Monday, February 15, 2016

Love Looks Different

This weekend we celebrated Valentines Day.  My husband did a great job of making his girls feel special! He brought us home these gorgeous, long stem red roses.  One each for the girls and a dozen for me.

Love looks different in every home.  When I first started dating Nyasha he would bring me a treat every time we would go out.  A chocolate or something.  I never understood why he never got me flowers-- until we had a chat about it and he laughed.  He didn't think I would like flowers.  It's funny how we express love differently-- especially in the gifts we choose for each other.

This weekend we also had to talk to Ruth about the fact that her dog has been missing for a week.  Last weekend Vivienne was admitted to hospital with a very high fever.  She had tonsillitis and the admitting doctor suspected pneumonia.  Thank God, he was wrong and her pediatrician came to see her and quickly discharged us and allowed her to heal at home.

The short hospital stay was traumatic for her and for me.  It took several attempts to place the IV and my poor little babe that we brought in quiet and lethargic was screaming wildly. 

When we returned home we found that Ruth's little dog, Lucy was missing.  This dog has been Ruth's best friend for years.  Lucy is annoying and needy to everyone who walks in the door but to Ruth, she represents all that is good in the world.  Lucy has helped Ruth learn how to give and receive love and nurture in a way that only one who doesn't disappoint can.  Lucy lights up with Ruth walks in the door and the same is true of Ruth when Lucy walks in the door.

On the hard days when Ruth is bound to be sad and struggling to process her emotions, Lucy sits with her and cuddles. On the happiest days when Ruth just wants to run and play, Lucy is quick to follow Ruth wherever she wants to go.

Lucy has never held a grudge when Ruth couldn't connect.  Lucy has never caused Ruth any pain.

Telling Ruth that Lucy has gone missing is one of the hardest things I have ever had to do.

She cried herself to sleep and so did I.

Ruth woke up differently than I expected her to.  She woke up and asked if we could make breakfast and then go look for Lucy.  She had a plan and was hopeful.  As the day wore on, our search party of three grew tired but Ruth never lost hope. 

When we got out of the car after visiting vets, animal shelters and covering our neighborhood in fliers I saw a not from her to Lucy that said, "Don't worry Lucy we will find you."

I do not know if we will find Lucy.  My heart hurts for the sadness of my little girl. Our home feels less full without our annoying little princess of a dog.  I want to believe that Lucy could still miraculously return home.  One thing I do know is that this little dog has served our little girl so very well.  In a way that I will never cease to be grateful for.  Lucy was without a doubt a gift straight from God.

Love looks different in different times, places, seasons and lives.  Love is an action.  The greatest act of love was Jesus's birth, death and resurrection.  This Valentines Day, for our family, love looked like a search party.

Please pray for Ruth's heart.  As she grieves for her dog, so much other grief resurfaces.  Our little girl has lost so much in her short life and it is all brought to the forefront today.  Ruth has been praying that wherever Lucy is, that she is safe.  She is praying that Lucy comes home.  Please join us in those prayers.

Love from Zimbabwe,


Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Vivienne Mudiwa's birth story.

A year has passed since Nyasha first put our little baby girl into my arms.  An entire year.  I have wanted to share her birth story and to be honest the emotion and exhaustion of this first year has kept me from putting her story into words for you all here.  

If I am to tell the story of her birth, I think I must first start 16 years earlier: on January 28, 1999.  More than six months had passed since I attempted suicide and ended up in the hospital and then successfully completed rehab.  I had been in various stages of grief about the condition of my life, and had ever changing levels of commitment to a life of sobriety.  I rang in the New Year with a relapse that caused me to spend much of the next couple of weeks in poor health.  January 28, 1999 I left another hospital stay and was so sick and tired of the thought of living life like this.  I was desperate for a new way.  I did the only thing I knew to do and stumbled into a church basement meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous.  For the first time I listened, FOR MYSELF.  Not to make someone else happy or to prove to anyone that I wasn’t what they thought or to check a box to get out of rehab. Just because I was desperate.

That night I heard a few things that grabbed me, “Rarely have we seen a person fail if they thoroughly follow our path…” was one that gave me hope.  I heard a woman share a story that so closely mirrored mine in its emotions that I quickly worked up the courage to ask her to be my sponsor.  She told me that she would be my sponsor but she didn’t work harder than the alcoholics she worked with and she worked very hard so I better be ready.  

I searched my heart and decided I was.

January 28, 1999.  My AA Birthday.  The beginning of my recovery.

On January 27, 2015 I was hugely pregnant and tired in a different and fabulous way.  Tired of carrying my precious babe, ready to hold him or her in my arms.  Nyasha and I drove through the frigid air to my early morning checkup.  The doctor said I was slightly dilated and almost totally effaced.  My husband and I looked excited and she said, “Don’t get too excited, you are not having this baby anytime soon.  We will see you next week for your check up and if nothing changes we will talk about inducing you.” 

I waddled away making a mental list of all I was going to do in this last week of baby-less freedom.  Things like, “Finalize our list of names (we only had agreed on a boy name) and get a manicure and pedicure.”

All afternoon I had cramped and back pain.  We ran errands and chatted about what to do this week.  On the way home Nyasha stopped at Tim Hortons for his favorite donuts.  I went to the bathroom and saw a lot more blood that I expected.  I went to get Nyasha and he said, “The doctor told us to expect a little but not a lot let’s go to the hospital.”  I told him to forget it I wanted to get home and binge watch Parenthood with my feet up! 

We drove home and the cramps got continually worse.  The bleeding got heavier.  We made it home and called the on call doctor.  She said to head in to Triage and see what happens.  So we headed back to the hospital and at 7:00pm texted my family to say what was happening.  Everyone got excited.  Then we texted them at 10:00 and said, “We are on our way home.  No baby today.”  Everyone went to bed and I fell into a deep sleep.  At around midnight I woke up with really bad cramping and woke Nyasha up when I hear a loud POP.  We laughed at each other for being so groggy and decided that I had probably wet the bed because the little amount of fluid on my nightgown couldn’t possibly be my water breaking.  I got in the bath to clean up and he cleaned the bed. 

By the time he got back to me I was crying.  He started timing the cramps and we decided that these must be contractions!  We called the on call Doc again and she said, come on in if you think your water broke.  We still weren’t sure and I was so tired.  I also didn’t want to be the chick who comes back and forth so many times in false labor.  Eventually Nyasha made an executive decision and helped me waddle down the steps and into the car.  I screamed most of the drive and he quickly drove through the cold, icy, deserted streets. From the moment he got me out of the tub I said the same thing I was not screaming in the car, “I am not ready!”

We made it to the hospital and as I got into the wheelchair we realized that my water had broken because we both got drenched in amniotic fluid!  He wheeled me in, carefully following all the directions we had heard in the class at the hospital.  He was so strong and calm and peaceful.  I was the opposite of all those things.

When we got into Triage, they told me to get into position on the table because they wanted to see if I had dilated at all.  When I got onto the table the rest of my water covered the floor.  Nyasha and I nervously laughed and he tried to clean up.  The nurse laughed and told him not to be silly and someone came in with a mop.

I had dilated another cm but not much and I asked when I could go home.  The nurse looked at me like I was crazy and said, “Honey you can go home when you have this baby.”   I started crying and said, “I am not ready, I haven’t even had a pedicure!”

I was admitted to the hospital at 3:30 am and Vivienne Mudiwa entered this world at 10:53pm. 
The labor was hard.  I wasn’t mentally prepared to have a baby that night and the contractions highlighted my limited tolerance for any discomfort in my life.  I thank Jesus for a fabulous anesthesia team and for women in my life who didn’t make me feel like asking for meds was a sign of weakness.  As I labored, Nyasha was so present and in charge.  He messaged everyone, all the aunts and my grandma.  He stayed in touch with my best friend who lives in Nashville.  My Aunt Cricket, the anesthetist, got to the hospital in time to help me decide when to get the epidural.  She helped Nyasha and I be brave during that scary process and then she told us both to take a nap because we were going to need it.

When we woke up, we were surrounded by so many people who love us.  My aunts and my grandma kept coming in and out of the room and just when I thought I couldn’t stand it anymore, when murmurs of c-section kept coming up as the baby wasn’t responding well when petocin was administered, Natalie walked into the room.  My best friend had woken up that morning, organized for people to watch her baby and jumped in the car to drive 10 hours to be with us. 

She took over for a weary Nyasha who had run out of things to say and her face next to mine changed everything. She grabbed my hand as if to say, “Let’s do this.”  It wasn’t that long ago that we were in the hospital in Nashville as her baby boy entered this world.  Of all the adventures we have been on together in 20 years, motherhood is the best.

Another scare with the baby’s heart and the doctors are in talking about C-section.  I cried.  Nyasha looked into my eyes and said, “Don’t worry, we are NOT having a c-section.”  Natalie walked over to the foot of the bed. The fabulous nurse who had been encouraging me for the past hour pleaded my case, “Please just check her one more time she has had some BIG contractions.”

The next thing I knew my doctor was there and I heard, “You are at a 10, we are going to give you one shot to push and then we are going back for surgery. Do you think you can push?”  I didn’t but I said yes.

They walked me through what to do on the next contraction and then everything happened so fast… I pushed and then they said one more time and when I did I heard “Stop!!!!” I said, “Stop for what?!?!” Natalie screamed, “THERE’S THE HEAD!!!! THE BABY HAS HAIR!”  I didn’t know if I was having a boy or a girl (Natalie was the only one who did) but all I wanted was a head full of curly hair!

I pushed one more time and there we were.  I was exhausted, everyone walked over to see the baby being weighed and checked out.  Nyasha told me she was a girl. I was in shock and didn’t believe it and before I knew it, there she was.  I was holding the most beautiful little baby I had ever seen.  All 18.5 inches of her.  She was 5 pounds 8 ounces and had a head full of straight black hair.  I was SO physically and emotionally exhausted.  We cuddled up to me and we just stared at each other.  My little nameless baby girl and me.

I looked around the room at all of the important people in my life.  I teared up as I said to no one in particular.  She was born on my AA birthday.  Today I have been sober exactly 16 years.

The emotion of that statement still brings me to tears today.  As Vivienne Mudiwa celebrates one year of life, her mommy celebrates 17 years of the kind of new life that allows for such blessings.  Her life is a daily reminder to me of the love of a God who forgives all and redeems every stupid, careless and sinful mistake in a way that only He could orchestrate.  There is no author that could craft a story like this, except for the author of every story.  January 28th is a day that our family can truly be grateful to God for.

Without AA I would surely be dead.  I am grateful for a God that met me in the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous and who cares enough about every detail to ensure that our daughter’s birth would forever remind me that even when I am not ready, He always is.  And just so you know, as we went to bed on January 27, 2016 I cried to my husband and said, "Tomorrow she is one and I am just not ready for that to be true."

Thank you for allowing me space to share our stories with you all.  Our family is grateful to each of you who loves our family! Happy Birthday baby girl.  There is no one in the world I would rather share this day with.

Black History Month 2: Fannie Lou Hamer

Yesterday, Vivienne and I spent the day signing This Little Light of Mine.  We learned that Fannie Lou Hamer helped this song become a part of the Civil Rights Movement by singing it to bring encouragement to people who were fighting for the right for Black Americans to vote. 

Today it seemed to make sense to learn a bit about Fannie Lou Hamer.  Obviously we are learning in small bits because the girls are young and Ruth finds this kind of learning much more interesting that Vivi, so we will be excited to share more with her, but three interesting facts we learned about Fannie Lou Hamer are:

1. Miss Fannie was one of 20 children and grew up on a cotton plantation. 

2. Miss Fannie was an adoptive mommy.  She adopted two daughters.  She was unable to have children after a hysterectomy.  She was meant to only have a tumor removed. 

(We learned that involuntary or uninformed sterilization of black women, common in the South in the 1960s-- as a way to reduce the numbers of impoverished blacks.)

3. Miss Fannie was instrumental in her activism as she fought for the black right to vote.  She believed that the struggle for civil rights was a spiritual battle and often sang Christian Hymns as a way to encourage weary co-laborers.  She worked on a plantation almost all of her life but was fired when she was told by the plantation owner not to try to vote.

Some quotes we read were attributed to her are:

  • "I'm sick and tired of being sick and tired."
  • "We serve God by serving our fellow man; kids are suffering from malnutrition. People are going to the fields hungry. If you are a Christian, we are tired of being mistreated."
  •  “Sometimes it seems like to tell the truth today is to run the risk of being killed. But if I fall, I’ll fall five feet four inches forward in the fight for freedom.”

What other people said about her:

"Fannie Lou Hamer made me realize that we’re nothing unless we can hold this system accountable and the way we hold this system accountable is to vote and to take an active note to determine who our leaders are." Constance Slaughter-Harvey

"If Fannie Lou Hamer had had the same opportunities that Martin Luther King had, then we would have had a female Martin Luther King." Kay Mills

What an amazing woman Fannie Hamer was!

Remember that we are learning this together as a family with a 12 year old and a 1 year old, this is for our family to take pride in the history of Black Africans.  It is not an academic exercise.  Please forgive any misinformation on these posts as we are learning what we can from sources online and hopefully they are true!! Please feel free to correct anything that is untrue or a misrepresentation.  Nothing here is intentionally incorrect!

Monday, February 1, 2016

Black History Month #1: This Little Light of Mine

This year, during black history month I am committing to learn and share something new with my kiddos each day.  We started with "This Little Light of Mine."

I grew up singing this song in a basement of Taylor Center Baptist Church in my Aunt Letha's Sunday school class.  It was always one of my favorites although I am not really sure why.  I remember She taught us little hand gestures to go with it and all.

For some reason I had never really learned or paid attention to the fact that this song was one of many that resonated deeply and became a part of the Civil Rights Movement.  I read that the song also found its way into the Civil Rights movement when Fannie Lou Hammer added it to her repertoire with songs like Go Tell it on the Mountain, and We Shall Overcome.  

Vivienne loves music, she has a wide range of favorites (Uptown Funk being one of them) but she loves worship music often raising her tiny arms at church when Mercy leads "Good, Good Father." When we listened to a few versions of this song together she lit up and danced away.  We ended up singing it all evening together and praying that both her and her big sister will always let their light shine. 

I want my kiddos to feel pride in their various shade of brown skin.   I want them to see that although their father is black African and their mother is white American, they will often be considered "African American" by a system that doesn't have a box for them. I want them to know that this adopted heritage is rich and beautiful.  The stories of the strength and fortitude of those who came before them who refused to accept a world that wanted to dim the light of an entire people group is filled with inspiration.

I am going to try to find the time to share a bit about what we are learning here, but for today please enjoy this version of This Little Light of Mine that was sung on David Letterman on his first show after 9/11. 

Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16)