I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. Rom 12:1-2

Monday, July 25, 2011

FB Note from March 10, 2011: Goodbye Tex: Grief Revisited

This is the final post in my series of Facebook "notes" I am transferring to my blog. If you are interested in seeing them all, click the "Facebook" label. I am mostly doing this so I will have all this information in one place. I may get up the energy later to post some of the comments to this post that included stories about Tex (again this is mostly for my own kids in the future.) Next week I have thoughts and plans for new education posts, so stay tuned!

Warning: This is a long note written mostly so I won't forget the stories to tell my kids, but I thought a few of you who were part of this history might enjoy it. I have been thinking about Tex and his life the last few days because I knew the end was near. I want to write this down while I have the motivation. Don't feel like you have to read it at all or skip straight to the end to read some of my views on grief.

All my life I have been an animal lover. My dad (who has many other wonderful qualities) doesn't quite share those sentiments, so I only had a few brief interludes with pets in childhood, and "my" dog at my grandpa's house four hours away. When a pet fell into my lap in my young adulthood, I jumped at it (and have been collecting critters ever since).

In June (or was it July?) of 1996 I took a trip to see my good friend in rural east Texas. While there we found a stray calico cat with five tiny kittens living in their only-used-for-storage old barn. The solution was obvious. My friend took her pick then I had mine. We found homes for the rest of the kittens and the momma cat. I drove the 5 hours home with a little orange and white ball of fluff snuggled on my lap. The whole way home I was busy thinking of names. I favored math names like Euclid or Isosceles (the cat had a triangle of orange around his nose.) Once home I sprung my pet on my parents. I was living with them after college while I was teaching high school math. My dad said he should be called Tex. My mom and I agreed that my best chance to keep my happy home and my kitten was to use dad's name for him, so Tex he was.

Tex was a lively funny kitten. Everyone should have a kitten at least once in their life. There is nothing like it. I gave Tex a stuffed armadillo that was bigger than himself. He loved Mr. Armadillo. Tex would chase me around and play. He would go outside and climb trees. My brother, who was also living at home at the time, loved playing rough and teasing Tex. I think Tex enjoyed it, too. Tex treated each member of the family differently. He especially loved my mom, and, right up until almost the end, if she came over he would assume she came over to see him and demand to be petted.

Tex was with me for almost 15 years and through 8 moves. He was the constant while I brought one big person and 3 little ones into our lives and while 7 other pets entered our lives and 5 of those pets left. He has been with me for over one third of my whole life and 80% of my adult life. He was mine while I was a single career-woman. He was with me when I got my first apartment alone (and got a snake Tangle). He was there through my engagement and marriage (without the snake--Michael liked Tex, but said the snake had to go). He moved out East and then back to the plains with my husband and I, although he HATED riding in the car. He coped with a new dog Ranger and a new kitten Ollie out east. He grew to love Ollie (as did Ranger and the rest of us), and a year or two later grieved Ollie's untimely death, sadly searching the house for his friend. When we finally had to give Ranger away a couple years later, Tex rejoiced and became the proud lord of his domain that he had been before the hated dog arrived. Soon we got him another cat friend, Tripod. Shortly after Tripod came home, Michael died. Tex was always there for me to pet and talk to and cry with. A few years later when we moved to the house we are in now, we got a dog Thunder. Thunder had fun chasing the cats until they discovered that they could bully him (thanks to a stray who claimed our home and who was the best cat with the kids...we miss you, too, Oreo). A couple of years ago I made a promise to Tex, not to bring any more pets into our lives until he was gone. It had just gotten too stressful for him. He was turning into an old cat, a grumpy old man with the other pets (but oddly friendlier with his family). He never really liked Oreo and thought Thunder was the cause of all evil. (And in case you are counting pets, there was also LOTL's baby turtle Red-Ear a few years ago, who died an unfortunate death, but Tex didn't really interact with him beyond the occasional sniff.)

Tex has always been there for the kids. He never liked the kids particularly; he knew about kids and would usually run and hide when we had guest kids, but he was very protective of His kids. If Little Pud cried, it was obviously someones fault, and in the last 5 years, that someone was Thunder. Poor Thunder has taken the brunt of Tex's wrath hundreds of times. Fortunately for Thunder, Tex was front-claw declawed. As much as he would hide from child-guests, Tex loved adult guests, usually coming out and asking to be petted. Everyone thought he was "friendly" in spite of his overall grouchy disposition with the family. (I say that with love, I loved my grouchy cat, even though he would bite to tell me he was "done" being petted, and he actually got overall friendlier as he aged.)

Tex was the smartest cat I have ever personally known. He was an indoor-outdoor cat, but was all about his own comfort, so was only outdoors when the weather was great--not too hot or two cold and certainly not if it was rainy. He spend two or three days last week basking in the springtime sun in our front yard [remember this was originally written in March...last week in real time was HOT.] I never worried about him (well, at least not after the first year or two). He always knew exactly where he was and what to do and where I was and where home was and to get out of the way of cars. (I never let him outside in a couple of our houses/apartments that were in too busy areas, but anywhere that it was a possibility he got to go out and he LOVED it.) He also protected the front yard from strange dogs. Often he would chase off the neighbor's schnauzer and occasionally bigger stray dogs. He didn't realize that he was smaller than all of the dogs he chased away or that traditionally the dogs chase the cats. If I was outside gardening or playing with the kids, he would follow me around, jumping the fence if he needed to (although preferring to wait for the gate to be opened for him as he aged, which we usually did for him.) If we were next door at my parent's house he would wait on their porch (or sometimes go in to visit them, since even dad liked Tex by this time.)

One thing he did NOT do was catch mice, that is until Dec. 5, 2010 (yes, just 3 months ago!) I posted this status after Tex caught his first mouse:

You may not be able to teach an old dog new tricks, but apparently cats don't follow this rule. My 14 1/2 year old cat Tex, who I have had since he was tiny tiny, caught his first mouse yesterday! I have noticed him watching Tripod, the good mouser, lately. I was truly amazed (a little grossed out, but amazed.)

December 6, 2010 at 1:01pm

Tex died March 10 in the wee hours of the morning. We had all said our goodbyes and cried lots of tears (well, the boys didn't cry, but Little Pud and I did.) Today we will have a brief service for Tex, cry some more tears, and tell some stories about him.

I have some views about grief, and one of them is that losing a pet is one way children can learn about death and how to grieve. In an ideal world, children would experience death first through pets, then the loss of very elderly neighbors or distant family members--and we as parents would take these opportunities to help them understand the value of life, how human life is different from animal life (as precious as the animals are to us), and how to grieve, so they will be more prepared for the bigger losses later in life. Obviously we don't live in an ideal world. My own children's first loss was their father--or in Super T's case, his whole birth family. Many children are never taught how to grieve or encouraged to grieve and may only witness death on tv (in a very removed environment where the actor is not really dead, giving death an unreal quality.) Yesterday (as we knew this was coming) and today I have encouraged each of the kids to express their grief their own way. Little Pud tends to wail and be dramatic, LOTL is quieter and thoughtful. Both are okay. Super T doesn't really understand and never paid much attention to Tex at all (although he loves Tripod.) Losing a pet, although so so sad, is not the same as losing a person. It is however, losing a big part of your life, and the grief process is similar. Tex will be sorely missed, but I am happy for the good memories I have and the almost 15 years we had together.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Choices and Trust

Over the last few days I have been reminded of how important our reactions to bad situations are. Did you know that you have a choice in how you react, even when the circumstances are very bad?

Earlier this week I had an unexpected bad thing happen to me and within the next day or two an expected good thing didn't happen. Both situations were tough and stressful in their own ways, and I had lots of choices to make.

The bad thing (serious car trouble on the highway) could have been REALLY bad (breaking down on the highway with 6 people in the van in 100+ degree heat), fairly quickly resolved itself into being just pretty bad (mostly financially since we made it to the Bass Pro parking lot...if your car is going to break down on a hot day with kids in the car, that is a pretty good place to be.) I will not deny that it was stressful, but after taking a deep breath (or 10) and praying a good bit (silently, while keeping an eye on the kids in the store), I chose to trust God to work it out (while doing my part by making phone calls, etc.) To make a long story short, I anticipated around $1000 in repairs (yes, it was that bad), later was happy to receive the estimate of "only" $500, and finally was ecstatic to get the final bill of $85. Yes, you read that right! It was awesome and amazing! God is so faithful!

The van situation was quickly resolved. The other situation is ongoing. I am not going to go into details here, but a good thing that I expected to happen didn't happen. It was a huge disappointment. I had the opportunity for discouragement, anger, mistrust, etc. I had lots of choices to make. Where do I place my hope? my trust? my focus?

Psalm 121 (KJV)

1I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.

2My help cometh from the LORD, which made heaven and earth.

3He will not suffer thy foot to be moved: he that keepeth thee will not slumber.

4Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.

5The LORD is thy keeper: the LORD is thy shade upon thy right hand.

6The sun shall not smite thee by day, nor the moon by night.

7The LORD shall preserve thee from all evil: he shall preserve thy soul.

8The LORD shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth, and even for evermore.

Aha! My help comes from God. Not from people (who God can use, but they are not my source.) If God doesn't use the method I thought He would use I still can choose to trust Him. So much of this is a choice. What do I think about? What is my focus? Where are my priorities? Do I really love people or do I covet things? God made heaven and earth (v. 2 above); He never takes a break (v. 3 & 4); He is who I choose to look to. Because of choosing to look to God and trust Him, I can see the bigger picture, maybe not the whole picture, but enough of it to realize that my disappointment is nothing compared to what other people are going through, enough to give me empathy rather than anger, and confidence rather than shattered hope.

I will leave you with the first nine verses of Ps. 37. If you get a chance, read it in its entirety. Meditate on it. Choose who you will trust. If you feel like you just can't make this choice, or you feel like you have no choice, ask for God's strength and His grace. It is only by His grace that I have been able to make these choices.

Psalm 37

1Fret not thyself because of evildoers, neither be thou envious against the workers of iniquity.

2For they shall soon be cut down like the grass, and wither as the green herb.

3Trust in the LORD, and do good; so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed.

4Delight thyself also in the LORD: and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.

5Commit thy way unto the LORD; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass.

6And he shall bring forth thy righteousness as the light, and thy judgment as the noonday.

7Rest in the LORD, and wait patiently for him: fret not thyself because of him who prospereth in his way, because of the man who bringeth wicked devices to pass.

8Cease from anger, and forsake wrath: fret not thyself in any wise to do evil.

9For evildoers shall be cut off: but those that wait upon the LORD, they shall inherit the earth.

Monday, July 4, 2011

FB Note from Jan. 26, 2010: Adoption update--ONE YEAR!


One year ago today {as of Jan. 26, 2011) Little Pud, my mom and dad, and several friends met us at the airport (after several delays, missed flights, and finally getting the last flight of the night out of Dallas.) LOTL and I stepped off the plane with Super T, and our family was together at last. Now, one year later, Super T is thoroughly Americanized (he would eat pizza at every meal if I let him, although he still loves Chinese food) and is completely entrenched in our family and makes us laugh every day. We all love him so much.

It hasn't always been easy, but it has been so worth it. I thank God for creating our family from opposite sides of the earth through the miracle of adoption. If God is leading you to adopt, please follow His lead. Your life will never be the same.

[I thought it was appropriate to publish this on July 4, which is also a Family Day to us. Michael and I got married on July 4, 1998, first forming this family.]

Sunday, July 3, 2011

FB Note from Dec. 26, 2010: The Best Christmas Present Ever

As of today, Super T has been home for eleven months. We brought him home Jan. 26, 2010. He is such a blessing to me and the whole family, and I love him with all my heart. I was not planning on writing an update, especially since I am taking a break from FB (and have enjoyed a definite upsurge in efficiency in my life), but something happened Christmas Eve at bedtime that I had to share.

As I was lying down with Super T at bedtime, I said, "I love you, Super T." Super T then said (in his own way), "I love you, Super T." I said it again, "I love you, Super T." And he said, "I love you, Mama!" His first spontaneous "I love you, Mama"!!! Let me tell you, there is nothing like that in the world. This little boy who was a stranger one year ago loves me. I got all choked up and happy, and he said it again a few minutes later. He also told me he loved me a couple of times on Christmas day and this morning a friend was the first witness to him saying, "I love you, Mama."

Super T is a wonderful boy, a huge blessing, a treasure. He has been a perfect addition to our family. LOTL, Little Pud, and Super T are my trio of incredible kids. I don't know what I would do without them. I am so thankful to be their mom!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

FB Note from Sept 25, 2010: Adoption update--eight months

Super T has been home eight months today. I cannot say enough good things about adopting him He is the light of our lives. He brings so much fun and laughter. LOTL and Little Pud are crazy about him. They clamor for hugs from him first thing in the morning. Super T's vocabulary and communication skills have exploded (sign and speech.) He is reading 20 sight words (it would be more, but we took a substantial summer break.) He is learning to run. He is learning to jump on the trampoline (instead of just sitting and being bounced.) He can now crawl (an important developmental step.) He now walks around barefoot all the time with good balance even on rough ground. He not only notices the animals (previously ignored), but he loves the cats and always talks about them and to them. He also lets the dog lick him on the mouth, and likes it, but that is not such a positive. A month after his birthday, he still remembers it and talks about it almost daily. He actually watches tv (may not seem like a positive until you have a child who won't sit in front of the tv for even 5 minutes.) He has mostly stopped grinding his teeth. He has decided that he wants to talk as much as LOTL and Little Pud at dinner. He has a great sense of humor (which he always has had) and his joke repertoire has expanded to include the very dramatic (thanks, Little Pud.) He understands everything, and now I realize it. The Down syndrome is really no big deal. Frankly, I am pretty sure that most of the issues we deal with (sensory issues and his self stimulating behaviors like tapping, etc.) have their root in his first 20 months of life, when he was hospitalized the entire time. I try not to think about that too much, because it is just too painful to me. He was much-loved at Mother's Choice in Hong Kong from ages almost 2 to almost 5, and then much loved and in a WONDERFUL family setting at the Home of Loving Faithfulness from age 5 until we picked him up at age 9, so I don't really look on those years with much sadness for Super T, but those first 20 months alone in the hospital bother me if I think about them...so I try not to. I am just THRILLED that he is in our family now. I don't know what we did without him. He is much loved by us all. The struggles of that first month was so worth it...so worth it. I thank God for bringing Super T into my life. People say I have done a good thing and that I am helping him (which I suppose I am) but really, I think I have benefited the most. I love being Super T's mommy. I love having three wonderful kids.

Friday, July 1, 2011


An unfortunate number of my friends are going through deep and profound grief right now. My heart hurts for them and I pray for them often and seriously. I know, however, that ultimately their grief journey is up to them. If you are in a time of grief, I would encourage you to find a verse that speaks to you (ask God to show you one) and hang on to that. Read it and reread it. Over and over and over. Daily and maybe even hourly. It will soak in. For many months it felt like my life depended on Jer. 29:4-14. I read this passage every day (often multiple times a day) and related to it because I felt like an exile. Those words were life to me and one of the main reasons I have a successful grief story. Later I did a study about widows in the Bible and some of the scriptures I found are listed below, along with some other scriptures that may help you in grief. I would encourage you to find a verse that speaks to YOU. It may be different than one that speaks to me or someone else. Words are so inadequate at a time like this, but The Word is not.

Scriptures for grief:

Psalm 23

Psalm 42

Psalm 56

Ps. 147:3

Is. 57:18

Matt. 5:4

Matt. 11:28-30

John 14:1-4, 16-18, 26-30

I Cor. 12:9-10

*I Thess. 4:13-18*

Heb. 4:14-16

Rev. 21:1-4

Widow Stories:

Gen. 38

1 Kings 7:13-14 (story of the son of a widow)

1 Kings 11:26,28 (story of the son of a widow)

1 Kings 17


Mark 12:41-44 & Luke 21:1-4

Luke 2:36-38

Luke 7:12-15

Encouragement for widows:

Ex. 22:22-24

Deut. 10:17-18

Deut. 14:28-29

Deut. 16:11,14

Deut. 24:17

Deut. 24:19-21

Deut. 26:12-13

Deut. 27:19

Ps. 10:18

Ps. 68:5-6

Ps. 82:3-4

Ps. 94

Ps. 146:9

Prov. 15:25

Prov. 23:10-11

Is. 1:17

Is. 10:1-2

Is. 54:4-5

Jer. 7:6-7

Jer. 22:3

Jer. 49:11

Zech. 7:9-10

Mal. 3:5

Matt. 23:14

Mark 12:41-44

Luke 20:45-47

James 1:26-27

[This post was originally published as a Facebook note on Aug. 18, 2010.]