small bowl.
  7. Preheat oven to 350*F
  8. Scoop 1 Tbsp balls of dough into cinnamon sugar mixture, then roll around to coat thoroughly.
  9. Place on ungreased cookie sheet and bake for approximately 10 minutes.
  10. Remove cookies from pan as soon as they come out of the oven.

“The Absent are Ever Present”

Dear Ms. Feverfew –

Way back in junior high school, I learned a really cool trick from my home economics teacher (do they even teach that class any more? What is it called nowadays, anyway? Certainly not home economics – that phrase must have gone out of a favor for something more politically correct by now, yes?)

The cool trick? Crushed up candies melt in the middle of sugar cookies.  (These pictures are from a year or two ago – I forgot to get the camera out this year!!!)

bighearts_2They’ve never failed me yet – these are cherry Life Savers and some flavor of Jolly Ranchers. Year in and year out I can trust them to deliver gorgeous results. And the sugar cookie recipe I have is to DIE FOR, but I promised my niece I would never share it because it is the one she developed for her business, Snickety Snacks.

bighearts_5I’ve remained faithful and never shared it, even with the darling 12-year old who wanted it from me today!

bighearts_3Today has been a good day – lots of sugar cookies with the small ones and then a party with other home-schooling families from church. Tomorrow I head to University of Alabama to visit the pain management clinic there to see what they can do to help me…well, manage the pain caused by this craptastic medical device I have inside of me. (Thirteen weeks until it comes out, yahoo!!!)

lifesaverheartAnyhoooooo, as I wandered through today, I couldn’t help but think of you. I hope your mom helped you build family traditions, whether it be baking sugar cookies every Valentine’s Day or something else, like making Valentine cards for all of your older relatives. I am sure she did things like that. Well…at this point, I have to choose to believe she did – it’s my own version of fairy-dust and adoption-mythology, as it were. This fairy-dust is the only way I can endure a day full of Matthew, Luke, and Poppy laughing and giggling and carrying on like siblings do. It is on days like this that your absence in our lives is so noticeable to me.

Much love –

M.

What once was lost, now is found: I’m an auntie!!!

Dear Ms. Feverfew –

I have this brother in law, The Samoan. He was adopted as an infant while his parents were living in Samoa and then brought to the US.  His adoptive mother is the sweetest of little Mexican women, Grandma A. and his adoptive father is white.  The Samoan was raised thinking he was 1/2 Mexican and 1/2 white. He speaks fluent Spanish and can cook up some pretty mean Mexican food.

When he was 16, he found out he was in fact neither of those two things, but a full blooded Samoan.

Needless to say, it was a tough adjustment to discover that not only was he adopted but his entire cultural identity was founded on a lie.  Fast forward to four years ago – one of his aunties from his first family found him. Within the last year, he has met his clan and discovered he has countless cousins, uncles, aunties, and even a bunch of siblings.  When he met them, they fell in love with him and welcomed him home in true Polynesian style. (Have I ever mentioned that in the Samoan language there is no word that means “family” as in one mother, one father, and children? Their word for family means cousins, uncles, aunties, grandparents, brothers, sisters, moms, and dads).

Now to rewind a bit, when he was much younger, he had a girlfriend. They did what boyfriends and girlfriends do. Eventually they broke up. Then right before he married my fabulouslyamazing sister in law, Maryann, this old girlfriend showed up and said, “Uh, Samoan. I thought I should let you know that this little boy is your son.” She was married at the time and no one knew quite what to do. The little boy thought his mom’s husband was his dad and so they just let it be.

Fast forward to Christmas Eve. I have known about The Samoan’s son for several years and I have often wondered if he would try to find him or if his son would try to find The Samoan.  As I contemplated our un-reunion, I had this feeling about his son….and somehow knew that something was afoot in the universe. It was weird, don’t ask me how I knew. I just did.

This morning, I was chatting on the phone with my fabulouslyamazing sister in law and she said, “I had the sweetest Christmas imaginable.” And then she told me that The Samoan’s son had contacted him on Facebook a few days before Christmas. He then joined them for the annual Case of Christmas Eve Crabs when the whole crazy family comes together and enjoys cases and cases of Alaskan King crab legs on Christmas Eve, courtesy of Uncle Jesus (so named because of his long hair, beard, and placid nature).

I couldn’t stop crying as she told me about their wonderful experience. I am so happy for my newly found nephew and for his younger brother and sister who are equally delighted to discover they have an older brother and for The Samoan. The New Nephew is now my friend on Facebook and I am eager to get to know him.  My fabulouslyamazing sister in law warned him of the ghost of aunties past but he basically said, “Bring it on!” and that he was excited to get to know us too. Woohoo!!!!

It is a good day today. Maybe someday I can write about you joining us at The Samoan’s house for a Case of the Christmas Eve Crabs too.

Much love and belief –

M.

Steel My Mother-Heart

Dear Ms. Feverfew –

Tomorrow morning, I board a westbound flight heading back to Utah. I haven’t been back in over two years which means it has been two blessed years of not worrying if I would run into you, your parents, your siblings, your friends, your teachers, your boss, your neighbor, your Young Women’s adviser, your Sunday School teacher, your ex-boyfriends, your current boyfriends,  or anyone else that might recognize you in me.

It’s happened before – several times –  and every time I am sent into a tailspin. Oh, those unknowing souls continue on unknowing; I don’t care to educate them that “this girl I know from [insert name of your home city] looks just like you, you two could be twins!!!!” is actually my daughter, bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh, fruit of my age-old mother pain.  But I know. Boy, do I ever know.

So I am coming home tomorrow. The road from the airport to The World’s Best Sister-in-Law’s home takes me past your home. I wish there was some other way to get from point A to point B tomorrow, but there isn’t. There is no other way to get through but past your city that sits like a toll keeper into the valley, extracting a heavier and heavier fine from my heart with each passing year. I cannot even begin to tell you how many thousands of times I have had to grip the steering wheel, avert my eyes, purse my lips, and steel my heart against the upsurge of grief as I drive past.  There, there beats the first chamber of my mother-heart…It feels like death by a thousand small cuts.

So I am coming home tomorrow. An expatriate, a squatter, a refugee in the shadow of the mountains I love. And I will do what I have always done for the last 18 years…drive right through your little town and after a sharp intake of air I will remind myself to breathe, just breathe. In and out, over and over. Breathe, just breathe.

Therein Lies the Rub

Dear Ms. Feverfew-

I just wanted to reassure you (and myself) that my silence over the past couple of weeks isn’t from a lack of things to say. Trust me on that one. Certainly, the silence isn’t from a lack of having time to write to you either.  That I have in spades…at least for the next 4 weeks and 4 days until this baby is born. Since I am on bedrest, all I have right now is time – time and my thoughts and therein lies the rub.

When pressed for time, I am usually able to dash off something pithy, articulate, and insightful.  However, now that I have all the time a girl could want, I find myself unable to put my thoughts onto the page. But  this little Penelope Rose is pressing me, pushing me, pummeling me from the inside both literally and metaphysically. She is pushing the boundaries of my growth, my healing, my ability to rely on grace.  Her not-so-gentle roiling and rolling inside of me is a constant reminder of you and that she is not my first daughter.

So I just wanted you to know, that even though I am not writing as frequently, I think of you all the time. Maybe if I just start writing again, my thought will sort them selves out…

Much love,

M.

Confessions: A Rose by Any Other Name (Or In Other Words, a Happy Adoption Story)

Dear Ms. Feverfew –

I must confess something. I am an adult adoptee.

But not in the usual sense. Oh, I had the same parents “parent” me until I was 27 or so. When I say that I am an adult adoptee, I mean that I am literally an adult adoptee. As in, I was adopted when I was an adult. In fact, February 24 marked the 10th anniversary of my adoption – the day this Rose got a new name.

Without boring you to death with details, here is how I ended up being adopted at 27 years old:

I have seen much affliction in the course of my days, but unlike Nephi, I was not born to goodly parents. My parents where what you could politely call “dry” alcoholics – to the outside world, they appeared to have it all together but on the inside, things were rotten to the core. My biological father (also commonly referred to as “Dad DOS” or “bio-mass”) was abusive in every sense of the word. And horribly so. I will never forget the time when it really hit home how terrible of a person he was is.

It wasn’t in the middle of one of his late night visits to my room to “teach” me how to “be a real woman.” It wasn’t during one of the beatings with the buckle end of his belt (being careful to never leave marks where they might show from underneath my perfectly pressed Sunday dress). It was when I was in school and my drama teacher gave us an assignment. She wanted us to write down on a slip of paper the one piece of advice we remembered our father’s giving us the most when we were growing up.

I sat there. And sat there. And then started crying.

I couldn’t decided what to write down on that slip of paper.

Should I write, “I wouldn’t pee on you if you were on fire, you filthy pigs and dogs!”

Or was the piece of advice he gave me the most “Get out of my life – I wish you were dead, you puking whore of an animal!”

I left that class and went and sat in my car and cried for nearly two hours. This is the kind of “advice” my father gave us. Day in and day out from the time we were tiny until we were old enough to just laugh at him for his stupidity. But really – Who says those kinds of things to their tiny children? WHO???? It was like the scales had finally fallen away from my eyes and all pretense and hope for what could have been was stripped away.

I saw him for what he really was: A small-hearted, mean, cruel man treated his children like chattel and used them for his own perverse pleasures. He would never be the father – the daddy – I prayed for, that I thought “if I am just perfect enough, maybe then he will love me.”

I realized then that he would never love me because he was incapable of love.

So back to the main story: When my older sister was killed in a car accident there on I-15, my mom and I went to her apartment to collect some of her things before the funeral. While there, my mom came across her most recent journal. Inside of the journal was a letter written on paper from a yellow legal pad, cleanly creased into two folds. I remember my mom sitting on the edge of my sister’s bed there in the apartments at College Terrace, the tight Berber carpet under her feet as she unfolded the letter and began to read.

I stood there paralyzed…I knew what the letter was.

I watched my mother’s grief stricken face crumble into dust. The letter was my sister’s first attempt at confronting my father about the abuse she had endured at his hands. It was her voice from the grave, shattering the walls of the whited sepulcher my parents had built.

As some point that evening, my mother took me aside and asked me if my father had done “anything” to me. Still terrified of the man (I still lived under his roof after all and he threatened to kill my mother and me if I ever told anyone), I only said, “Well, there was this one time…” I didn’t have the courage to tell the whole story at that point. She proceeded to go to each of her other daughters and each of them had something to add (Remember, her oldest daughter is not yet buried and now she has just found out that her husband of 20+ years has been molesting her daughters – I don’t know how she endured that time period in her life…)

Late that same night, she confronted him and he admitted to it all. After the funeral, my parents legally separated but my mom tried to “make it work” for the sake of her temple marriage. After another two or so years, she filed for divorce. It was a supreme act of courage if you ask me – she still had 8 children under 18 and no education whatsoever but she knew she could no longer be married to this monster of a man. My father proceeded to spread rumors about her, about me, and about my sisters that poisoned our entire community. After all, he was a prominent church member, businessman, and volunteer in the community. We were just a bunch of “lying, thieving women.” It all came back to bite him in the proverbial butt though when my mom turned everything over the authorities and he ended up in the big house at Point of the Mountain, doing the time for the crime.

A few years later, my mother moved to a new community and was working on her Ph.D. when she met an incredible man. Through a curious turn of events, they ended up getting married (an equally supreme act of courage on his part. After all, when they married, my mother had 12 children AND an ex-husband who was  in prison for child molestation!!!) But this man…oh, this man. I wish I could clone him a million times over so every one could have a Papa like him. From the moment we became a family, he was most assuredly my father – the daddy – that I had longed and prayed for. In the shelter of his expansive love for me and my siblings, I finally felt like I had roots and wings.

The idea of him adopting me had never really crossed my mind until one day I was at an electronics shop and was picking something up. I said to the young guy behind the counter, “My name is M. Schmo and I am here to pick up the aforementioned electronics” (or something like that).  He quickly looked up and said, “Ooooh, are you related to Joe Schmo, like the Joe Schmo in Happy Valley?” The tone in his voice made it painfully obvious that he knew my father was in prison.

Ugh.

At that point, I knew I had to ditch the last very-uncommon-in-Utah yet very recognizable last name.  I didn’t care how, I knew it had to go. I simply did not want to be connected to that man or his evil deeds again.

A week or so later while I was over at The Parents for dinner, I told them of my experience. It was then that my mom casually said, “Hey, maybe your New and Improved Dad (my name for him) can adopt you and you can legally change your name!”  It was a decidedly brilliant suggestion and one we promptly acted on. Within a short time period, not only had my New and Improved Dad legally adopted me but also three other of my adult siblings. We all changed our surnames to our New and Improved Dad’s surname (even my married brothers did this!)  and went out to eat Mexican food to celebrate our new family ties. It was awesome.

I hadn’t realized how terribly important it was for me to shed my growing-up last name until I got those adoption papers. It was….it was freeing. Liberating.  I know is sounds horrible but I absolutely LOVE seeing his name on my amended birth certificate. (Yes, I got a falsified document,  just like you! Hey – now we can be twinners. Difference is, I have my original one tucked right behind my falsified one. You probably don’t. Well, at least not yet – I have a copy of your original birth certificate and will give it to you when you want it.)

I personally think that my adoption story is one of the best ones I have ever heard.  I decided as an adult what family I belong to. I decided what my name would be. I requested an amended birth certificate with my New and Improved Dad’s name on it. It was all about empowering me as a person instead of disenfranchising me and erasing my identity.  All of this was my choice and that, IMHO, is a happy adoption story.

So that is the story of  this Rose got a new name. And let me be the first to tell you – life by another name smells even sweeter than I imagined.

Much love,

M.