Sunday, April 28, 2019

Ordinary Miracles

As my health declined over the past few years, my mom continued to pray fervently for healing. She offered countless rosaries for me, spent hours and hours in front of the Blessed Sacrament at Holy Hour, and would say long, detailed prayers for healing.  Other times throughout the day,  she would just say, “Jesus….Lynn”,  confident that the Lord would know what she meant.  The severity of my Crohn’s Disease progressed steadily until around Christmas, when it went downhill fast.  I would conserve every ounce of my energy to teach all day and then I’d go home and lie on the couch or on the rug until bedtime.  I started ordering my groceries online and picking them up at Walmart, where I didn’t even have to get out of my car.  I was eating nothing and just drinking protein shakes and soup until even that hurt my stomach.  Right before surgery I was sipping water and bone broth and that was about it.  Everything else caused intense pain.  My mom said to me a few times, “I have such faith in God, but I just don’t understand why He’s not answering my prayers.  Why are you getting worse instead of better?”  I had great faith as well, but was wondering the same thing.  I started to think that maybe I was nearing the end of my life.  I didn’t let myself ponder that often, but I had to face the fact that I just wasn’t getting any better.  I was 47 years old and had lived with Crohn’s for 35 years. My gastroenterologist seemed at a loss, and finally sent me back to my surgeon.  I figured he would suggest another surgery where he would remove more sections of my colon and piece the remaining colon together.  I was not prepared for him to say, “We need to take it all out.”  But while it was a shock, I wasn’t totally opposed.  I knew that it would be a tough surgery and a new way of life, but what could be worse than the condition I was already in?  I felt an overall peace and calmness settle onto me and I forged ahead.  It wasn’t until after my surgery that I realized that my mother’s prayers for a miracle had indeed been answered.  It came to me that it had been necessary for me to hit rock bottom in order for me to agree to have all of my colon removed.  There’s no way I would have gone willingly into an ileostomy a year or two ago.  I would have avoided that at all costs.  It  became clear to me that the Lord had allowed me to get sicker and sicker so that I would finally agree to the treatment that would save my life and ultimately give me a much better life. 

Now that I am seven weeks post-surgery, I am astounded by God’s grace and the ability of the human body to heal.  I feel better than I have in years.  I can climb my stairs—my benchmark for strength—lickety split, and even carried Angelica up the stairs yesterday.  (It’s ok Mom, really!) I can grocery shop and walk around Target without the riding cart.  I have been cooking without having to take breaks to lie down and I even walked around the zoo for four and a half hours last week; a huge accomplishment, as I had wanted to take Angelica to the zoo since last fall, but couldn’t even fathom walking from the parking lot to the entrance.  The best part is I can do all of these things without running to the bathroom!  Believe me, I know where every bathroom is in every building in the east valley!  I am constantly amazed by the way my body is healing and rejuvenating.  It’s a miracle! 

I have always loved the song, “Ordinary Miracle” by Sarah McLachlan. The lyrics, “The sky knows when it’s time to snow, don’t need to teach a seed to grow” resonate with me even more now, as I watch my body do it’s thing without me needing to teach it anything or tell it what to do.  It just heals away and amazes me as I watch and experience my new abilities.  Last week we took Angelica to the annual Easter Egg Hunt at my mom’s community.  After hunting for eggs, one of my mom’s friends said she wanted me to meet someone.  She introduced me to Daesha, a 12 year old girl who was diagnosed with Crohn’s at age 10 and had my same surgery a year ago.  I recognized her as the pre-teen I had recently watched in a video as she received her wish from the  Make-A-Wish Foundation.  Daesha reminded me so much of myself at age 12, only she was much more confident and outgoing than I was back then.  We talked and shared tips and commiserated, and I felt myself healing on the inside; healing emotionally.  I felt compassion not only for Daesha, but also for my own pre-teen self.  I think they call it, ‘healing the inner child’.  I was able to feel a bond with Daesha and with my child-self. 

Watch Daesha’s Make-A-Wish granting here:
https://vimeo.com/325052740

All of this has given me a sense of optimism and cheeriness that some will probably find annoying.  I can’t help it.  It’s hard to be negative when you are seeing ordinary miracles on the daily. 

As Sarah McLachlan says,
“It seems so exceptional that things just work out after all, it’s just another ordinary miracle today.  Life is like a gift they say, wrapped up for you every day, open up and find a way to give some of your own love.” 

Monday, April 15, 2019

Baby Steps

When Shaylee was born I was obsessed with watching her meet milestones. I had read every child development book I could get my hands on and had a master’s degree in early childhood education, so I knew what to expect at each age and stage. Still, I was continuously surprised and delighted when she did just what the studies said she would do and at the exact time they said she’d do it. Logically, I knew these milestones were based on years of research and experience, but for some reason it seemed like magic to me.  I was known to gush to anyone who would listen, “The books said she would roll over at 4-6 months and look, she turned four months yesterday and this morning she rolled over in to her tummy!” And, “The books said she would develop her pincer grasp around 8 months and she will be eight months next week and just started picking up Cheerios with her thumb and forefinger!” I’m sure my family and friends got weary of me gasping and exclaiming about how Shaylee was doing exactly as the books predicted. “Oh my gosh! Listen to this! It’s as if she knows what she’s supposed to start doing!” But she was my first newborn and I couldn’t hide my awe and delight at her growth. 

My recovery has been a bit like this. The doctors told me when I would feel well enough to walk around the block, climb the stairs, drive, stand for longer periods and do tasks around the house. I knew they had experience with loads of other patients who had made the same progress after this surgery, but I was astonished each time my body tolerated something new. Last week I climbed the stairs without pulling myself up by the railing, “Holy cow! Look! My strength is coming back!” I walked around Target and didn’t use the riding cart, “Can you believe that I don’t need to sit down even though I’ve been walking for 20 minutes?!?!” I got up from sitting on the floor to play with Angelica, “Watch, Guys! I don’t need Shaylee to pull me up!” I was amazed by my appearance too. “Everybody look st my incision! It’s not even sore to the touch anymore!” And, “My cheekbones aren’t as pronounced and the dark circles are getting lighter!” My people are fabulous and would nod and smile their encouragement, but I suspect they weren’t quite as delighted and shocked as I was. These baby steps of progress have been so encouraging, though. I still get weak and tired in the afternoons, but I keep thinking about where I was two weeks ago, and how much improvement I’ve seen since then. If that improvement continues, imagine how good I’ll feel in two more weeks?!  This surgery and recovery has given me a greater appreciation for the body’s ability to heal and rejuvenate. I want to eat better, make sure I sleep enough and exercise. Wait, what am I saying? Scratch that last part. Julie did give me some small weights to try to build up my shriveled muscles, and I should let her personal train me, (have you seen her bikini bod?) but let’s be real, I hate to sweat. 

The real test will be when I return to teaching in a few weeks. I wonder how many weeks post-surgery it takes for a person to be ready to tackle 20+ kindergartners for eight hours a day!  I don’t think that statistic is in the medical books, but hopefully you’ll hear me exclaiming, “Hey! Look! I spent the day with two dozen five and six year olds and I’m still standing!”  Baby steps. 
My last appointment with Dr. McDreamy called for one last batch of Regina’s cookies

Mom and cousins Kathy (McCann), Patty Lavin, and Michelle (St. Marie)

Julie proving that exercise pays off

Finally ditched my yoga pants

Saturday, March 30, 2019

I'm Going to My Gym! (...And by 'Gym', I mean Target)

The first days following surgery were like a dream/nightmare for me.  I lay in bed for 95% of the day, only getting up to try to walk (ouchie) or sit up in the chair for five minutes (more ouchie).  I couldn't sit up, get up, or even change my position in bed because they had cut through all of my abdominal muscles from my rib cage to my pelvis, and I had NO core strength.  Let me be clear, my abdomen hadn't seen a sit-up, crunch, or other tummy exercise in years, so it wasn't as if I had abs of steel to begin with, but even less now.  I slept a lot, which was nice, but the downside was that every time I woke up, I had an immediate sense of dread as I realized again where I was and in what condition.  It was a surreal, claustrophobic feeling to be tied down to that hospital bed;  literally tied down by weakness, IV's, a catheter, and drains.  The surgery had lasted twice as long as my surgeon had predicted, but they had been successful, and had also been able to do the TAP block that I had been hoping for, which helped control post-operative pain.  My blood pressure had also fallen very low (70/40) and my heart rate was very high (140), and they weren't able to get it to stabilize, so I was  attached to a heavy heart monitor.  This earned me a trip to the ICU for three days.  Fortunately, Julie, my mom's friend Susan, and my daughter Cyndee were with my mom from morning until night the day of surgery, making sure she was supported.  Julie even stayed until 11:30 that night to make sure my mom was comfortable on the recliner in my ICU room and that I was holding my own.

My surgeon, who looks like McDreamy from Grey's Anatomy, came to see me early each morning.
 I really looked forward to his visits (wouldn't you?)
Image result for mc dreamy
He pulled off my bandages the morning after surgery, revealing a long scar snaking down from my chest to pelvis with over 30 staples, a drain with a grenade-looking bulb on the end stitched into an open hole in my left side, and my new stoma, which looked bright red and big (which I named Rosebud, Rosie for short), covered by a see-through ostomy bag.  That was a lot to see that first morning.  He told me I could start on soft foods.  That was exciting, but scary too.  I had had so much pain when eating anything other than clear liquids for so long, that the thought of actually chewing and swallowing real food was overwhelming.  When they brought my first tray of cream of wheat cereal, pudding, and scrambled eggs, I wanted to both dig in and shove it away.  My mom and Julie encouraged me to just take a tiny bite, but I wasn't prepared for how much mental retraining I would need to trust that my body would accept food and not try to kill me, as had been the norm.  Those first days I ate maybe a spoonful at each meal, with my mom and Julie cheering from the sidelines and watching my every move.  I half expected one of them to 'here-comes-the-airplane' me with one more bite.

(This next part is a bit graphic and more to just document my experience, so feel free to skip if it's too boring or yucky!)

The most annoying thing about the hospital was how often people came in during the night to take blood.  My veins are hard to find on a good day, but at 89 pounds and dehydrated, it was made worse.  They tried to take blood so frequently and from every part of me and Julie told me later that she was worried they were going to try my neck next!  The third night my blood level dropped and I needed two blood transfusions,  My blood pressure was still dangerously low, so I was given lots of fluids through my IV.  The other thing that worried me was that I still had a catheter, because when they took it out, I couldn't 'go' on my own.  It could have been the fact that my ICU room had no real bathroom, only a little toilet thingy that pulled out from the wall and you had to hold the heavy, attached sink away from it while trying to sit and support all of my attachments.  Not an easy task.  I started to feel that I was never going to get out of the hospital, since it seemed to be one complication after another.  But, by Monday afternoon I was catheter and IV free and was given the go-ahead to go home.  My freedom was short-lived though, because by the next day I couldn't urinate on my own so I ended up back in the ER and then sent home with a catheter velcroed to my leg.  Another attachment!  By that Saturday, I was in terrible pain and having trouble breathing, so back to the ER I went, where it was determined that I was extremely dehydrated.  I had been drinking more water than I had in my whole life (I had given up my beloved Dr. Pepper a month before waaaaaa) but my stoma was outputting so much and so fast that I couldn't keep up.  So....back upstairs to be admitted for four more days. I was finally released for good on Tuesday.  It felt so great to be back at my mom's house.  She got straight to work baking pumpkin bread and snickerdoodle cookies, my faves, and working tirelessly to make sure I was comfortable and Shaylee was happy.  We decided to stay at my mom's for another few weeks since I was still in no condition to climb stairs, and I was thoroughly enjoying being with her in her comfortable, warm, inviting home and with her amazing TLC. 

As I approached week three after surgery, I began to see a glimpse of normalcy.  I was able to walk  for longer distances, I could sit up more comfortably, and I was taking to the new ostomy with relative ease.  I had been so miserable for so long that the ostomy has actually been a relief, not a bother.  I have started eating mashed potatoes, eggs, rice, bananas, avocados, cottage cheese, crackers, Greek yogurt, and of course, my staple; peanut butter.  It's funny how the doctors tell me to eat simple carbs with lots of white flour--the exact opposite of what most people are supposed to eat-but this is just for the first 8 weeks.  Then I can start to introduce other foods.  I have a harder time trying to eat lean meats and fish because I'm still worried they will cause pain, but I'm starting to trust my new-self and give it a go. 

We are moving back home on Monday, and I won't lie, I'm not exactly excited about adulting again.  Being a single mom for the past almost 9 years, I forgot how nice it is to have someone take care of me!  I would like to just be a kid again and have my mommy continue to take such wonderful care of me, but alas, it's time to get back to reality.   So, today I am going to the gym!  .....And by 'gym', I mean Target.  I love my workouts there!  I hope I have enough stamina to browse the isles for an hour or so.  Thank you again for all of your continued prayers.  They are getting me through each and every day and can be felt concretely.  Thank you, as well, for the cards, texts, visits, food, treats, and of course, the very generous donations to the Go Fund Me account.  The bills have started pouring in, and although I was initially opposed to donations, they have absolutely saved me.  (Fun fact:  I, as a teacher of 26 years, get $200 a week in short-term disability. What?!)  So thank you, thank you, all of you angels, for supporting me in so many ways.  I will forever be humbled and in awe of you!  



Rosie under my new attachment. 


Sitting on my mom's patio in the perfect AZ weather has been very healing.

Friends Jenni and Julie visiting.
Leslie and Trish also visited but no pic those days. 

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Recovery

Thank you so much for all of your prayers. They lifted me up and got me through the days before surgery and right on through. I compared it to being lifted up above the crowd at a concert, crowd surfing as all of your hands held me up above the chaos. Your prayers lifted me up above the anxiety and apprehension and I was able to face the surgery without falling apart. 

This recovery has been hard and there have been several setbacks, including an ER visit and then being admitted back into the hospital for four days, but now I am starting to see some improvements each day. My mom has been taking the most amazing care of me (and Shaylee) and I am so glad I decided to recover at her house instead of at home.  (I have about 15 stairs going to my bedroom that would have been impossible!) She has been spoiling us with TLC, delicious meals, and fabulous company. I may never leave! 

Today I go to two important doctor’s appointments and would really appreciate more of your powerful prayers for good results and successful outcomes (and not too much pain! 😬)

Here are a few pics from the ‘day of’ and the thank-you basket I gave to the hospital staff. Check out those amazing cookies made by a parent in my class, Regina Laurias, of Reginas_bakery on Instagram.





















Saturday, March 2, 2019

Goodbye and Hello

I've spent the past few weeks coming to terms with saying goodbye to my colon.  It was jarring to think of at first, to say the least.  But thanks to the internet, and some very brave souls, a lot of the mystery and taboo about ostomies has been dispelled.  I am even messaging back and forth with a woman in England who recently had the same surgery.  She has given me some great tips.  Youtube has been super educational as well.  Once I accepted this is really happening I decided to embrace it, and I've been doing research and taking notes, all from the comfort of my couch, where I spent 90% of my time.  Going upstairs has become nearly impossible.  Thankfully, Shaylee devised a plan.  When I'm ready to go up to bed, she gets behind me and I basically sit on her hands and she pushes me up the stairs.  My human elevator!  I don't recognize my body in the mirror anymore either.  It is surreal to see this wrinkly, old, emaciated woman looking back at me.  The other day something felt off when I was getting dressed, and I realized that my butt cheeks no longer touch when I'm standing up.  What?!?!  I called Shaylee up to look (lucky her!) and she laughed so hard that I started to laugh too and we both ended up rolling on the floor in a fit of laughter.  That girl sure brings sunshine into my life.  She later drew me a picture of what my new skinny butt looks like.  I may share below if I'm brave enough.

I was actually looking forward to the surgery to be rid of this pain and lethargy, but the last few days fear started to set in.  I've been thinking the same things that everybody thinks of when going under the knife.  Scary stuff.  I've been reading, "Jesus Calling" every morning and evening and it is astonishing to me how every single day's entry seems to pertain directly to me and my situation.  Fortunately, many of the writings have been on trusting God.  I particularly liked the passage about picturing God holding your hand and leading you into your life.  I can relate that to my dad leading me by the hand when I was a little girl.  My dad was Jesus to me in the way he lived his life and loved everyone, so it was easy to visualize this.  I have used this image several times over the past week.  The other passage I really liked was to say, "Thank You for this opportunity to trust You, Lord" when doubting His plan.  (Not that I ever doubt His plan!  Haha) I also bought some essential oils, visited an herbal shop (super cool), have been doing guided hypnosis at home, and may or may not have even bought an amethyst crystal.  I figure it's good to have all the bases covered.

So that's the 'goodbye' part of my weeks.  But the even better part is the 'hello'.  I have heard from so many friends, family, former students & their parents, and acquaintances over the past two weeks.  I am absolutely humbled and overwhelmed with love for every one of you who have sent me a message, text, call, or note.  Your prayers and extremely kind words, of which I am not worthy, have lifted me up so high!  There have been so many mercies and graces granted to me on your behalf.  Your example of how to be a village, how to circle around, how to LOVE, will be with me forever.  I vow to be the person you see me to be.  THANK YOU!

Yesterday three of my close friends insisted on coming over to cheer me up.  I can't really do much, but they said they would just sit with me and chat while I lay on the couch.  I wasn't sure I even wanted to socialize, but I agreed.  Then, I had an idea.  What if I surprised them with dinner to thank them for all of their support?  A sort-of send-off to my colon!  Cheesy teacher alert: Once that idea popped into my head, my mind went crazy with ideas.  I scoured Pinterest and google and came up with a "Goodbye Colon Party".  True, I nearly cancelled the whole thing yesterday morning when I couldn't stand up for more than five minutes, but Mom to the rescue.  My dear mother was here to save the day and helped me prep.  We had Delicatessen Intestines (puff pastry with sloppy joe filling), ostomy bag taco salad (bags of chips ripped open and filled with lettuce, meat, cheese, and taco toppings), So-Long Colon Cake made and decorated by Shaylee, and goodie bags that said "Sh%t Happens--But no longer to me" and which were filled with "poops" (Unwrapped Hershey Kisses, Tootsie Rolls, and Milk Duds).  The girls arrived and were delighted and repulsed by the fare.  I'm so glad I didn't cancel because they lifted my spirits sky high.

Four days to go.  Goodbye and hello!






















Wednesday, February 20, 2019

No more funny

I thought I had to stop writing my blog last June because I had run out of funny Adam stories.  There are more Adam stories.  Waaaaaaaayyyyy more Adam stories.  But they get pretty intense and are not light and witty.  I miss writing though.  I figure I have many more stories that I can look back at now and laugh, or at least not cry.  So here goes.

Let me back it up a bit. I was 12 years old when I was diagnosed with Crohn's Disease.  Back then, it was mainly an old person's disease and very rare.  Now, I know so many people who have it and you see commercials for Crohn's meds all over TV.  I was super sick and spent a long time in the hospital and then recovering at home.  My mom had her teaching license so she was able to home-school me for the rest of that year.  (Did I mention I got straight A's that year?)  Junior High is not an ideal time to be diagnosed with a disease that deals largely with poop.  As if pre-teenagery is not embarrassing enough, add to that large doses of the steroid prednisone, which blew my face up to enormous chipmunk cheeks.  Paired with the glasses and braces I already had, I was one very awkward girl.  I left seventh grade a skinny, sickly seventh grader and returned a puffy, chubby, very unsure-of-herself eighth grader.  I don't remember a lot about junior high and I think that's a good thing. 

I struggled with Crohn's until I was about 20 years old.  No fun.  Then, my mom and dad heard about a priest who was a faith healer.  They suggested we go and have him lay his hands on me.  What could it hurt, right?  My parents, two of my aunts, and I drove out to a little church where he was visiting one evening.  I was a bit skeptical, to be honest, but after Mass, people started lining up for him to bless them, and much to my dismay and horror, they were being slain in the spirit!  I had never heard of nor seen this happen.  In short, the priest would lay his hands on people's heads and boom, down they'd go, straight to the floor as if in a dead faint.  Oh heck no.  I was terrified.  I did not want to be slain in any way, shape, or form.  My parents told me I wouldn't fall if I didn't want to, but again, skeptical.  So, while everyone was praying for their healing as the priest touched their heads, I was praying fervently to not fall over!  Thankfully, I stayed upright and moved back to my pew.  I was holding my rosary and we sat and waited while the rest of the church filed up for their turns.  It was a little while later that I started to smell roses.  Roses are lovely, but their scent is one of my least favorite smells.  They remind me of funeral homes.  The smell of roses started to permeate my senses and I leaned over to my mom and asked her where the smell was coming from.  She whispered back that she didn't know, but it seemed to be coming from me.  Had the priest anointed me with some scented oil?  No, just his hands.  We shrugged it off, but by the time we got into the car, everyone noticed that I was reeking of roses.  My hands were especially pungent.  We were all kind of giggling nervously and uncertain of what was going on.  I'm sure we were being very irreverent, especially if we were in the presence of a healing, but we just didn't know how to react.  I trailed that rose smell with me for the rest of the night, but the next morning it was gone.  I didn't feel healed.  I didn't feel any different at all.  But, from that day on I began to heal slowly but surely.  It wasn't like the people who jump up out of their wheelchairs and shout, "Hallelujah!"  It was a gradual healing, until after a month or so I was off all medication and feeling better than ever.  I share this experience because when people think of faith healers or hear of people being healed, many are very skeptical, or think that the person who was healed must have been super religious or was healed because it was all in their head.  It is so ironic to me, though, that I was praying not to be slain in the spirit, to not fall over,  instead of praying for healing, and that I was just a normal 20 year old kid, not a nun or religious zealot by any means, but that God chose to heal me despite my faults and skepticism.  Isn't this just what the bible teaches, though? 

I was healed and in complete remission for 20 years.  Such a huge blessing. One nasty and traumatic divorce later, the Crohn's returned with a vengeance.  I've spent the past seven years trying to alternately treat it with new and scary meds, fix it myself with natural foods, oils, and extracts, and ignore it.  But it's not going away.  So now I wait for surgery to remove the rest of my colon removed and have an ileostomy.  What???  Terrifying!  I am scared, but also eager to get this disease out of me.  I've never felt so much pain and I am so skinny and weak.  I actually had to wake Shaylee up this morning to help me take my sweatshirt off because my arms just don't have any muscle left.  It's surreal when your brain is normal (semi-normal?) but your body doesn't comply.  I also had to go on leave from work because teaching kindergarten through constant, intense pain and weighing 89 pounds was kicking my booty.  I'm ready to feel good again.  I'm ready to be able to eat solid food again.  I'm ready to get on with my life.  God willing, this will be a good thing. 


Thursday, June 1, 2017

My Lynn

I was teaching second grade when I thought about volunteering at the Child Crisis Center.  Some say that I was led to The Center, or that it was my calling, but all I knew back then was that I had a very strong urge to go volunteer. 
“Why do you want to go volunteer with kids at night and on the weekends when you teach kids all day long?”  That was the question, but I didn’t have an answer.  There was just this strong feeling, like a magnet pulling me toward The Center.  I went through the volunteer classes and then signed up for my first shift.  I had asked to volunteer on the ‘baby side’, which was kids ages birth to four years old.  When I walked into that part of the building, I found that it looked just like a regular house.  There was a family room with couches and shelves of toys, a TV, and some books.  The bedrooms were adjoining the family room, and down the hall were the bathrooms and kitchen.  There was a sliding glass door that led outside to a playground, surrounded by a tall, cinder block wall.  There was a play structure and some bikes and push toys lined up against the side of the building.  Across the courtyard, and hidden by another tall  wall, was the ‘big kids’ side, for children ages five to twelve.  Everything was the same as a family home except for the smell.  The air was thick with disinfectant.  It smelled like an institution.  When I walked into the family room that first day, all of the little kids crawled or stood and toddled over to me with their hands up in the air, reaching to be held.  It was disconcerting to see so many little people coming right up to me, seemingly starved for affection.  There was no stranger danger, just a rush of arms and hands and reaching.  “Hold me!”  They cried, or “Up, up!”.  Some just raised their arms and made a noise, “Uh, uh!” But it all meant the same thing; human contact.  Most days or nights, my duties were pretty basic.  I was to play with the kids,  lead them into the kitchen and strap them into their high chairs or booster seats for meals, feed them the meals that were prepared by the staff, and help clean them up.  I occasionally cleaned or mopped or folded laundry.  The more difficult tasks, such as bathing, counseling, dispensing medicine, putting to bed and disciplining were reserved for the employees.  Volunteering was pretty much the same as being a babysitter.  Honestly, I found it kind of boring. After I had been there a few months, I arrived for my shift and saw a new little girl on the baby side.  She looked to be about two years old, and was wearing denim overalls and a pink shirt with a ruffly collar.  Her jet black hair was cut very, very  short on the top and sides, but she had little black curls in the back.  It looked like maybe she had cut her own hair, and only the back had been spared.  When she came closer, I noticed she had four deep scratch marks across her left cheek; evidence that four fingernails had been raked across her cafe latte colored skin.  She ran right over to me, with a perfectly pursed rosebud mouth and asked, “What your name is? Who you?”  I told her my name was Lynn and asked hers.  She said, “My Cyn-tia” , gesturing to herself.  Then she pointed to me.  “You My Lynn.”  Aaaaaaand that was it.  That pull to volunteer I spoke of?  Yep, pulled me right into the palm of her hand.  She never left my side that day, and when I left I couldn’t get her out of my head.  From then on, when I went to volunteer, my eyes would scan the room for Cynthia.  “Please, please, Lord, let her still be here.”  I would silently pray.  Most kids stayed for a week or two, before being placed in foster care or going back home to their birth parents or other family members.  Would she still be there?  Yes!  There she was, putting together a block puzzle.  Why was I so drawn to her?  I didn’t know.  I began signing up for more shifts just so I could spend time with her.  She and I laughed and played and I always finagled it so I was her helper or in charge of her group.  When they had a special donut treat and Cynthia wanted more than her share, I took a few extra into my sweatshirt pocket and gave them to her on the sly.  (Sorry staff!)  I wanted everything to be perfect for her.  “My Lynn!”  She would call when I appeared to volunteer.  Oh, my heart!  It turned out that she was three and a half years old, not two as I had thought.  She was just the tiniest little thing.  She couldn’t have weighed more than 20 pounds.  I also learned that the adorable, always happy, and rare baby (the kids were mostly two years old or older), who I thought was adorable, was her brother Adam.  He was six months old and could already stand up while holding on to the couch or table, and laughed heartily whenever anyone tickled him.  His personality, at six months, was already very apparent.  Cynthia was very attentive to Adam.  She would run over to him in his bouncy seat every few minutes to show him something or pat his head.  She spoke to him like he was her age.  “Adam, I’m doing the firetruck puzzle!”  Or, “Adam, we are having poss-icles later on!”   I had said to her once, “You love Adam, don’t you?”  and she replied, “I yuv Adam.  Him’s my bwudder.”  Then she bent down eye to eye with him and said.  “You my bwudder, right Adam?"  Then turning to me, “Him said yes he is.” 

That summer, I found out that I couldn't conceive a child. I might be able to carry a child, but would have to have an egg donor, at $10,000 per egg.   It was tricky and I had a high chance of miscarrying.  It was a no-brainer for me.  I had always been interested in adoption anyway.  We started the classes to get certified to adopt.  We spoke with Catholic Charities, Holt International, private attorneys and several birth mothers.  We consulted people who had adopted children.  We asked for prayers.  I just dived right in to the task of having a child, whatever it was we had to do.  Around that time,  I noticed that Cyndee and Adam had been there for several months, unlike the others who came and went rather quickly.  I had made friends with many of the staff, and one day I casually asked why they had been there so long.  Of course, that information was highly confidential, but….but for some reason (fate?) she told me that their birth parents were off and on with visits and requirements, and that it was harder to place two siblings in a foster home together.  I dared to ask what the plan was for the two. Again, she shouldn’t have answered me, but….. mercy or miracle:  She told me that the plan was for their parental rights to be severed and that they would be going up for adoption.  Ding!  A bell went off in my head.  THAT was the pull I had been feeling for so long!  These were MY kids!  I went further and asked her for their case worker’s name and…..2nd Miracle:  She told me!  That was all the sign I needed.  There was no stopping me from that point forward.  I headed home that day when my shift ended, and ran straight for the phone book.  (It was 1997)  After some searching, I found the social worker.  I called and told her that I had met the kids and that we were super interested in adopting them, and were in fact, already in adoption classes.  The ball started rolling pretty quickly at first.  She gave me the name of an association that certified people as foster parents, and we quickly enrolled.  They put us on a fast tract to get a provisional foster care license so we could start the process to bring them home as foster children.  Then, once their parental rights were severed, we could start the process of adopting them.  We were reassured that their birth parents were not involved, and wouldn’t be contesting the severance.  This was IT!  It looked like our adoption would be easy as pie.  No.  It wasn’t easy in the least, and there were many roadblocks in the way.  But that’s a story for another day.  Fast-forward two years or so and they did finally become ours, but not without a huge fight, lots of prayers, and a couple of full-blown miracles.  There have been many miracles, in fact.  And they all started with that tiny girl with the jet black curls and perfectly pursed lips who called me, “My Lynn”.