An Adoption Story: The Final Pieces – Part 2

 

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While my parents had years to ponder my “foundling” beginnings, to conjure up scenarios about the who, the when, the why,I have had but a few months to imagine the details surrounding my being left on a doorstep. I have to agree with my mom’s repeated murmurings as the pieces have fallen into place. “This is not at all how I envisioned it.”

We peer at pictures of my birthmother who passed away twenty-six years ago—pictures we’ve studied for months—now placed next to a new-to-us picture of my very much alive birthfather.

This final piece of my adoption puzzle fell into place just over a month ago wDSCF8697 (2)hen my birthfather’s sister appeared as a “close relative” match on Ancestry.com. “Aunt Donna” broke the news of a long ago doorstep baby to her brother who knew nothing of a pregnancy or a baby girl.

At her urging and with his blessing, I sent him a brief email message that included the newspaper clipping and the link to the letter I posted in area newspapers last August, looking for anyone who remembered the doorstep baby from 1963. I struggled with what to say, and although I wasn’t thrilled with the final product, I hit send anyway. His response was quick and accepting of the situation. My loss-for-words condition remedied itself as we exchanged many get-to-know-you messages in the days that followed. He didn’t shy away from my questions which required him to sort through long ago memories and try to fit new pieces into a puzzle that he didn’t know had holes.

Despite the fact that the situation was anything but expected and is the furthest thing from neat and tidy, he’s been very welcoming. He brings four biological half-siblings as well as two adopted daughters to the equation. Add my two maternal half-siblings and my three adopted grew-up-with-me-my-whole-life brothers and that makes a grand total of eleven siblings. Eight brothers, two adopted sisters, and one biological sister.

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Yes, I have a sister. And yes, we look alike. (From an earlier post:  What if I had a sister out there somewhere? What if she looked like me?)

I also look like my birthmother.  And paternal grandmother. And even Aunt Donna. My son shares a strong resemblance with one of his maternal uncles. There’s actually quite a lot of family resemblances all around confirmed by several picture montages comparing me at various ages to my new relatives.  And I’m loving it. To finally look like someone is incredible.

Immediate family and very close friends have oohed and ahhed over the picture comparisons. But I won’t be sharing them here. Not yet. Maybe later, maybe never. Out of respect for all involved, I’m not revealing the names, the pictures or even the small Midwest town where the story unfolded. As much as I’ve enjoyed sharing this journey with you and would like to share the pictures, I’m very aware that this story isn’t mine alone.

Neither is the decision to share the “news” with my half-siblings and new extended family. While I get one vote, it’s not the deciding vote. Would I like to meet them? Yes, I would. But I won’t insist nor will I approach any of them on my own. This story of decisions made long ago has the potential to impact a host of people’s lives. Should connections and relationships develop, I will welcome them. If some never learn of my existence or choose to remain strangers, those are choices I will respect.

howWhile this ends the search for the “who”, many questions remain. Like how did she conceal the pregnancy, when and where did she give birth, did anyone help her with the birth or walk with her through that difficult time? It’s looking like those questions will never be resolved because the one person who holds those answers no longer has a voice. My greatest concern as I uncovered the truth was that no part of this journey bring judgement upon my birthmother or the decisions she made.

As a close friend listens to the latest update, her head shakes and her eyes widen. “So what’s the why?”

As in why now?  Why after all these years are the answers lining up to questions I barely knew to ask?

“That’s what I keep wondering,” I murmur.  Now it’s my head that’s shaking, moving back and forth in a kind of circular, what-in-the-world-is-this-all-about motion.

Because now that there’s no one to tell, “You did what you felt you had to do and it turned out okay,” the why of this journey is looming large. I felt certain whythere was someone who needed to hear, “It’s fine, really. The story had a happy ending.” That surely someone had been waiting fifty-three years to know what became of her/his baby girl on the doorstep. But no.

Since we began this quest, my daughter and I have reunited three searching adoptees with their birthmothers. One adoptee will celebrate his 50th birthday this week having connected with his birthmother who has looked for him for years. We also solved the case of the “mystery brother” for my mother-in-law and in the process discovered a plethora of new first cousins for my husband and his three siblings. A newfound niece will join the family celebration for my mother-in-law’s 91st birthday this weekend. We couldn’t be happier about connecting with this newly discovered branch of the family.

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Maybe the “why” of this journey has less to do with me and my story than I assumed. Maybe the purpose in my search was the opportunity it created to assist in the reunions mentioned above. Or maybe my quest was about the reconnecting with family this discovery has spurred for my new Aunt Donna. While I find myself still longing for my birthmom to hear the words, “It turned out well,” from me, the grown-up version of the tiny baby she walked across two backyards, that’s another decision that is not mine to make.

I suspect there are a variety of “whys”. That evidence of new reasons and purposes will continue to emerge. I do hope that’s the case. This experience has been, all at the same time, overwhelming, inspiring, and satisfying. And this whole business of reuniting people is as heartwarming as it is addictive.

So what’s ahead? For one, a special trip to my hometown as well as more reflections on the cool process and the incredible people that made all of this possible. While the search may be over, I’ve a feeling the journey has just begun. And I’m counting on some more “whys” too. So stay tuned for more . . . very soon! 

ScribcolumnBeth is passionate about seeing GOD at work in the “slices” of every day life AND about the saving of sex for marriage. She believes strongly in accountability and mentoring and considers herself a cheerleader for “renewed waiting” too. Because SEX is worth waiting for. She’d love to hear from you! Comment here OR email her at waitingmatters@gmail.com. Connect with her on Facebook at Beth Steury, Author.

Pieces of an Adoption Puzzle: The Story Continues

For the first time in my life, I celebrated my November 14th birthday with 99% assurance of my birthmother’s identity. Thanks to the DNA testing results from Ancestry.com paired with the expertise and diligence of a kind-hearted genealogy geneticist and aided by the discovery of mine and my daughter’s detective skills, we have uncovered the secret of one side of my birth equation.  A member of this family—a presumed half-brother—kindly agreed to test his DNA, and the results substantiated our theory.

While the DNA findings are quite convincing, our digging for answers hasn’t uncovered one living person who can confirm that this woman gave birth to a daughter—or was even pregnant—in 1963. Because she died unexpectedly in 1990, her DNA can’t be tested nor can she corroborate the scenario. The lack of this absolute proof leaves a squiggle of doubt that we will try to erase in the coming days with one additional DNA test.

My newly discovered sibling not only agreed to share his DNA results with a stranger, he has been incredibly open to the possibility of a sister he never knew existed. I feel as if I’ve been on a tilt-a-whirl the past few months. He must feel as if a cyclone swooped him up and deposited him in an unfamiliar land. Yet his willingness to delve into this decades old mystery along with me has been such a blessing.

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Evidence is mounting that no one other than my birthmother had knowledge of the pregnancy or a “door step” baby. The more I think about how alone she was, how traumatic it must have been to go through all of that and then to wonder for years what became of the baby, a sadness swells inside me. My half-brother grieves over this as well.

The vague, back-burner wonderings I entertained each November about whether I’d ever meet my birthmother multiplied by tenfold when I learned of the door step detail. As I embarked on this quest, I hoped doors would open to the chance to say, “It all turned out okay.” But now that there will be no chance to announce, “I’m fine” or to ask, “How have you been?” I’m disappointed. But it’s not an I-wish-I’d-never-started-this-search kind of disappointment. Just a stab of remorse at the lack of closure.beth-3-weeks

And now the $64,000 question. Will I pursue the other side of the birth equation? The DNA results didn’t offer as many good clues on the paternal side, and frankly, I need to close the private investigator shop for some R & R. There’s always the chance I’ll wake up one morning to find a new DNA match, maybe a really close one, that will point in the direction of my birthfather. If that happens, I’m sure my curious nature will again shift into high gear. But for now, I think I’ll take a break from searching and focus on learning about my birth mom and her family with the gracious assistance of my new half-brother.

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The newspaper account didn’t get all the details right. It was a DOG not a CAT the homeowner called to and I weighed 5 lbs. 12 oz. and was 19 inches long.

On a side note, a bit of “birth date mystery” trivia was resolved this year with the help of the official adoption file for “Susie Hope”. That’s the nickname bestowed on me by the nurses at the hospital and the name that was also used in the legal paperwork. A bit more personal than “baby Jane Doe,” isn’t it? Anyway, my parents celebrated my first birthday on November 20 as that’s the day the initial court documents said I had been born. Turns out that’s the day I officially became a ward of the state, three days after the November 17th discovery as an abandoned, estimated to be three-day-old infant. When my adoption was finalized a year later, those official documents pronounced my birth date as November 14.

It seems the official math went something like this. Day of discovery, November 17, minus the three days of my estimated age, equaled November 14th in the eyes of the court. My mom was none too happy about the clerical discrepancy as everyone who was anyone already knew her baby girl’s birthday to be November 20. However, at the court officials’ insistence, birthdays 2 and 3 and 4 and so on, were observed on the 14th.

A rather bumpy, uncertain beginning for me.  An unimaginably difficult situation for my birthmother. But life went on for both of us. And GOD watched over the little one she couldn’t care for.

I’m still watching and listening and waiting for an “Aha!” moment that will define why the puzzle pieces are coming together at this moment in time. I really hope that moment comes, if not here on earth, than someday in eternity. Regardless, I trust in GOD’s precise, perfect timing.

Thanks for walking with me through this “slice of my life.” Feel free to share my story with anyone who might benefit from the evidence of a mighty GOD at work. And stay tuned for more because I’m pretty sure GOD’s not done with the lessons to be learned through this amazing journey.

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Beth is passionate about seeing GOD at work in the “slices” of every day life AND about the saving of sex for marriage. She believes strongly in accountability and mentoring and considers herself a cheerleader for “renewed waiting” too. Because SEX is worth waiting for. She’d love to hear from you! Comment here OR email her at waitingmatters@gmail.com. Connect with her on Facebook at Beth Steury, Author.

A Family Resemblance: The Adoption Mystery Continues

Most days I don’t think about it at all. It’s just a part of who I am. An accepted part. From a very  early age—as long as I can remember—I concluded that whoever gave birth to me couldn’t take care of me so she, and possibly the he as well, gave me to someone who could take care of me. And I was okay with that.

But I’ve always, always wondered who I look like. My birth mom, birth dad, a grandparent? Aunt or uncle? A sibling? Maybe even a sister . . .

My entire life, I sooooooo wanted a sister. I had three adopted younger brothers and lots of cousins but not a sister.

What if I had a sister out there somewhere? What if she looked like me? A half-sister even. How incredibly cool would that be.3df0503bbb8462651faa9fea8afcb191-2

I’ve always found family resemblances so fascinating. I love looking at old photos and discovering shared traits between the generations. It’s especially cool to discover a “spittin’ image” resemblance when comparing photos of folks separated by a generation or two.

At my husband’s uncle’s funeral, as we perused the collection of photos from his long life, I exclaimed over the resemblance between the uncle in his younger days and his youngest son there that day. Apparently I exclaimed excessively over this not-unusual occurrence because one of my husband’s cousins turned to me and with a shake of his head and a minor eye roll stated, “Yeah, it’s called genetics.”

“Well, I know that . . .” I muttered, feeling the need to button-up my too-obvious enthusiasm. “But still . . . they look so much a like!”

As I defended my awestruck reaction, it hit me. If I had a clue who I looked like, this father-son resemblance wouldn’t seem like such a big deal. I probably wouldn’t be standing here gushing over how 40-year-old father and 40-year-old son looked like twins. So give me a break.

While my daughter and son take after my husband and I somewhat, there’s no “Would you look at that!” resemblance.

Thanks to the DNA test results of a prospective birth family member, we dscf8661are closing in on one side of the equation concerning my birth parents. While this is quite exciting, nerve-wracking and sobering are fitting descriptors as well. As the pieces continue to fall into place, I find myself wondering more and more about the life realities and circumstances that would have urged someone to abandon an infant. I’ve never been sad for me and my situation, but I am sad for the person(s) who felt their only option was to leave a three-day-old baby on a doorstep and walk away.

It’s a simple yet intensely profound reality that not everyone who can father or give birth to a child is equipped to care for and nurture that child.

Even before I consciously decided to embark on this journey, I was keenly aware of how a search for answers could impact those on the other side of the adoption story. While I was certain I would be okay with whatever the quest would uncover, I had to consider that those involved in that long ago decision might feel anything but excitement when greeted with reminders of that past event.

As I seek to put the pieces of the puzzle together, I want to be as sensitive and kind and understanding as possible to whomever I encounter, regardless of their reaction or response to me or my situation. I realize that as much as I want to know the facts, others might long just as strongly to keep those details hidden.

The decision made long ago to leave me on a doorstep impacted every day of the rest of my life. In a similar way, my efforts to dig into the past will have lasting effects on me and who knows how many others.

A “This affects no one but me!” attitude gets a lot of mileage these days. When a person doesn’t want to be concerned with how a decision will affect others, they hotly defend a me-first position, refusing to believe that the choices they make today will impact someone else’s tomorrow.

But that’s not the way life works. Our paths’ connect and intersect and branch off from each other in twisting, turning ways that leave permanent marks. Our life influences those around us in either a negative or positive way—whether we choose to accept that reality and responsibility or not. Because that’s how life works.

Stopping for even a moment to reflect on the other side of any situation can make all the difference in the world, to everyone involved. If it pushes us to make wiser decisions, softens our reactions, sands the sharp edges from an angry retort, opens our eyes to the wounds those around us may bear in silence, if it slides us into someone else’s shoes for even a minute—the ripple effects of our more sensitive actions can be unbelievably profound.

Especially in this month of November that celebrates adoption awareness—but every other day as well—I am thankful for many things. Among a host of blessing, I’m deeply grateful for birthmother/father who gave me life and placed me where I could be found quickly, so that I could be raised by someone not only equipped to care for a child, but a couple who very much wanted a family.

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Help spread the word that adoption is a good thing. No. . . it’s an awesome thing. Support families seeking to adopt. Encourage those experiencing an unplanned pregnancy to choose life and adoption. Because not everyone who can father a child/give birth to a child is in a position to nurture a child.

Stay tuned for more updates on this very fascinating “slice” of my life. Scribcolumn

Beth is passionate about seeing GOD at work in the “slices” of every day life AND about
the saving of sex for marriage. She believes strongly in accountability and mentoring and considers herself a cheerleader for “renewed waiting” too. Because SEX is worth waiting for. She’d love to hear from you! Comment here OR email her at waitingmatters@gmail.com. Connect with her on Facebook at Beth Steury, Author.

Come on, Stretch Those Writerly Brains

I believe in stretching myself as a writer. You know, attempting things that are outside of my comfort zone, tackling things I said I’d never do because “that would be boring … or hard … or ‘not my thing’.”

So in addition to fiction, which I thought was my “thing” but is the “thing” I’ve had the least success with so far, I also host a blog themed around abstinence and renewed abstinence. I write feature articles for a local magazine based on interviews with business owners. I provide web content in the form of weekly blog posts and monthly newsletters for businesses via their account with a marketing firm. I rewrite the basic information for business websites. And on occasion I edit articles written by others.

I noted, repeatedly, that I had no interest in interviewing people like my friend Kayleen does. None at all. But I’ve met so many interesting folks and discovered several “hidden treasures” among the businesses I visited.

I moaned at the thought of researching and writing articles on subjects about which I had little to no interest. Blech… But I’ve learned so much along the way. Many things that will benefit me when I begin marketing my own fiction in what I hope is the not-too-far future.

And because this is National Poetry month, I have challenged myself to compose poetry—one of my very least favorite forms of writing–for you, our faithful Scriblerian followers.

In the past, again to expand my writing skills, I have written poems for special occasions. I once attempted to write a poem each week related to the Sunday School class I taught. “It will be good for me,” I reasoned. That lasted two weeks. Well, actually one and a half as I couldn’t make it through the second round.

So without further ado, I present my poem–

In Honor of Spring

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Roses are red,

Violets are blue.

But the tulips of spring,

How they make my heart sing.

The grass is so green,

And my, how it grows.

So cool and so soft

Against my bare little toes.

The warmth of the sun

Surrounds the fertile earth.

As the wonders of spring

Fill us each with such mirth.

A confession I must make

Although it pains me so.

Only the tallest part

Of the lawn did I mow.

The day had been long and

Twas already past seven.

My bones were so weary

To rest–that would be heaven.

I’ll finish the job

Before the grass is knee high.

I promise I will

About that I would not lie.

Should anyone be wondering, this is not my attempt to prepare for Chip MacGregor’s famous Bad Poetry Contest held each May.

I challenge you to write a hasty poem, spend fifteen minutes max on it, and share it in the comments. Are you up to the challenge?

When This Life Ends

It’s been a rough couple of weeks in my hometown as recent events have driven home in stark reality the brevity of life.

Despite a diagnosis of bone cancer and through the rigors of the treatment that followed, Mrs. B. continued to teach 7th grade Science. When chemotherapy left her weak and exhausted, she persevered—even when she needed crutches to navigate the middle grade hallways. Over time she improved, grew stronger. And then a sudden respiratory virus hit her hard and she was gone.  The students she’d poured herself into, who’d cheered her on through her battle with cancer were devastated.file3291233869663.jpg
His prognosis good, M the custodian was scheduled to return to work in
seven days, following recuperation from a successful surgery to remove a tumor. His kindhearted, always-ready-to-lend-a-helping-hand presence had been missed at the school. Students and co-workers alike eagerly awaited his return. But his recovery was halted, forever, when complications from a blood clot ended his life.

Just one week after Mrs. B.’s unexpected passing. Again, students and staff struggled to understand and cope with the death of a mentor, a friend.

Miss S. was fun and lively. A 16-year-old, unashamed, committed follower of Christ. As she and her family came to grips with the recent diagnosis of a complex, chronic illness, she remained steadfast in her faith. And then a case of influenza turned deadly, and her too-short life came to an abrupt close. Waves of shock and grief swept through the community, hitting especially hard and heavy on her teen-aged friends and co-workers.

A mere eleven days after Custodian M’s sudden sojourn into eternity, the community gasped at yet another life cut short unexpectedly.

While we claim to grasp the reality that death is just a heartbeat away for any of us, actually, deep down, we expect life to go on and on. To not be snuffed out too early, too soon, or when we’re least expecting it.

Which is always because we never really anticipate or want death to come calling.

Except when we do expect it. And even accept it. .

Via Facebook I am, in a very backseat way, journeying through the last days of a 26-year-old cystic fibrosis patient’s life. His mom and I have an online, we’re-both-cf-moms-and-both-writers kind of relationship. Although I’ve never met any of them, their situation has impacted me deeply.

Both he and his family know he’s “end stage”. They’ve tended to the details that accompany this process of dying. The answering of “advanced directive” questions. The pointed inquiries about funeral and burial wishes. The tedious but necessary banking details. They gathered the family for an unforgettable day of togetherness complete with sibling and entire family pics.

And now they wait.P1050051

So many things about this situation have me exclaiming, “Wow…”

This guy is one astoundingly brave, mature, faith-filled young man.

DH remains upbeat, injecting humor into these truly life-and-death moments, repeatedly insisting that his family not be sad as his life nears the end. He’s oh so ready to trade his disease-ridden body for a heavenly one that will never tire or be ill.

He’s anxious to go home.

This family is incredibly inspiring and courageous.

They are not shaking their fists, railing against the fact that their second born child and beloved sibling will soon depart. They’ve accepted that soon this bold young man’s physical presence will no longer fill their home.

They know that this “end” is not final.

Their faith in GOD is rock-solid, and they credit HIS power and presence for sustaining them through this monumental experience. Their hope in HIM and HIS promises are stalwart. They rejoice in the promise of heaven and of spending eternity together. They long for their son and brother to be whole and pain-free.

And so they wait for GOD to take him home.

When the reality that this earthly life is simply practice for the next life—the one without end—is fully grasped, there is a profound peace and comfort that mingles with and surrounds and soothes the deep pain of loss.

Rest in peace, Mrs. B…. M the custodian…Miss S. May GOD’s peace and comfort surround your family and friends as they adjust to life without your physical presence.

And DH, may GOD continue to hold you and your family in the palm of HIS hand as you journey toward your heavenly home.

“Title Talks” or How to Beg Your Writing Partners for Title Assistance!

I can’t thank my incredibly awesome fellow Scriblerians enough for their amazing assistance in helping me choose both a series and individual titles for my realistic contemporary YA series that, if plans continue to fall into place, will launch this summer.

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the “storyboard” for my YA series

I’m terrible at titles and had resorted to referring to the stories by the dreadfully generic “Book 1” and “Book 2” labels. At one point, I had a decently respectable title for book 1, but as the story evolved, the title no longer really fit. At least not in my mind.

And then the series title? That really stumped me. I wanted this all-important title to “fit” the series, to have the right sound to the ear as well as to sound YA enough to appeal to, you know, young adults.

Several of the Scriblerians know my story line and characters almost as well as I do. That’s why I knew I could count on them to pull me through this crisis. A lot of good ideas were tossed out and mulled over via an in-depth conversation on our private Facebook page and then further hashed over during a monthly video chat.

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Now it’s on to book cover decisions. Oh, my…

“Cover talks” with my Scribs took place briefly last year. Again, there ideas were great. Now that the title has changed, some of the ideas aren’t as fitting as they once were, still they fuel my thought process.

Apparently, a good “fit” for both title(s) and cover are my goals as that word keeps popping up. I have to admit reading a number of books over the years that I did not find “fitting” to the title. Does that happen to any of you? You finish a book, flip it closed, peer at the front cover and think or mutter, “I still don’t know where that title came from…”file000739253401

The same thing has happened concerning covers. I shake my head and murmur,  “What does that have to do with this story?”

I’ve never lost sleep over either a mis-fit title or book cover. But when it’s MY book title and MY book cover, I want it to fit and appeal to readers and create interest in the story and fit and encourage sales and be memorable and … fit.

So what advice can you, our faithful readers, give me on book titles and covers?

  • What do you look for in a title or cover?

  • What do you stay away from in a title or cover?

  • What was your all-time favorite title and cover package deal and why?

  • Can a title OR cover give away too much about the story? Why or why not?

 

“The Best Day EVER!”

Don’t you just love it when the simplicity of a child’s thinking jolts your world?

It happened to me yesterday when a friend shared the extraordinary spin her five-year-old son placed upon a rather ordinary Saturday.child

The young lad awoke proclaiming the day was going to be “my best day ever!” He continued to announce it throughout the day finding joy in even the most routine of chores. At breakfast he orchestrated the family’s conversation, beaming and announcing again it was to be his best day ever. This continued as he helped his dad around the house, held the family guinea pig while his mom cleaned the cage and even while shopping at Costco. While being tucked in that night he said, “Thanks, Mom, that was the best day ever!”

The next morning he awoke and while snuggling with his mom on the couch, proclaimed, “This is going to be the best day ever!”

“What? I thought yesterday was the best day ever,” she responded.

“Yes, Mom, every day is the best day ever because I’m a kid and Kids’ Day is every day!” Smiling wide he continued, “Yep, it’s gonna be the best day ever until my brother and I are adults!”

Mom reflected on her sons optimism. As adults, wouldn’t it be nice to wake up each morning believing each day was going to be our best day ever?

Yes, my friend, it would be nice. No, actually, it would be amazing if we faced each and every day with such a positive approach.

I admit I often do not meet the challenges of each day with such a glowing attitude. My day can be progressing just fine and dandy and then wham! A phone call brings discouraging news. The mailman delivers unexpected turmoil. A sudden remembrance threatens peace of mind. A relationship clash saps enthusiasm.

I’m not talking about “death in the family” phone calls or “your home is being foreclosed on” notices. That type of news is truly devastating.

It’s the more mundane things that we allow to rob us of joy that this youngster’s chipper attitude spoke to, at least for me. You know, the annoyances, the frustrations, the he/she “gets on my last nerve” situations. The waiting for circumstances to fall into place. The needing-to-make-a-decision-but-can’t-quite-decide-what-to-do scenarios. The stuff of day-to-day living on this earth.

In a moment’s time, any number of things can threaten to ruin what only moments before had been a great day. Worry and anxiety and unrest reign where only minutes ago, everything was fine. And suddenly I want nothing more than to crawl under the covers and escape.have a great day

I think I’ll post a “this is the best day ever!” prompt on my refrigerator… and on the bathroom mirrors… and on the dash of my minivan… and on the computer screen. As a reminder not to let the minor bumps in the road steal the joy from my day. Even the instead-of-a-refund-we-owe-$600-in-taxes revelation does not have to ruin an entire day.

Thanks for the inspiring lesson, my five-year-old friend.