Tuesday, November 26, 2013


By: Jane Samuel

‘Tis the season – for thanks giving that is. I see friends posting things they are thankful for each day on Facebook. There are probably similar lists on Twitter, Tumbler and Google+. I suspect my teens are being flooded with them on Instagram and my own email and snail mail is filling up with Thanksgiving letters from various non-profits, all worthy of a little monetary love AND thanks for their work making this a better world.

But here I sit with my busy life, wondering how I am going to get all my cleaning, cooking and decorating done while also tending to a child who can be a bit emotional depending on the day, the situation and even the food she has eaten. Thanks’s giving – that act of being grateful – is the last thing on my mind. Besides I am a born worrier, so I would rather worry about this or that, than sit down and list the things I am grateful for.

That is, until I consecutively opened two emails that made me pause. The first was an email from the school principal – aptly called “weekly words”. This week’s was about report cards. Just a few short paragraphs long, her gentle instructions on the best words to use when a report card is stellar - OR not - were so wise. I needed her words of instruction, because report card time in our house can be challenging with a child with learning differences who lags way behind where her siblings were at the same age.

I sat there thinking of the times I have said, “Wow!  You are so smart” to my older two children and the times I have fretted over the younger one who has spent her whole life tested by her past and the developmental delays it left her with.

But it wasn’t until I opened the second email – a Thanksgiving newsletter from Orphan Voice (a non-profit we support) that the entire picture came together in my mind with regard to our “challenging child.”

That of her learning and our being thankful.

The past 11 years have not always been rosy for her – or us. Adopted after 12 months in a poor orphanage there was a lot of developmental and emotional trauma that needed to be healed. Even now, there are still bumps in the road, and the uphill battle to learn despite severe memory and language processing deficits is, well, always uphill.  Unlike our other two children who have mostly sailed through learning, the younger one has caused us on numerous occasions to adjust our definitions of “normal”, “smart”, or “intelligence.”

But it is at times like this, when the focus is not on the dark clouds but the silver linings in life that I realize how thankful I am for this sweet being in our lives AND the lessons of life she has taught us.

Yes, she may be old enough for sixth grade but be in fifth and read at a third-grade level.

Yes, she may not get “letter” grades like her siblings who are in normal curriculum schools.

Yes, she may need to be reminded on an hourly basis how many inches are in a foot, how many days in the week, and what season comes after this one.

Yes, she may be a bit over the top at times emotionally and need redirection.

BUT, she has the work ethic and the love of learning that I wish all children had.

And, she has the compassion and care for her fellow human being that I only wish I had one-half of.

And that is a mighty good list of things to be thankful for!

Friday, November 22, 2013

Because It Is Hard

By:  Gari Lister

“We choose to go to the moon . . .  not because it is easy, but because it is hard . . . because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win.. . . " John F. Kennedy, Jr. (Sept. 12, 1962 at Rice University)

Today is the 50th anniversary of the day that President Kennedy was assassinated, and this famous quotation is one of many played on television over the last few weeks here in Dallas.  It resonated with me – and you can probably guess why.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Orphan Sunday vs. Orphan Reality

By: Julie Beem

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. – James 1:27

The church my family attends doesn’t have an orphan/adoption ministry.  In previous years I’ve mourned that because as our church family has watched closely for the past 15 years all the challenges our daughter (and family) have faced with her complex trauma and attachment struggles, I have felt we’ve not been the best “poster family” for promoting adoption.

Friday, November 1, 2013

The "L" Word

By:  Jane Samuel

Driving to school this morning my youngest (chronological age 11, emotional age – always open for debate) and I were discussing her father’s upcoming business trip Asia. Pulling up to a stop light, I glanced sideways and did a quick check of her demeanor. While she has gotten much better in the past few years about family members coming and going in her life, I still try to be on the lookout for signs that an upcoming loss - albeit a temporary one – might flip her internal emotional balance on its end. “Trigger her” as we say in the therapeutic parenting business.

Friday, October 11, 2013

I'm So Strong . . .

by:  Julie Beem

“I’m so strong that I could destroy this whole house.”  His declaration was matter-of-fact, not launched as a threat but to gauge my response.  “Really?” I responded, “why would you want to destroy my house?”  “Because I’m powerful enough.”

Knowing that I was conversing with a child who has experienced trauma cued me to say what I thought he was fishing for (a safe, in-charge response).  “Well, I’m strong enough not to let anyone destroy my house, because we have a safe home here.” I watched that message sink into his brain and saw his whole body relax. It was then that he was able to follow through on the request I had made of him “Sit down and eat your lunch.”

Friday, October 4, 2013

Hugging A Stranger on the Plane

by:  Julie Beem
No, this isn’t a blog about indiscriminate affection.  And no, this is not a mom you will read about in a sensationalized report on “underground adoptive/foster families”.  But it happens much more often than most people know.
Coming home from the ATTACh conference days ago, I plopped my exhausted self in the aisle seat next to a married couple and pulled out one of the adoption books I had acquired at the conference.  The cover had the words “adoptive and foster parents” on it.