Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The Mikvah

Mikvah is a bath used for the purpose of ritual immersion in Judaism. The word "mikveh", as used in the Hebrew Bible, literally means a "collection" – generally, a collection of water.
  
Since Miranda was adopted, I did not get to see her enter the world.  We heard she was born and when her birth mother was ready, we packed up our car and headed to Delaware to meet her.  She was a day old when we first laid eyes on her and the very next day she was discharged to our care.  

Last week, I got to witness her enter the Jewish world, so to speak.  And it was magical.

We had to wait until everything with the adoption was finalized before we could convert Miranda.  Then I had to find a Mikvah that would perform the ritual ceremony.  It was a little difficult as I am not currently a member of any synagogue.  That, combined with the fact that Gary is not Jewish, made it a little tricky.  So I called back-up (my mom) and within a few days, we were all set!  The rabbi at the local synagogue where we used to belong said he would honored to convert our daughter to Judaism.

This Mikvah was in another synagogue about 45 minutes from here.  It was essentially a little pool.  The woman who runs it greeted us warmly and showed us where we needed to go.  Then I got into my bathing suit and stripped Miranda down.  Mind you, all of this happened in the middle of one of the coldest winters in 20 years!  Good thing the pool was heated!

When it was time, Miranda and I walked into the warm water.  Gary and my mom were there to witness this joyous occasion.  Once in the water, 3 rabbis came in to witness as well.  There were a few prayers to say and I stumbled through them as I was so nervous.  Then I dunked Miranda under water and had to let go for a second so she would not be touching me at all.  Talk about nerves!  But then I scooped her up and hugged her tight and she loved all the attention and did not care one bit!  One more prayer, one more dunk, and then lots of applause.  It was over.  Miranda was converted!

We met with the rabbi and his wife afterwards to tell them a little bit about us and how we came to be on this journey.  They were kind and compassionate and I explained that the journey to Miranda started with her sister, Allison.  I explained Allie's story and how she was Jewish because she was born to me and it was hard to think Miranda wasn't Jewish because she was not born to me.  He said to not look at it like that.  She is and was what we want her to be and this conversion just made it "official".  His wife, also a rabbi, said her soul was Jewish and now the rest of her was as well.
  
I was practically floating on the ride home.  What a wonderful and beautiful experience!  We have a certificate declaring her conversion and in the next few months, we may have an official Hebrew naming ceremony at the local synagogue. Just to keep the celebration going and to welcome her even more to the Jewish community.

And so I got to witness a first for Miranda - not a milestone like eating solids or crawling or talking - but a beginning of sorts rather than a first.  The beginning of a commitment to a religion that means so much to me.  

Here is the English of the second prayer we recited:

"Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the Universe, who has granted us life, sustained us and enabled us to reach this occasion."

Amen.




Monday, January 20, 2014

4-0

When I wake up tomorrow, I will be 40 years old.  I am trying to think of it as just another year, but it's just not.  

I have lived a lot in my 40 years.  I have floated in the Dead Sea.  I have seen the Mona Lisa.  I have walked where Anne Frank walked.  I have experienced a Booze Cruise in Mexico.  I saw where Shakespeare was born.  I stood where Martin Luther King, Jr. was shot.    I smoked pot (legally) in Amsterdam.  I drank high tea in London. I stood on the stage at the Grand Ole Opry. 

And I have been married 3 times.  To the same love of my life.

Our first wedding was in May 2010.  It was a dream day and everything I could have wanted.  When I close my eyes, I can still picture my dress and our first dance and the feeling of love that was in the banquet hall with us on that day. 



Our second wedding was in October 2012.  An Elvis impersonator married us on the Las Vegas Strip.  We were still newlyweds in a way.  The chapel said they did not usually do vow renewals for couples that had married as short a period of time as us.  But they gladly did it and we had the best time celebrating that in spite of all that life had thrown our way, we were stronger for it. 


Our third wedding was this past weekend.  Gary surprised me with a 40th birthday party.  He invited our family and closest friends.  All of the people there were at our original wedding.   One of my closest friends flew in from North Carolina.  My college roommate drove up from Virginia.  All of our siblings were there.  All my nieces and nephews were there.  All my friends kids were there, too.  It was such a special day.  My mom, Gary's parents...there was love all around us.

When we first walked in, after the initial surprise was over, Gary made an announcement to thank everyone for coming out to help us celebrate my birthday.  Then he said that he did not know when we first met how much I liked birthday's, but over the years, he has come to understand.  And he wanted to make this one very memorable.  He said he had been thinking about the first time he proposed and he realized that if he were to do it again, he would do it the same way.  He would take me to a restaurant.  He would get down on one knee and he would ask me to marry him.  And with that, he got down on one knee, took a beautiful ring out of his pocket and asked me to marry him all over again.  This time, I knew better to ask if he was serious.  I exclaimed, "Yes!!!!"

Then he slipped out of the room.  I had no idea where he went.  He burst back in and said he did not want to wait to marry me again. He wanted to do it right now.  He grabbed a bouquet of flowers off the table, put them in my shaking hands.  I looked up and saw the rabbi who officiated our wedding walk in through the doors.  I was speechless.

The rabbi explained that Gary had contacted her months ago for asking if she would help us renew our vows.  She gladly accepted.

What followed was a 10 minute mini-ceremony where we reaffirmed our love and commitment for each other.  She talked about our first born, Allison Paige, and how loving her made us stronger.  How she is still with us in everything we do.  How she knows how much we loved her and still do.  Then she asked Miranda to join us and she spoke to the 3 of us.  She said how lovely it was to see us as parents and the love we have for Miranda is so clear.  She spoke of how lucky Miranda is to have us and for us to have her.  The rest is a blur and I am thankful my brother recorded it so I can watch it when I am ready to again!

Then the ceremony was over, I wiped the tears away, and the party began.  Kids and cousins running all around shrieking with fun. Friends hugging and catching up.  Family sharing stories.  It was fantastic.  The day went by too fast, as all the good ones do.

I never thought I could love like I do.  I never thought I could be loved like I am.  If this is 40, then maybe I 40 is not so bad after all!
 






Thursday, January 16, 2014

Coach

I am not sure when it started.  Maybe in grade school?  I know my best friend used to be able to shop at The Limited and Benetton and I would go to the mall with her and be so envious of all she could get when I was wearing generics from Ames or Bradlees.  I did have some Outback Red and Forenza, but they were reserved for special occasions.  Growing up, I wanted for nothing...except the name brands that I so desperately craved.

At some point, my name brand desires started to include accessories. Purses, to be more specific.  And I was not above a knock off.

My dad had an apartment in New York and at least once a year, my girlfriends and I would go visit.  There we would by the finest Prada bags that $20 would buy.  We would come back to suburbia and show off our wares and they would be a constant reminder of the weekend in the big city and the fun and memories that we had.

Somewhere along the way, I started to crave the real thing.  Probably once I was working and actually making some money of my own.  And when I went real, I went Coach.

Ah, the bags I have accrued over the years!  Browns and blacks and many colors in between!  Wallets and key chains and wristlets.  But my favorite one of all?  The one Gary bought for me in January 2011 for my birthday.  The Coach diaper bag.

I was SO exited to use that bag.  I had visions of being out and about with my first born, bag slung over my shoulders, having the best time.  Making new memories and being happy.

When Allie died, all of her things went in storage in the basement.  Items from 3 different baby showers got packed up in trash bags and put away.  Most of it I never even thought about again until it was time to start preparing for Miranda's arrival.  It was just too hard.

Except for that diaper bag.  It never left my mind.  At one point, I removed the diaper changing pad and was going to use it as an every day purse, but it was simply too big.  Every few months, I would think about that bad, go visit it in the nursery room turned guest room closet (it was spared from banishment in the basement) and long for the day when I could use it.

And then the day came.  We got picked!  Miranda was born!  It was time to get her.  Time to load up the diaper bag.

I have used that bad for the last 9 and a half months.  It has carried diapers and wipes and burp cloths and back up outfits and formula and food and toys and more.  It has been everything I wanted it to be.  I do not even think about it anymore.  I put Miranda in her car seat and run out the door and grab the bag on my way out and do not give it another thought.  Until this week.  When I realized it was almost too big now.  I do not need as much "stuff" as I did when Miranda was an infant.  It's time to downsize soon.  

And just like that, my precious, much desired diaper bag will soon go in to storage but this time, after being well used and because I want it to be there.  And while the diaper bag served it's purpose and was very good to us, turns out the memories were and are of the baby that needed it.  Funny how that works, huh?  Who knew?



Sunday, January 12, 2014

The Other Shoe

Miranda's birth certificate arrived on Friday.  In crisp clear letters, it clearly states the name that we chose for her.  It also states our names under mother and father.  Amazing.  I never really gave too much thought to my own birth certificate but the one for my daughter is one of the most precious pieces of paper that we now have.

After much research and planning, I was able to schedule Miranda to be converted to Judaism later this month.  In Judaism, any child born to a Jewish mother is Jewish.  Since Miranda was not born to me, we have to take a few added steps.  We will go to a Mikvah, which is a "ritual bath" and a rabbi will declare her Jewish.  I am still waiting on the details of how the day will go down and if we can give Miranda her Hebrew name officially on that day as well.  It's very exciting to me that once this step is complete, we are officially done with everything that will make Miranda "ours".

And then what?  I feel like I am waiting for the other shoe to drop.  It's just that things are so, well, good.  Can it just be this way?  

Don't get me wrong.  We have our share of drama.  I have days that I would rather not think about.  I wish I slept more.  I wish I worked out more (or lately...ever).  I wish for all sorts of things.  But what I wished for the most is upstairs right now napping and I'll be damned if I can find a reason to be unhappy when I am surrounded by such joy day in and day out.

My mom asked me the other day if I think about Allie every day.  It was such a hard question.  I explained that to me, we are a family of 4.  That she is a part of us so much so that I sometimes forget that she is not here.  But then in my mind, she is still an infant, the infant I held in the hospital the day she was born and has not had a chance to grow and thrive and grow.  So I think of her, but more as a being and a spirit.  I think of her in terms of myself and my pregnancy and the dreams I had for my first born but not in terms of what her future will hold as sadly, she does not have one.  I think of her as my beautiful and sweet daughter and I miss her terribly.  Since Miranda, I allow myself to think of what we missed with Allie and that has been hard.  But my heart is strong enough to handle it.  Or so I hope.

Yesterday, we had the honor to go to a party to celebrate the adoption of another lucky little girl.  There must have been 75-100 people there to welcome this baby into her family.  Adoption is the best thing that happened to us and it's a joy to see other families experience it, too.  We have friends now that we met through our agency who have become incredibly important to us as well.  We have experienced the most sacred thing and they understand the nuances of it as they have experienced it, too.

Clapping
Miranda started to clap on Friday.  Gary and I were so excited that you would have thought she learned how to change her own diaper!  It's just so amazing to see the world through her eyes and see all she can do!  Today at the mall, she waved to someone who said hello to her.  We were grinning with glee!  We even stopped by the kiosk for baby modeling.  I wish I was kidding.

And so I need to let go of this notion that something bad is gonna happen - that the other shoe is gonna drop.  Perhaps we are allowed to have this bliss - this happiness.  We earned it, that's for sure!  I just need to stop protecting my heart so much and go with the flow.  I am trying.  Each day, I am trying a bit more.

Learning to stand
Look what I can do!

More standing practice

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Forever Afraid

I had a dream the other night that I was pregnant and lost the baby at around 12 weeks.  The doctor called it a stillbirth and told me that I had to carry the baby to term.  It was scary and awful and yet in my dream, it just seemed to be the way it was.  I was not surprised or alarmed - I just was.

Deciding to adopt gave me the freedom to not have to worry about being pregnant again.  It allowed me to break free from counting the days of my cycle and ovulation tests and then pregnancy tests.  It allowed me to stop hormone injections and needle pricks and invasive internal ultrasounds.  The more I think about what adoption means to me, the more I wish we made the choice sooner and yet know that we made it at exactly the right time - when it was right for us.

I used to struggle with pregnant women.  At first I was jealous and then that turned to fear and I would be almost manic waiting to hear when the baby in question was born.  Now I am sort of indifferent.  I am no longer jealous but still a little worried.  But overall, I see the joy in the eyes of the expectant parents and try to just ride that wave with them.

So much of my life was pre-Allie or post-Allie.  Then I found it being pre-Miranda or post-Miranda.  My wish for 2014 is that life is just yesterday, today and tomorrow.  That it is not defined by who has died or who was born.  It just is.

I am a woman with 2 daughters.  One in my heart and one in my arms.  That is who I will forever be.  I can live with that.

The depression and anxiety that I have felt for so long has started to lift.  I feel more and more like myself again.  I am focusing more on what I have than what I don't have.  The love, the relationships, the connections...those are all the things that matter to me.  

In a few weeks, I am turning 40.  I am not sure how since I swear I was just 21 not that long ago.  And although the number scares me as I remember when my own mother was 40, I realize it's just that - a number.  I have a lot to be proud of in my 40 years here and know that there is so much more in my future that is yet to be determined.    

I do not want to be forever afraid.  I just want to be...well...me.




Vacation or Relocation?

I love a good vacation. Always have. I love the planning and the anticipation and the experience of discovering someplace new.  Once ...