WARNING: Cute Baby Pictures May Cause Peeing (Lots of peeing)


I’m a major sucker for cute baby pictures.

My Pinterest account’s been largely created just so I can scope out adorable, wrinkly, chubby-cheeked darlings in all their precious glory.

So, imagine my excitement at dolling up my own little princess for cutsie pics.

About three weeks before my due date, my family photographer Melissa Jacobs began asking if she could shoot our princess.

Melissa’s more than a photographer – like any great photographer, she’s part of the family.

I met Melissa while working for Supervisor Pam Slater-Price. On the professional front: she’s the best. I’ve seen her all over town, from the PRSA Bernays Awards to weddings to elected official press conferences.

I’ve recommended her to clients (and they’ve always been pleased), plus she’s done my professional headshot and some shots of us when I was five months pregnant which we used for our 2011 Christmas cards.

The one below got rave reviews from family and friends:

Right away, I pilfered my Pinterest account for this little magical shot.

In true Melissa form, she responds saying “no problem” and she can’t wait to meet her when she arrives.

What I loved about the above picture: it focuses on the size difference of the baby. Can’t you just “feel” that cute little baby’s soft skin?

I just happened to have a cute stuffed elephant my mom gave me for the nursery this past Christmas.

Here’s Hank all ready for Dagny to come home:

When Baby Bird arrived two weeks ahead of my due date, it threw off our photo session calendar and instead of being two weeks old – she was three weeks on the dot.

I thought those baby photo sites must be nuts for recommending a baby be 10 days old or younger for newborn pictures.

What’s to shoot? All she did was sleep.

Bingo.

All the mommy sites recommended I have her well-fed, calm and be prepared for another soothing feeding.

But our best-laid plans quickly devolved into a comedy of errors made more intense by her screaming bloody-murder.

  • Best lighting caused her to blink angrily.
  • Peaceful visions of a naked baby butt replaced by a screaming, kicking, Army-crawling baby.
  • Sitting up to snuggle with the elephant. No. Laying down with the elephant. Kinda (see below).
  • Peeing. Lots of peeing. Peeing on hubs (he changed his shirt for the family shots), peeing on the nursing glider, peeing on the carpet, nearly peeing on Melissa.
  • Pacifier did not earn it’s name. She would either purse her lips or spit it out like a watermelon seed. The only thing that kind of worked was giving her hubs finger to gnaw on between shots.

After the sitting up pose flopped, Melissa re-assessed.

“Let’s lay her sideways with the elephant.”

Worked in theory (like the rest of the shoot), but she kept throwing her leg up in the air as soon as the camera started clicking and showing the world her pikachu.

Hubs sighed: “I’m failing already.”

Here was the best of the lot (it’s not cropped or touched up):

We finally took the elephant out of the equation and went far more simple.

Once Dagny calmed down and focused on Melissa, some beautiful shots materialized.

Hubs and I originally didn’t plan on being part of any shots and so, we didn’t get gussied up.

But since we were throwing plans out the window, what the heck?

I’m glad we did because she snapped some candid shots of hubs calming Dagny that brought tender little tears to my eyes.

Plus, she captured the three of us in our natural three-weeks-postpartum state: tired, unsure and making lots of mistakes.

I thank God everyday for bringing this priceless creature into my life.

She’s already teaching me how to let go (quite literally).

Our deepest appreciation to our dear (and patient) friend Melissa – she’s a celluloid maven.

Here’s some of my favorites from the day:

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Childless no longer…


A slight and soft creature, a tender 7 pounds in weight, with thick dark hair and an angel kiss on her forehead lay still in the crib beside me.

Hubs matched her exhausted, motionless state in the spare bed of the postpartum room at Naval Medical Center San Diego while I absorbed the moment.

After hours of chaos, it was silent.

A nurse walked in quietly and presented a tray of food. If I could have, I might have lunged at him for what amounted to very bland hospital fair.

I ate greedily adding up the hours in my head of my last meal: about 35. The makers of Jell-O would be wise to get hungry new moms to write their ad copy.

With my tray sufficiently scarfed, I turned my attention to the gentle sleeping face of my new little girl eying every strand of hair, her tiny finger nails, the curve of her mouth knowing all that grew within me.

I laid back in bed trying to rest but it was hard. Everything about her fascinated me.

Just as I was about to drift off, she began to cry in hunger. Hubs hardly stirred as I pulled her crib to me and feebly, awkwardly lifted her out.

Once cradled in my arms, her soft eyes opened and I felt the first of many awesome waves wash over me: I’m her mother, her teacher, her life giver.

We lay embraced for some time before hubs stirred and the spell was broken with the interruptions of nurses and doctors caring for her and me.

Sunday, I celebrated my first Mother’s Day with hubs, my mom and sis, and of course, my Baby Bird.

As I got ready for our celebratory brunch, I thought of a Mother’s Day several years ago when I attended Skyline Church service alone in the midst of our infertility struggles. Countless women filled pews wearing corsages, holding hands with their children, dressed in their Sunday best.

Rev. Jim Garlow began to bless the service with a special prayer for all the women who longed to be mothers and were dealing with infertility. Painful tears streamed from my closed eyes.

The road to motherhood since amounted to as much pain and sorrow as that enormous joy payload in those first precious silent moments alone with Baby Bird.

One day in the midst of my pregnancy, hubs caught me in thought and asked why I was shaking my head to myself.

“Even now, I know that it happened, but I still find it hard to believe.”

He smiled and said: “Everyone keeps saying it’s because we stopped ‘trying.’ But we stopped when we started the foster care process. Maybe it happened because we were finally ready.”

In life, some seeds of happiness just won’t grow no matter what we do.

While they might not be what you expect, life just might surprise you with something (or someone) greater than you ever imagined.

My first postpartum nurse came in to wish our little girl a happy birthday and write a note up on the wipe board for her. She asked how to spell her name and as she began writing with her back to me, she turned around with a confused look.

“Did you make that up?’

In the weeks following our ultrasound, we slogged through the girl’s section of a baby names book several times over. One night in bed while reading “Atlas Shrugged,” hubs was rebuffing my latest name suggestion and I jokingly said gesturing at the book: “How about Dagny?”

He looked it up in the baby name book sitting bedside. Old Norse meaning “rebirth.”

In the months that followed, we “tried it on” to see if it fit and sometimes I wasn’t sure until hubs brought her to me for our first collective snuggle.

She lifted her head, opened her dark and stormy eyes and looked at me.

At 34, my life started anew.

Doctor Four and the Great Fainter


We have wandered down the road of infertility for nearly three years.

The stages of our path mimicked those of grief and we have emerged from those dark early days with hope. I’ve learned to be more open when folks ask those once painful questions.

Plus, we see ourselves as future foster/ adoptive parents, with a particular organization in mind. We just need a schedule to coincide with the classes.

But sometimes, I still get a gentle shoulder pat or a look of pity. But it rarely bothers me anymore. I know mostly what others struggle with in knowing we’re childless has more to do with them than me.

When I quit my job at the County of San Diego a few months back, Brian added me to his Navy health care plan which allowed me to keep my dentist and optometrist (woohoo!), but lose my longtime family doctor, Dr. Roth (boo!).

The process of finding a new doctor gives me hives.

It’s one more person who knows all about my medical history; truly, the most intimate nonsexual relationship we have. I had the same family doctor until I was 23 when I moved to California 10 years ago. Since then, I’ve had three.

But what I found behind doctor door number four has been a pleasant surprise so far.

“You’re 33, healthy and no babies,” Dr. Deckert began. “Let’s talk about that.”

I thought back to my early dark days struggling with depression at discussing this very topic.

“I wish my therapist had been this warm,” I thought.

She asked about all the testing I had been through, which had all come back suggesting on paper I was a Fertile Myrtle. One test, somehow, had escaped me and she wanted to eliminate that factor straight away.

I was game. My heart and mind was ready for whatever this final progesterone test revealed.

Over drinks with two of my close girlfriends, I told them I was going through another test. Their mouths dropped open.

“I thought this was all done,” one said.

Yep, me too.

The morning of my lab appointment, Brian sent me a text message: “Good luck, this morning, Pica.”

I’m notoriously bad at giving blood. The American Red Cross would not take me in a million years; I’m a faint risk. But I find if I tell the nurse I’m a baby upfront, breath slowly and pay no attention to what’s going on, I can get through it fine.

I sat in the chair while the nurse reviewed all the testing my doctor ordered for me. I felt fine and calm until I saw her pull five tubes.

“A lot of testing this morning, huh?” she asked. “Don’t worry. I have a gift from God; I’m the best at this.”

Turns out, God was off-duty during my visit.

First, I nearly fainted followed by an embarrassing bout of shock. She pinned me back in the chair until help arrived. By the time she and another nurse virtually dragged me to a table to elevate my legs, I had sweat through my clothes, my pupils looked like pin tips and all the blood drained from my face.

Eventually, all five tubes were filled while I lay limp and soggy on the table. I sat up very slowly to find three nurses peering in at me from the hall. Like a good little girl, my nurse rewarded me with a chocolate chip cookie and a can of Pepsi.

The next day, I was driving to meet Brian for dinner when my cell phone rang. I answered my silly earbuds headset and it was my cheerful doctor.

“So, I like to see a 10 or better for progesterone levels,” she said, getting right down to business. I took a deep breath. “You’re at 18.5. You have the fertility of a 20-year-old girl.”

I was silent.

“Erica?”

“I’m here,” I said, and smiled. “Thank you for calling.”

She was right. It was good to know. And amazingly, I felt not one ounce of regret at how it all played out over the years.

I called Brian, emailed my girlfriends and then talked to my mom, who had her youngest child at 42.

Later at dinner, a cloud came across Brian’s face. He had been through his share of testing too and this meant more was likely on his horizon.

“So, it’s definitely me,” he said, sounding resigned. My heart broke.

I could see his wheels turning the information over in his mind. Then, the eternal optimist smiled.

“Well, if it has to be one of us, I’m glad it’s me,” he said.

“Oh? And why is that?”

“Well, for one, I can handle needles.”

Not Quite Dickens: Part III


Part III in my series on adoption.

When I burst into the adoption orientation, my heart was pounding.

Mostly because I was late, late, late. Seems I’m late to everything these days, especially to the finish line of the mommy race.

Suddenly, I realized that unlike the four other couples seated around the conference table, I was wearing a business suit. The facilitator Sarah greeted me with a smile.

“Barry called the other day,” she said, almost before I sat down beside Brian. “Thought I might have already met you, but I’m glad to meet you now.”

I quickly scanned the room and felt burning questioning eyes upon me.

“Yes, well, it seems we know a lot of the same people,” I said.

After learning about the process from the outside through the trusting eyes of my friends, Barry and Mindy, I sat in the room they once sat in looking across a long conference table at other people like us – childless. 

Sarah opened up the meeting by asking us to speak to one other person and share our story. It was a way for us to feel connected, maybe not feel so alone or odd in a world dominated by the happily fertile.

I turned to my right and met Jeff. He and his wife, a slight woman, went through Hell to get pregnant with their first daughter six years ago. Then, they faced the assisted reproduction process all over again. Finally, they were exhausted and decided it was time for another option.

He spoke softly and looked defenseless, raw. He and his wife wore their stress, their sadness, their longing like soaked heavy blankets from their thin frames.

We soon moved on to a topic he more enjoyed: his landscaping business.

The couple on the end seemed the youngest of the group. They were perky, cheerful and unlike the other couples, were eager to start the process without knowing a single thing more than what they knew when they arrived. 

“Can we start tomorrow?” he asked at one point.

A third couple diagonal from me were slightly older than Jeff and his wife. In their household, she was the one who resisted adoption.

“She’s a school teacher,” it was explained, as rivers of tears flowed from her eyes. “She sees kids all day and for her, it was important to have a baby of her own.”

The couple directly across from us met later in life at a sporting event. He seemed gregarious and she, a quiet wallflower. She looked at once hurt and relieved when Sarah explained that she has limits on the age of her couples, which we all qualified to meet. Whew!

Sarah detailed the various forms of adoption for both international and domestic.

Her nonprofit, Adoption Center of San Diego, offers independent adoption. She facilitates the adoption between birthparents and adoptive parents, suggests though doesn’t mandate any particular adoption attorney to handle the legal matters, offers counseling both to birthparents and adoptive parents, and makes the connection with the county for the home study visit after the baby is born and home with the adoptive parents.

In theory, any couple could arrange such an adoption with a willing birthparent, an attorney, and a home study appointment. However, Sarah’s 17 years of adoption matching does seem to suggest she knows what she’s doing. That, and I had seen the results of her successful matching for my friends.

She showed us a video of some of her matched birthparents and adoptive parents with the children. I had watched it online before the meeting, but the school teacher clearly had not. In a few minutes, the tissues on the table of hardly touched food was passed her way.

I recognized several of the interviewed adoptive families, and one new one that I somehow overlooked before. I learned forward, looked at Sarah and she mouthed: “I thought you would know them too.”

Most of the birthparents were actually single birthmoms. The ages ranged from 16 to 36. Sarah said her oldest birthmother was 44. In each instance, the reasons to place for adoption was different.

One 20-year-old single mom already had a baby and was unable to care for another. Another 36-year-old single birthmom always wanted to be a mom, but her partner left her alone without means to care for her baby.

One of the birthmoms sat beside her adoptive mom and explained why she felt good about her decision: “She told me that I gave her this great gift, but she was the gift. I don’t have to worry that my baby will grow up in a good home.”

The rounds of questions began post video.

The number of birthmothers who change their minds? In nearly two decades, less than 10.

How close are you with birthmoms after the birth? Really up to you and the birthmom, but communication before the adoption can deliniate your path.

Then, the school teacher’s husband asked: “How many of the birth dads have contested custody?”

Sarah looked around at the men: “None.”

Silence.

“You’re surprised?” she asked. “I’m not sure why they don’t, but I’ve thought about this over the years. I think if they had other options, I probably wouldn’t get a phone call.”

Then, Sarah explained her “funnel” theory.

You take all the potential qualities of a child: race, sex, mental/ emotional/ physical disabilities, fetal drug or alcohol exposure. From that, you determine the width of your funnel. The less restrictions, the wider your funnel and the more likely you’ll be matched sooner than those with a more narrow funnel.

I considered my funnel as we wrapped up the three-hour session. Could I care for a disabled child? What about a child exposed to alcohol or drugs? Would a child of a different race face social problems?

I realized that I wasn’t prepared to define my funnel.

A funnel. Not something I dreamed about when I wanted to be a mom.

I did dream of how I could deliver the news: a romantic card to my mate asking what they were doing on the due date. I even imagined the dinner scene and maybe I’d even tape the positive testing stick inside the card (cleaned, of course).

Then, just as we were about done, Sarah passed out her fee sheet.

And that’s when I almost passed out.

Based on our income, her new fees could be $20,000 to $25,000 depending on the additional cost I had not considered (care of the mother). That was roughly $5,000 to $10,000 more than we expected and even then, we would be tight.

The federal government allows for an adoption tax credit of nearly $14,000 and the Navy reimburses costs up to $2,000 for Brian. But much like my college years, the feds just don’t quite get me there.

Still in the fog of sticker shock, Brian and I discussed the matter over a beer. We were excited to be parents and we wanted a baby. But like the rest of America, we have to be financially smart during the economic downturn. Neither of us expected income increases anytime soon and our safety net funds would need to grow by leaps and bounds to swing it.

As the weeks wore on after orientation, our hope peaked and valleyed.

We continued to save as much as possible and reviewed the after-orientation meeting letter from Sarah. The next step would be to sit down with her for an in-depth meeting to discuss our path. 

What to do? Continue saving and hope for a windfall? Reconsider that path and attempt to navigate the County adoption process hoping its less than the average 2 year wait? Go back to fertility treatments and roll the dice while Brian’s Navy care could pick up those heavy costs?

Two weekends ago, I went to my third baby shower of the year (a fourth happened last weekend out-of-state). I tooled around the Babies ‘R Us seeking out registry items, something I’m becoming more proficient at than wedding registries, when I saw this young pregnant woman with her little girl in the shopping cart.

As they passed by, the little girl smiled and waved at me. I returned the gesture.

The next day, I sat besides my girlfriend Erin H. at our girlfriend’s baby shower while she breastfed her newborn, Lily. She, like our many other friends, asked about our adoption plans. I told her where we were and from the outside, it sounded like I had it all figured out.

Really, I still felt like Alice dashing through limbo asking the Cheshire Cat for directions with the clock-ticking White Rabbit ushering me to hurry, hurry, hurry.

Two days later, a fifth friend announced her pregnancy. I congratulated her and then, I checked my watch.

“I have to go. I’m late for a meeting.”

Not Quite Dickens: Part II


After the press conference promoting San Diego County Adoptions concluded, my boss asked to see a picture of the adoptive mom’s children.

The pictures of beautiful waiting children through the county’s Heart Gallery program surrounded us. The pictures would tour the county’s libraries to promote the county’s adoption program. One picture of a young boy captivated me (above).

Kim, the adoptive mom, reached into a bag and pulled out – not a wallet – but a 8 x 10 framed picture of sisters, 7-year-old Melody and 6-year-old Valina, with her and her husband.

She beamed with pride as Pam asked about the little girls. The new mom shared their personality differences and her 2 1/2 year process to complete the adoption.

“They’re beautiful,” Pam said, showing the picture around to the library director and others.

“They’re my whole life,” the new mom responded.

I turned to my co-worker Jill, who knew of my infertility struggles: “I’m going to adopt.”

A few weeks later, I found myself on my fourth jury duty and unable to locate a parking space at the El Cajon Courthouse.

Luckily, as a county employee, I could park at the county’s Health and Human Services Agency building nearby, which just happened to be the child services office.

After the court released me and the remaining jurors, I marched right into the child services office.

“Do you want to foster a child?”

“No,” I said. “I don’t think I could give a child back.”

The idea of mothering a child that could be returned to birth parents or extended family seemed too difficult.

I came home with information for Brian. A letter would soon come in the mail with some upcoming adoption/ foster care orientation meetings. We would simply pick one, attend and the process would begin.

When the letter arrived, I felt some dread. The adoptive mom at the press conference said it took 2 1/2 years and in some cases, adoptive parents foster a child first. We had already been trying for more than 2 years and I was eager to move forward.

A light bulb went off and I recalled that my dear friend, Barry, told me years earlier that he adopted his daughter after I said how much she resembled his wife (I still think she does).

I fired off an email and asked how he adopted: through the public county agency, a private agency, an adoption attorney? Was it open, closed, semi-open?

He soon wrote back and offered to speak with me. He and his wife went through open adoption through an independent facilitator at Adoption Center of San Diego. Little did I know, it was the very same organization that fasciliated the adoptions of five other couples I knew.

I immediately took his offer and explored the company’s website.

Open adoption seemed weird.

All the parties know each other, they meet before the child is born and essentially, select each other. Though I longed to adopt, a birth mother carrying a child for nine months knowing someone else would parent it felt odd to me.

The day I was to speak to Barry, I had my questions written out. A million butterflies clanged around inside.

“Do you know what open adoption is?” he began.

I gave a very basic response that all parties know each other and disclose pertinent details (medical history, racial and ancestral information, etc.).

Correct.

But, as he explained it, the relationship could vary from the vary basic (meet before the birth, relinquish rights, occassional correspondence) to very close (meet and become friends, stay friends with the birthmom after the birth, visit in person regularly).

His experience tended to swing more to the “very close” with his birthmother. But as his birthmother grew up and had a family of her own, the relationship loosened up some and visits over 10 years became less frequent.

Along with all the other open adoption aspects come the standard legal requirements for the signing over of parental rights to the adoptive parents, background checks, character references and the home study, when the county performs an inspection of the home.

It all begins with the orientation, a follow-up one-on-one with the fascilitator and then, the Dear Birthmother letter introducing yourself to potential birthmoms.

While its a much faster process, its also a much more costly option than public county adoptions. The nonprofit bases all the possible associated costs on a sliding scale according to income – anywhere from $15,000 to $22,000.

Gulp. That’s a sizeable bite.

While most of the birth parents are just birth moms, there are some couples and not always the stereotypical teenagers. The reasons they seek to place their children through adoption are as varied as adoptive couples’ reasons to adopt.

“Don’t think for a second they’re ‘giving up’ their children,” Barry said. “It’s a tough decision and they are trying to find the best possible couples to parent their child.”

From start to finish, his adoption took a few months (not years).

I grew very excited and took all my notes home for Brian.

The range of the relationship spectrum with the birthmother concerned Brian. There’s no way of knowing how close the relationship might be and what constitutes sufficient contact (birthday parties, Christmas, or the annual picnic hosted by the organization).

I shared my plans with my current and former bosses, both of whom responded to my emails in mere seconds with the kind of loving support you would expect from your parents. Very touching.

I reached out to another Adoption Center couple and this time, I spoke to the mom. She’s also a friend whose first adoption fell through; a possibility that gave me pause despite knowing it worked out well in the end.

Mindy immediately agreed and we met a week before our orientation meeting for coffee.

After catching up on the latest political happenings, we dove into the topic she and I had been discussing for years: motherhood.

We first met nearly six years ago when the baby itch hit her hard. She spoke at a club I presided over and during a meeting break, I asked how her job with the governor was treating her.

“Some days, I just want to give it up, stay home and have babies,” she said very matter-of-factly.

Months later, her husband told me they were having a hard time conceiving. I was heartbroken for them.

She felt she waited too long and devoted too many years to her career. She even toyed with writing a book on the subject (which I still think is a good idea).

A few years later, here we were in the same boat.

I remember when their first adoption fell through. An email popped into my mailbox explaining to their friends and family what had transpired to handle all questions at once.

Then, just a few months before the Presidential Election, another email arrived.

They were the proud parents of a baby boy! A few days later, I met tiny Zach at a Cindy McCain event in Coronado. Love at first sight.

The successful adoption match took place in a matter of days.

“We met on a Thursday, we liked each other and the process was under way,” she said. “Zach was born the next week.”

My mouth hung open.

“I know,” she said. “But we already had much of the other requirements done.”

Her relationship with the birth mother also contrasted Barry’s and has been nearly non-existant since the birth.

She pulled out a picture book of Zach. At 2 years old, he was quite the charmer.

Mindy sits on a board for a foster care organization that tries to reunite children removed from the home with biological parents, if possible.

“In the middle of all this fertility and adoption stuff, here I am reading cases of parents putting out cigarettes on their babies,” she said. “Some of those babies never attach, never get held and feel loved. They grow up dysfunctional.

“The world needs good mommies,” she said.

I looked forward to my orientation the next week and felt like I belonged for the first time in a few years.

As you grow up, you find ways to feel connected to those around you – learning to drive, turning 18 and 21, graduating college, traveling, weddings and marriage and finally, parenthood.

My girlfriends who conceived spontaneously will luckily never knew the pain of my struggles. As a result, they can’t relate to my experiences anymore than I can relate to theirs.

Mindy and I laughed about knowing more than anyone should about conception, drawers filled with testing sticks and that day when you find an old birth-control pill packet and toss it away.

When she decided to adopt, she said it felt like a weight lifted off her shoulder and knew then it was right.

Like magic. Like love. Like faith.

As my girlfriend Erin W. keeps reminding me, no one way to become a mom is easier than any other. 

You have to take risks, and you have to be brave. 

Learn more about foster and adoption services:

*Not Quite Dickens: Part III will examine our orientation meeting.

Not Quite Dickens: Part 1


Charles Dickens captured the isolation, fear and shame of orphan life in the spare, cold prose of classics such as “Oliver Twist” and “Great Expectations.”

How dare undernourished Oliver ask for more gruel at the workhouse?

Hard to imagine facing a world alone, never knowing your “people” and wondering like Little Orphan Annie clinging to her half of her parent’s locket: “Who am I? Where did I come from?”

“I’m going to have a regular mother and father, like a regular kid,” she told Daddy Warbucks. “I am! I don’t mean to hurt your feelings. You’ve been nicer to me than anybody in the whole wide world, but I’ve been dreaming of my folks for as long as I can remember, and I’ve just got to find them.”

Heartbreaking for Annie; heartbreaking for Daddy Warbucks.

Facing the major life decision of becoming an adoptive parent, I realize these images of both fiction and popular culture shaped my own education on the subject of adoption. I’ve known adoptees (one of my best friends since 1st grade was adopted) virtually my whole life and yet, I know very little on the topic.

I’m a research demon. And for me, it’s made every one of my life decisions easier because I’d rather know than be surprised. I’ve already compiled a list of some books to read (I’m open to more). Of course, my mother knows this and cautioned that I shouldn’t “research and over-analyze this to death.”

So, I’ll try to strike a balance.

Simply put, adoption means assuming the parental rights and responsibilities to rear a child born of someone else as their own. Today, adoption helps build a family, but that wasn’t always so.

Let’s go back to the origins of adoption.

The first orphanages sprung up in the 1st Century as a place to house and raise children whose parents either died or could not otherwise care for them. This practice dates back to Jewish and Athenian law as a means to care for the offspring of killed military members. 

Plato considered the public charge of caring for orphans as a duty of a community to raise up a proper next generation no matter its relation – a fairly kind ideal.

But in ancient Rome, adoption merely allowed for political gains and powers for the exchange of wealth and prestige between families – much as marriage might also have served. Therefore, it’s no surprise many of Rome’s most powerful rulers were adopted. In other cases, Roman adoptees served more as slaves and therefore, trade commerce.

In other civilizations, such as Indian and China, adoption of abandoned children allowed for the continuity of religious teachings and a means of passing on culture.

After Rome fell, the world’s attitude about blood lines shifted.

Family history and preservation took a front seat to political or monetary gains and the practice of adoption all but became verboten. The result: a higher population of abandoned children. (Cue the image of a swaddled baby left at a church doorstep.) 

During the middle ages, the volume of abandoned children taken in at monasteries eventually led to the children being either sent off permanently or by day to  area households or workhouses upon a certain age as trade apprentices.

Later, orphanages largely replaced monasteries as public institutions to house abandoned or orphaned children. The settings became ripe for scandals throughout the Western world.

Much like the abandoned children of Europe caused the rise of institutions, the rapid influx of immigrants to the United States and aftermath of the Civil War created the rise of orphanages.  Most of the adopted children served as family nannies or farm hands (like my “Anne of Green Gables, ” who was supposed to be a boy for farm work).

But the huge numbers of orphaned children overwhelmed the system and rampant mistreatment and exploitation led to the formation of protective laws. In the early 1900s, the Progressives fought to end the orphanage system altogether and figure out a new way to place children who could not be cared for by their parents.

In 1909, President Theodore Roosevelt said the nuclear family presented the best suited environment to raise abandoned or orphaned children. By 1923, the foster and adoptive system virtually conquered the orphanage system.

Soon after, Wales and England followed the trend and later, the rest of Europe.

Despite the movement, bloodline concerns still plagued the stigma of adoption. Enter Hitler. Following the disgraceful Nazi beliefs of eugenic ideology leading to the “cleansing” campaign during World War II, attitudes greatly shifted.

Since the 1950s, the orphanage setting began to slowly disappear under the public scrutiny of horror stories, such as girls being shipped off to have a child in secret and be shamed into silence of the birth, or children growing up and reporting cases of horrific abuse.

As child-birth related deaths decreased, the need for such institutions followed suit. More and more, charities focused efforts on assisting birth parents to work through parenting obstacles, such as housing, finances, family support or drug/ alcohol abuse. The law began to also opt for more aggressive parent-child reunification.

From these ideals, the popularity of adoption arose in the 20th Century and largely, it’s considered an American institution.

From 1945 to 1974, illegitimate births rose as the sexual cultures progressed during a time known as the Baby scoop era when adoption rates skyrocketed. At the same time, science began to give more credence to nurture over nature, which further reduced eugenic issues.

And the result: a solution to both an unwed mother and infertile couples. Today, adoption practices span the globe, but even still – the United States leads the pack.

Adoption in the United States peaked in 1970. Some believe invention of The Pill and legalization of abortion affected the recent three-decade decline.

Annually, the United States successfully places about 127,000 adoptive children with roughly 4 million live births each year. Since the 1980s, nearly 500,000 children nationwide wait in the foster care system – either for reunification with their biological parents or permanent placement with an adoptive family.

The adoption system utilizes two general practices: closed and open.

Open adoption allows identifying information to be shared between biological and adoptive parents. The degree of openness varies depending on the people and agencies involved. Open adoption can be an informal arrangement with little direct contact between the parties or as interactive with face-to-face meetings before, during and after the birth.

Closed adoption maintains secrecy of all identifying information that prohibits the disclosure of the adoptive parents and adoptees identity. Some information may be exchanged, such as medical history, religious and ethnic background. Surrendered or “safe haven” babies, where the children are anonymously and safely surrendered at hospitals, fire departments or police stations shortly after birth, are considered closed adoptions.

Avenues to adopt include: private domestic, foster care, international, embryo and common law (think common law marriage).

Infertility caused most parents to seek adoption to unrelated children. One study reports that infertile couples account for 80 percent of unrelated infant adoptions and half of adoptions through foster care.

Through modern medicine, many infertile couples now have far more options to exhaust to fit in the Western culture mold of a mom, dad and 2.5 kids. For couples that are unsuccessful with infertility treatments and continue to deeply desire their of their own, they can turn to a surrogate. If biology isn’t as important, they consider adoption and begin that journey.

Popular culture champions adoption due to such famous adoptive parents as Angelina Jolie and Sandra Bullock, making the process seem easy and trendy. But private sentiments reflect a vastly different opinion.

Recent adoption attitudes studies show that nearly one-third of those surveyed believed adoptees are less-well adjusted, more prone to medical issues, and predisposed to drug and alcohol problems. Yet those same people believed adoptive parents were “lucky, advantaged, and unselfish.”

Views on foster children went further. Negative views reflected in the study so far as to conclude that children in the foster care system could never help create a “normal” family. 

Leapin’ lizards.

Well, I hate to break the bad news: no family is “normal.” Never met one including mine. And I know all about a parent raising unrelated children. My father raised my older half siblings and to this day, I’ve never heard my brother call him anything but “dad.”

Through all the Oliver Twists and turns of the system, two facts remain unchanged: too many children and not enough parents.  

As the late famous adoptee Dave Thomas, founder of the Wendy’s fast food chain, said: “Every child deserves a home and love. Period.” And maybe a chocolate Frosty once in a while.

*Not Quite Dickens: Part II will examine our chosen adoption path.

Released from Hopeless Prison


“Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.” – The Shawshank Redemption by Stephen King

Years ago, I visited a prison as a newspaper reporter to write a story about female inmates convicted of non-violent offenses who assisted the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection during wildfires.

The inmates considered the sentence a gift – a chance to get outside and be productive during their time. One of the girls I met looked to be about 20-years-old with the eyes of a much older, broken woman. Her crimes: drugs, petty theft and prostitution.

I asked what she missed most from home.

“My baby,” she said.

Years later, I found myself in prison.

I committed no crime except the one of expecting life to magically fall in line, and fulfill all my hopes and dreams of motherhood. When it failed to deliver, I played right into the hands of doubt, fear and cripling ego that dealt me a dreadful blow.

After more than a year of riding emotional tidalwaves between feeling fine about being childless and utterly consumed with despair – I hit a significant crossroads: my mother.

As a Christmas gift, I offered to pay for half of my parents plane tickets to come visit with us for a couple weeks. I missed my parents dearly and the time apart during such a miserable life experience left me missing them more than ever.

By that point, I had grown rather accostomed to pretending all was well. Projecting a put-together and well-adjusted career woman as no Meryl Streep performance could measure against and fooling most anyone into either believing the facade or being given reason enough not to ask.

Though I did underestimate my most devoted fan.

My mom saw through the garbage straight into me for who I was. She saw me as a child who allowed time and life experiences to pile a lot of nasty gunk on top of my true self. All those emotional, physical and material changes which may distract, but can never truly alter who we are at our deepest roots.

One day while the house was empty, she pulled me outside to the porch and pointed me to a chair at the patio table. She yanked a cigarette from her pack, tapped it lightly against the back of her hand, put it to her mouth and said: “We’re going to talk.”

She possessed the most unmistakeable and famous of “mom tones.” Even as a child playing as far away as possible from the house in our neighborhood, she would yell for us to come home for dinner. Despite the volume and distance, I could distinguish between “normal mom yell” and “you’re in trouble.”

“What is going on?” she asked. “Do you know what you’re all about?”

Frankly, I didn’t. My emotional state led me to become a work-a-holic prone to superficial distractions. It drained me so that I hardly recalled myself not under deress or strain.

All I could manage in response: “I don’t know. I’m lonely.”

She puffed out smoke and said: “I believe that you are. You need to find yourself and learn what you’re all about again. You need hope.”

Hope.

Powerful, gigantic word when you feel so small; like a field mouse lifting a boulder.

Her direction: Stop listening to all the outside noise.

Seemed outside noise rang in my ears daily. I let my ear be bent by every person on the street who would instantly deem themselves fertility specialists by beginning: “My cousin did this …” or “You should do that …”

“What do you want?” she asked. “You have all the answers to your problems, but you have to love and trust yourself.”

Again. Hope.

Hard to find it when you feel isolated; trapped by the misery of your own design. The silence and shame hung around my neck and chained me down for a death sentence.

“You’re my most put-together child,” she said. “You’ve gone through a Hell of a lot to get where you are. Don’t let this stop you.”

I explained that I did not want to nor could I emotionally handle the trial-and-error process of fertility treatments right now. Perhaps it could be a later option.

“OK,” she said. “That’s a start. What about adoption?”

Adoption. It started an argument earlier in the process when I contacted the county for information. Brian didn’t want to “raise someone else’s kid” and thought I should “make more of an effort to exhaust all other options.”

My mom squashed out a cigarette and began a new one.

“I’ve seen you with kids, Erica,” she said. “A child from you or someone else will be your baby. Talk to him again.”

But what if he still rejects the notion? Where do we go from there?

“You have to be brave – life requires it,” she said. “Darlin’, I didn’t think I’d be divorced from my first husband with two young kids. Shit happens. And as hard as it was going through all that, I don’t regret a day because I would have missed out on your dad. Hell, keep trying doors until one opens.”

Mom knew best: I could give up or I could get up.

After our talk, she made me a lunch that provided solace as only a mom could. We sat at my dining room table talking about other sunnier topics.

I felt the chains loosen and grow lighter, a knot in my chest disappeared and my heart opened.

I felt free.

That night, I told Brian that I could be a better “me,” but I needed him to meet in the middle. He did not object; the conversation had begun.

Two days laters, I took the whole family to a drive-in movie to watch a double feature of “Sherlock Holmes” and “The Blind Side.” The winter air forced us all to stay in our cars – Whitney with me and Brian during “Sherlock” and then she switched to sit with my parents during “Blind Side.”

The second film was based on the true story of a white Southern family who adopts a teenage African American future professional football player. On the way home, Brian said: “That was better than I was expecting. Sort of changed my mind about adoption.”

A lock released. A door opened.

Over the next few months, my hope grew greater and stronger daily.  I spoke to a friend, Barry, about the adoption of his daughter a decade ago through Adoption Center of San Diego and tomorrow, I’ll speak to another friend, Mindy, who went through the same nonprofit for her adoption.

Our orientation on May 13 – once a months away appointment – now happens in just over a week.

Today, its hard to remember the sad inmate my mother spoke with at Christmas. I hope to never meet her again. I hope to never lose sight of my true self. I hope to be a mom this time next year. I hope my baby’s laugh sounds a wonderful as it has in my dreams.

I hope.

The Blonde Princess


When my baby sister, Whitney, turned 5-years-old – my mom threw her a birthday party. Being about three years older, I knew my sister and her friends would stalk me around the house and want to be in all my “big girl” stuff.

I lamented this to my mom who said flatly: “Erica, if you’re the big girl – act like it.” Within a few hours, I had filled the house with big pink balloons and girls in cute little party dresses showed up to celebrate my little sister.

But one little girl stood out like a princess among paupers. Becky walked into the house wearing a pink dress with flaxen blonde, curly hair and the brightest, biggest blue eyes cut like glass orbs from the ocean’s surface. And when she giggled, she lit up the room with her fearless embrace of happiness. She loved life with her whole body.

Whitney and Becky became friends in pre-school and stayed best friends throughout school. They talked about boys, borrowed my dresses, shared their deepest secrets, rescued a stray cat and pulled a series of toilet-paper pranks on each other’s houses that live in infamy.

After high school, Whitney joined the Navy and was stationed in San Diego. Becky stayed behind in Fenton, moved in with a high school sweetheart and putzed around our hometown working and sometimes attending college.

One day, she was in her bathroom when one of her bright blue eyes closed shut on its own. When it flickered back open, she ignored it. But as the weeks wore on, the strange occurrence happened again and again.

The following month, Whitney went home for a reunion at our lakefront home. All their friends came to enjoy a beautiful Michigan summer day drinking, eating, telling stories and reminiscing about days gone by.

“So, I think something’s wrong with my eye,” Becky told Whitney. “I have an appointment with the eye doctor tomorrow.”

The next day, the optometrist examined Becky’s beautiful lense. He sighed: “Becky, nothing is wrong with your eye. I believe its neurological.”

She began doing research into what might cause something like uncontrolled muscle movements in her eye.

“I think I may have muscular dystrophy,” she told Whitney. “At least, that’s why I’m hoping.”

Weeks later, a neurologist examined scans of Becky’s 22-year-old brain and found a small tumor. The type of brain cancer was typical in juveniles and rarely seen in adults. It was possible she had the mass for many years and it just laid low. She began radiation right away.

The following month, I came home to visit my parents for a family reunion at the house. Becky stopped in for a visit while the house was momentarily quiet. The size-zero petite beauty showed some signs of the radiation: puffy face and dark under eye circles. But she spoke very matter-of-fact about the situation.

“I hate the puffiness,” she said. “I’m really tired too. I can’t imagine how exhausting chemo will be.”

That night, I went to a dive bar in Fenton (though I think they all qualify as such) and ran into so many fellow high school graduates. One girl graduated in the same year as Whitney and Becky; she asked if I knew about her diagnosis.

“Yes, she stopped by today and we talked,” I said. “Her spirits seem really high.”

She looked at me with a steady gaze: “It’s really bad, Erica.”

Six months later, I planned to come home for Christmas. While on the phone chatting with my mom about the details, she interrupted and said she visited Becky.

“I wouldn’t recognize her in a store,” she said. I felt dread wash over me and it returned as Whitney and I pulled up to her mother’s mobile home in Holly. The sharp winter air hit my face and froze my lungs with each breath. We stood outside listening to the sounds of Christmas music from within.

Becky’s mom, Gina, answered the door and immediately laid into Whitney for taking her “sweet, damn time getting over here. It’s not easy keeping Becky up.”

We walked into the living room and saw Becky laying helplessly in a hospital bed. Most of her blond curls were gone, her eye that kept closing had gone blind and her other eye could hardly focus on objects. She appeared to be about a size 16 and memories of her cute fashion sense became replaced by a sweat suit. Her breathing labored as she struggled to speak and fight against the urge to give in to her exhaustion.

Though we kept conversation light, the sadness hung in the room. A boy Whitney and Becky went to school with popped in for a visit and lifted the mood considerable. After an hour, we took a group picture – propping her up with our hands – and drove home to pick up the family for church.

The following winter, I planned to come home for the holidays and squeeze in my bridal shower with family. Updates of Becky’s progress changed every time I talked with my mom. The tumor shrunk, the tumor grew, the tumor’s almost gone – the tumor’s bigger than ever.

And while Whitney was deployed to Iraq, Becky asked us to keep information to her about her progress vague so she wouldn’t worry. We respected her wishes, but we knew Whitney may hate us later for not being more forthcoming.

The day of the shower proved to be the coldest day that winter in Michigan and being in California for six years – my blood thinned out to ocean mist. But family and friends showed up in fine fashion – even Becky. Gina wheeled her into the party, parked her at a table and I sat down for a good chat. Her giggle lit me up.

“I was thinking about making blankets for needy kids,” she said. “I sit all day anyway.”

Her mobility had returned some and she was going through physical therapy to regain her motor skills. She sat up, could stand at times, had lost some weight and spoke far better than the year before.

The next day, Gina and Becky came over for a visit at the house and exchange Christmas presents. She gave me a pink hat box filled with potpourri and a lottery ticket. I kept them both. We talked about the wedding in August and how they planned on attending. It filled me with such hope.

“I’m going to dance at your wedding,” she said. “That’s what I think about at physical therapy.”

Months later, Whitney called from Iraq in the middle of the night. I answered in a groggy state.

“Why won’t Becky talk with me long on the phone when I call?” she asked. “Gina jumps on and I never get to talk to her.”

The tumor grew to the point of pinching off her verbal abilities. Sometimes, her voice cut out on her.

Whitney hoped to be home by the beginning of August and had already bought a plane ticket to Michigan departing immediately after the wedding. The day of the wedding, I thought about my little blonde princess and how she wanted to be there.

The day we returned from our honeymoon, I called Whitney to pick us up as planned.

“I’m in Michigan,” she said. “Becky’s dying.”

A couple of days later, I popped into the office to pick something up and my cell phone rang. Brian handed it to me. It was Whitney; I didn’t want to answer.

“Becky’s gone,” she said. “It’s OK, Erica. She was in terrible pain at the end. She couldn’t speak, lost all her functions … she just shut down. I stayed with her until she was gone and waited for the authorities.”

Becky approved all her funeral arrangements and made one request that spoke to her quirky sense of humor.

“She made us play ‘Another One Bites the Dust’ by Queen,” Whitney said. “She made me so mad. I’ll never be able to listen to that song again.”

She never has.

Losing her best friend at 24 changed Whitney immeasurably. She remains fairly broken-hearted and misses her everyday. A framed picture of them before Becky was sick still sits on Whitney’s desk – it’s the only framed picture of any friend she has.

Years after Becky died, Whitney faced some tough times and had a hard go of things when she left the Navy.

“You know, when I’m afraid – I think about all the things Becky never got to do and then I do them for her,” I told her. “She’d probably give anything to have your problems.”

Whitney thought for a moment and said: “You’re right. I never thought about it like that.”

Next month, I will visit my childhood home for the last time as my parents pack up what they want and discard the rest to live in Texas near my brother. It will be my first visit since I married, first visit since Becky died.

It’s hard to imagine home without her and that silly, chittering laugh. Of all the memories of her, I cherish my first of her most. I think of her as an eternal little girl – happy, healthy and living an inspiring life that would leave the world a better place.

The Great Depression


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Following the Great Crash of 1929, American prosperity came to a halt and folks who once lived high on the hog stood in bread lines for rations. Our economic crash caused a ripple effect worldwide and from 1929 until World War II in 1941, it left some countries with unemployment rates as high as 33 percent. Survival. That was all people hoped for in those grim, cheerless days. Whatever work came their way, they took gladly and without contemplation of the pay – money was money.

In Michigan, the effects of the Great Depression continued to affect my mother, who was a child. She remembered Grandma Glasford making chicory coffee by using a stove top pot. She would boil the water, add the chicory and when it was ready, she cracked an egg into the pot. When the egg was cooked, Grandma Glasford would ladle the egg out of the bottom with all the chicory grounds baked in. Eggs they had, chicory was limited and piping hot cup free of grounds – a luxury. When folks face tough times, they’ll do whatever they can to get through and hopefully, with their wits.

After Brian and I found out we were infertile, I fell to pieces. It wasn’t until then that I realized my entire life built up to that expectation. But who expects when things move along so well in life that one day the bottom will drop out?

As I went through the stages of grief, sadness consumed me and the more I tried to ignore my desire to have children – the more it seemed they and pregnant women surrounded me. I felt like I was starving and had not one penny to my name while everyone dined on filet mignon. Time and again, I faced the questions from friends, family and co-workers as to when were going to have children. Inside, I would feel the lump form in my throat as I would casually toss aside the questions.

The more I struggled to keep my emotional well-being in check, the more my deep desires for motherhood rebelled. But I still couldn’t force myself to tell anyone – I felt so much shame. Is a women a woman if she doesn’t have a baby?

Finally, Brian and I decided that it was time for me to see a therapist. We went through the Navy family services and were referred to a counselor in Santee.

The day of my first session, I sat in my office nervously bouncing my leg and wondering what it would be like. I pictured the movie images of lying back on the couch, staring at the ceiling and pouring your heart out. Upon entering the office, I scanned the room and saw no one from my peer group. They all looked fairly haggered, drug-addled and financially desitute. I checked in and sat beside a woman using an oxygen tank to breath. The office sat silent save her labored breathing.

I was called in. The doctor seemed to very much represent the clientele in the waiting room. The room was dimly lit, the blinds drawn and two chairs sat in opposite corners facing each other.  I sat down and suddenly felt very awkward. While I had always had a natural gift for talking with others about their troubles, I found it difficult to open up. The first session progressed more like a tug-o-war than a heart-to-heart. We discussed my depression, our infertility problems and the strain it caused my marriage, but in a very general way. I hardly spoke more than two or three sentences for each of her questions.

I felt lonely. Sitting in a therapist office, telling my secrets to a stranger made me feel more distant from my true self. While she asked prodding questions, I looked at myself from the outside and saw someone I didn’t recognize. For the first time in my life, I felt powerless and afraid. The spark that gave me the strength and gumption to make so many wildly risky, beneficial decisions sat looking for answers from someone who in her early 50s lived alone in an apartment with three cats.

The Rapist (therapist) told me that sessions only work as much as the client does. But after each session, I felt void of emotion, drained of integrity and more lost. The crying jags still continued, to Brian’s dismay, and they happened for a variety of reason: seeing a pregnant woman with children, talking to a friend who “hates kids,” hearing about a girl I know who had two abortions, trying to avoid a conversation that begins “I thought you two wanted kids,” thinking I would never celebrate Mother’s Day or help my daughter pick out her wedding dress, or simply because it was Sunday.

Even worse, I struggled with silence: the inability to tell even my closest friends still plagued me. I felt trapped within circumstances and though The Rapist told me all the answers to my life’s problems resided in me, I still wandered around in the forest of my mind searching for the light.

Some months later, I walked into the waiting room of the unfortunates to see a teenage boy sitting alone. After I checked in, we made the briefest eye contact and I sat down with my magazine. The door of the waiting room soon opened from the outside and a woman in a wheelchair pushed her way in with a relative helping her from behind. The relative told her he would return in just a moment. In the meantime, she was called to the counter. She labored with her right foot, slowly turning the wheels and making her way to the counter.

“Oh my gosh, this is just too much,” she said.

She suddenly stood up and without hesitation, marched up with the counter. The boy and I looked at one another and smirked; we choked down our giggles. After filling out her paperwork, she quickly returned to her wheelchair before her relative returned.

After my session, I walked down to my car and thought to myself: “I really need to get out of this wheelchair.”

My Naked Hero


Brian returned from deployment just a couple weeks before Halloween. It’s my favorite holiday for many reasons, not the least of which includes social acceptance for dressing up as someone or something else. It harkens back to my days as a theater nerd and my love for the creative process of transformation.

Since I’m a brunette from Michigan with a penchant for accents, particularly one very close to my native tongue, and it was a few days until the Presidential Election – I dressed as Alaskan Gov. Sarah Palin. Sadly, I needed not look any further than my own Republican wardrobe to fit the part. The results – Pure Palin Magic.  Every parent with trick-or-treaters from my neighborhood appreciated the costume and it usually led to a couple seconds of political chat while I stuffed candy bags.

We joined fellow revelers at a party hosted by some of Brian’s Navy friends for a couple hours, where I even got to pose in a picture with a girl dressed as Sarah’s pregnant daughter, Bristol. On her pillow-stuffed t-shirt she wrote: My mom believes in abstinence. We decided to show off my dead-ringer impersonation in downtown San Diego, but the scene was uncontrolled. Upon my first few steps out on the streets, I felt a fear of being mobbed.

Fellow San Diegans screamed “It’s Sarah!,” “I voted for you!” and “Don’tcha know!” from every direction. But it all went sideways when I saw another impersonator – Senator John McCain of Arizona. We walked up to each other to poke fun at the other, but we were suddenly surrounded by the paparazzi.

Brian tried to grab me and pull me from the crowd as the crush closed in around me. I felt scared. He finally yanked my hand, retrieved me from the pile and we dashed back to our car to call it a night a touch early.

As we settled into our cozy bed, both kitties lay at the foot sound asleep. As I began to drift off, I felt a disturbance on the bed and suddenly, a back claw ribbed open my face from the left corner of my mouth to my throat. As the cat continued on the circular path of destruction, Brian nearly caught her mid-leap as he sat up to the sound of my scream.

In a second, the light came on and I looked down at my pajamas. Blood already trickled down to my chest. I ran to the master bathroom and turned on the vanity lights. There was so much blood, I couldn’t tell how many scratches there were. As I frantically cleaned my face and tried to find bandages, my adrenaline continued to rush. Alcohol stung my wounds as I disinfected them from the filthy cat scratches.

It suddenly occurred to me that Brian wasn’t there. But I heard stomping, screaming and running back and forth up and downstairs. Both cats, terrified ran back to the bedroom to hide under the bed. He trapped one, dragged her out while she screamed and disappeared. He returned for a second one.

“Brian, help me!” I cried.

“In a minute,” he said, running off.

He returned, out of breath and helped me bandage the three scratches – one of which was quite deep. A giant gauze covered the left side of my face from mouth corner to mid-throat. Once I calmed down from the violent wake-up, I realized that Tuesday was Election Day and I would have to walk around to the various campaign parties looking like Freddy Krueger got a hold of me.

I went back to sleep and woke up in the morning to realize the kitties were not around. In the frantic aftermath, I didn’t think about where Brian had put them.

“I threw them outside,” he said.

“What?” I asked. “Those are MY kitties. You got them to keep me company during your deployments. You have to find them! Right now!”

“Baby, one of them scratched you badly,” he said. “A dog bites you, you have to shoot it. Clearly, they aren’t tame enough to be pets. Look at your face.”

“I don’t care,” I said. I started to cry. “You have to find them right now! Not tomorrow, not after breakfast – NOW!”

He searched for the rest of the day. I heard Holly crying in early afternoon. I opened the front door and she ran in. But there was still no sign of Violet. I envisioned her being hit by a car or scarfed up by a coyote. I moped all day while Brian sat in the dog house.

That night, I found Holly sitting with her nose pressed against the sliding glass door looking out in the dark. I walked over to see what she was looking at and Violet was pressed against the other side, her little whiskers covered in cobwebs. She dashed in and hid for the rest of the night.

Days later while telling the story to a friend, they asked a simple question that had not occurred to us.

“So, your neighbors saw you in your pjs tossing your cats one-by-one outside?”

“No,” Brian said. “They saw me naked tossing our cats outside.”