Thursday, April 30, 2015

Celebrations and Hope

As we move toward spring, and an ever hopeful renewal of hearts and minds, a lot has been going on that is worthy of sharing.  Saying goodbye to the restaurant at the airport, we have sold off all the equipment, and the kids pitched in and were a huge help as we emptied everything out and cleaned up. Just this past Friday Dominick locked the door for the last time, and turned over the keys.  I have seen a remarkable man leaving behind an entire era of his life, being treated in a less than gracious manner, and yet managing somehow to show a maturity that few do in circumstances such as these.  I am so very proud of Dominick for how he has handled this, for a lesser man would have acted quite differently.

We are looking at one option for our future, which we are hoping works out, but it will require an enormous leap of faith if it all falls into place.  At this time I can't share what that possibility is, and it will be down to the very wire to see if it "flies".  If it doesn't, then we are going to get serious about looking elsewhere and will resign ourselves to leaving the home we love so much, because we will have run out of options. While it is such a gift to live in a small town, one drawback is that in rural areas, there are far fewer opportunities.  Montrose quite literally has two main streets in town with commercial businesses...and that is it.  It is our fondest hope that moving won't be necessary, and we are praying that we are right about hearing the Spirit as we look at this one last option.  If so, then regardless of how difficult it might be to pull off, my heart and mind will be at ease because I can rest easy knowing it will all work out regardless of how audacious it might be.  That won't mean it will be "easy", but we aren't afraid of hard work or risk taking if it feels God directed.  We hope to have something positive to share in the next couple of weeks, and we ask for prayer around this, because this would be requiring a willingness to do a financial "Hail Mary" pass, of sorts.  If it falls apart, well then I guess you will all be along for the ride as we try to figure out the next step of Team LaJoy's journey.

In the meantime, important things are happening...let's go back and catch up a little.

First of all, Matthew had a big night recently at Civil Air Patrol (CAP).  We attended an awards ceremony in his honor as he was recognized for achieving the rank of Captain, and received the Earhart Award.  For those who may not know anything about CAP, this is pretty much the equivalent of an Eagle Scout award for Boy Scouts...only 5% of all CAP Cadets ever achieve this rank.   A Commander came from Grand Junction to present the award to Matt, and just prior to the ceremony we were told that in recent memory, there has been only one Cadet who has reached this rank in CAP in Western Colorado, and that Cadet is currently a junior at the US Air Force Academy.  Here are some photos of the event:

Mr. Steve and Miss Jane came as "adopted family" to witness the ceremony.  Steve has been such a wonderful influence in Matt's life, and Jane has ever-so-kindly been our family seamstress in lieu of my own lack of sewing skills :-)  

Pre-Ceremony Prep.  Captain Irving is working with the group even though his own two children have graduated from the program.    

Cadet Captain LaJoy

Look how tall this kid is these days!  
A man standing beside two other terrific being a very proud papa!

Yes.  It finally happened. He is taller than I am :-( sniff sniff
Where did my baby go?
Love this young man's heart and sense of humor SO much!

Three years of hard work is represented there in that document.

Son to father, man to man...Matthew asked to have his dad and Steve present the award to him instead of the CAP staff.

Matt is such a humble guy, he didn't even let on much about the ceremony. His Squadron leader contacted me with details and asked if I could provide a cake, which we were delighted to do.  It was so cute to see Matthew surprised when the cake appeared out of the back of the van when we arrived...he was shocked that anyone made a big deal about it.  As Miss Jane said, he is a very modest young man, which is its own gift.  Though he is proud of his accomplishments in CAP, it is very clear that it is the journey itself that motivates him, not the recognition.

The entire family was so proud of him,  I loved how on the drive over they were all talking about how when any one of them does well at something, they see it as the family accomplishing something together, because it takes the support and encouragement of each one for us all to make it.  Matt said he totally agreed.

The Big Award!

There are two other big promotions Matt hopes to earn before the end of his CAP career.  There really is no equivalent to those in something like Scouting, because so few Cadets ever attain them.  The Commander from Grand Junction said he doesn't recall a Cadet in Western Colorado ever going higher that this current rank, so Matt has set his sights on going higher.  The highest rank sees a mere .5% of all CAP Cadets reaching it, and it is incredibly rigorous requiring a Cadet to show exemplary leadership gifts, aeronautics knowledge, and more.  It will take another year and a half for him to achieve it, if he is granted a disability waiver for his back...that may be an issue.  We will see, but this is a huge accomplishment, and we will continue to encourage him and hope he can reach his goal.

Next on the list, I guess, is ME! Haha! It is not really anything to celebrate, but I had an event of my own as I traveled to Denver to sing with my wonderful Sweet Adelines group, the DelRose Chorus. What a fun trip it was, laughing and singing with some very funny ladies.  We were not competing against other choruses this time as we didn't have quite enough members to compete, but we did get judged and scores will help us become a stronger chorus.  These ladies are such a hoot, and I am so glad I had the courage to walk into their rehearsal a year and a half ago.  It has been a great way to relieve some stress, and to make new friends.  Here we are in all our sequiney glory:

Hooker Look! I am not fond at all of THIS part of performing...or of actually being onstage in front of others. LOVE the singing though.  

The chorus has been one my one hobby, the one thing that gets me out around a wide variety of women, and has helped keep me sane this past very challenging year and a half or so.  We have had so many major events to deal mom's fall and near death, Dominick's loss of employment, Matt's back surgery, Kenny's ongoing needs, financial concerns, and more.  Having something that allows me to disengage for just a little while once a week is a soul saver.  The group has been enormously kind and flexible as my schedule to take care of everyone has had me traveling so much.

Something odd happened to me at the competition...I became surprisingly enamored of BLING!!!  WHAT??!!?? Me?!?!  Totally NOT the Cindy LaJoy I know, but seeing the beautiful costumes onstage of the large choruses had me shockingly thinking that our group needed more bling! HAHA!  For those that know the real life Cindy, that is completely out of much so as actually wearing makeup in the first place.  However, the feeling was real, and manifested itself in two purchases just for me...also completely out of character...haha! I saw the above canvas bag with a Laurel Burch print on it and I had to have it for my music binders.  I know it is a bit "loud" but those bright colors make me happy and have since I bought a Laurel Burch coffee cup way back on my honeymoon years and years ago.

Then for the REAL bling...taaadaaa...doesn't every Lead need a sparkly pin??
I tell you, being surrounded by that much estrogen and bangles overwhelmed my sensibilities.
Don't worry, I "came to" upon my arrival back in Montrose, and you aren't likely to see me running around town all glammed up.

Next up was Angela's 17th birthday.  Yes, you read that correctly...SEVENTEEN!!  

Angela and Olesya are far more "blingy" than their mom is, and so for her special day just she and I went to Grand Junction for the afternoon for purse shopping, and dinner at a nice restaurant.  Having the time alone with any of the kids is noteworthy, and Angela truly seemed thrilled to be with me, which of course warmed my heart.  We wandered up and down the mall, looking for just the right purse, which proved difficult.  We also decided to shop for Olesya's big 16th birthday gift while we were together and Angela could have the fun of helping select that.  We bought some shirts for Olesya as well, and finally stumbled upon the perfect purse for her at Payless.  It was exactly what she was looking for:

We are so blessed, particularly right now, that our kids' desires are small, and that they are truly grateful for every single thing they receive.

These are the sandals equally sparkly that her siblings gave money for, so while at Payless she felt like she really scored!! Haha!

Here we are at dinner:

We spent two hours at the restaurant, talking well after having finished our meal.  Angela is such a deep, big hearted, intuitive young lady.  The conversation flowed easily from one topic to the next, and I asked her what it felt like to be 17 years old.

"Mom, I don't feel like I am 17.  I feel more like 14 or 15."  She responded.

I asked her why she thought that was, and she said, "I think it is because it took me a couple of years to feel comfortable in my new family.  And I was growing up the whole time.  It's only been five years, and in some ways I feel like I am only five years old just because I don't want to leave you and Dad.  I wish people understood that, and I am grateful to you and Dad for protecting us and letting us be kids still.  I don't want to think about moving out or leaving my family...I just got you all!"

I reassured her that she had no reason to rush it all, and that our home would be hers as long as we were alive.  I told her that we all have our own personal journeys through the world, and often people think ours ought to look the same as theirs, or they judge us if it doesn't.  We both laughed as I recalled and pointed out all the ways in which others have thought our journey was faulty, wrong, fool-headed, or just plain crazy.  She then asked me, "How do you do it, Mom?  How do you keep from getting mad at people who judge you or who talk about you saying how stupid you are to do the things you do?"

I told her, "Angie, I've learned that sometimes people really don't understand.  They don't get that making a conscious decision to follow the Spirit means doing things unconventionally.  Most people aren't willing to risk their hearts, they are far too scared of others knowing them really well.  They put things and security above relationship.  Your Dad and I make decisions based on other criteria than most folks do, and I get that it doesn't make sense to others.  However, it does make us happy, and we wouldn't make a single thing different in our lives, even if it has been hard."  

There she sat, quietly contemplating and sipping from her drink.  She then looked up at me and said, "More than anything I want to be like you and Dad when I grow up.  You guys are so special, and you have helped me see the world totally differently.  You really will be my friend when I grow up enough that you won't have to be my mom all the time, we will be very close always, I think.  I really respect you mom, and I think you are a good, good person.  Even when people do or say mean things to you, you are kind to them.  I was very tough in the orphanage, and sometimes I just want to say mean things to people to get back at them.  But watching you and Dad, I am learning that doesn't make anything better, and it doesn't even make me happy.  Sometimes I don't like to think about what I would be like if you hadn't adopted me.  I wouldn't have liked myself very much."

"Do you like yourself now?" I inquired.

"Most of the time, I think I do.  I am different now, and I still have a lot more to learn from you.  Although it has been hard to have a lot of bad things happen this year, I have learned so much from watching you handle it.  I know I will have bad things happen to me, too, but maybe I will be able to deal with them better.  And if I don't, I know you will make sure I get straightened out!" she laughed.

She was in a mood to reminisce, and we talked about my one and only visit with them 3 years before we were able to adopt them.  She hadn't known that one of her friends there had boldly asked me if I could adopt her and her sister, as she desperately sought a family for them (they were subsequently adopted, thankfully), and she was quite moved to learn that I knew firmly that, despite my compassion for her friend, she was not my daughter, but that I knew instantly upon meeting them that Olesya and Angela were my kids.  We talked about the heartbreak of my sensing that so strongly, and having no idea if they could ever possibly come home.  We spoke with profound gratitude for our Adoption Angel, who made it happen financially for us and stood by with great encouragement and support the entire way.  Angela asked me how I knew that any of the kids were "ours", what it had felt like, and I tried to explain but it was a very hard thing to express.

Finally, it was time to leave, and we headed home where Olesya had baked a cake, and a package awaited her to open, special delivery from her new friend Christi in Massachusetts.  It had arrived several days early and  the suspense had killed her!  Haha!:

A homemade birthday card from her adopted little sister :-)

Surprise beauty products!

It is hard to believe that these two:

Have grown into these two young ladies:

I never could have imagined just what a gift they would be in our lives.  Don't get me wrong, I desperately wanted them, but what I had no clue of was how sweet they each were, how close we would one day eventually be, and how empty my life...all of our lives...would have been without them.

This past Sunday I filled the pulpit for our vacationing pastor, and MAN did I struggle with writing a sermon!  I realized one reason I haven't blogged as much the past several months is that stress seems to have taken my language away from me, and I have tucked a lot of things inside.  It was a gradual pulling away from writing, which is really a spiritual practice of sorts for me, and I miss it but find it very hard to write from my soul right now.  It isn't that I am hiding anything, but that my brain space is taken up with urgent matters, and I need to find a way to get more out of my head and onto the screen.  I am going to be diligent about that, and see if I can work my way back into more regular writing.  It's good for me, it helps me process things, and it serves as a Gratitude Journal of sorts...and I have a million things to be grateful for.

After church Sunday, Kenny came up to me and said, "Mom, I have a proposition for you.  Can I take you to lunch?", so I ended up having a wonderful date with my handsome, thoughtful son.  He took me out to Chili's, where we spent a couple of hours talking about all things theology, and then it turned to a more personal note as Kenny admitted he is very worried about his future, and about being a burden on his family.  He has a clear understanding of his real deficits, and I think he is finally beginning to grab hold of how hard it may be in adulthood.  

Can I tell you how heartbreaking it is to have a child who is so sincere, so very deep, so self-aware in many ways, and who really understands that he may never make it to full self-sufficiency?  Kenny is a "fall through the cracks" kid, whose challenges are such that there is no way to pretend it won't affect his future.  This tender young man is so eager to please, so very smart in a variety of ways, and yet is really quite handicapped, too.  His growing realization is something we are going to have to work with to promote the fact that he will have an amazing life, and that he is surrounded by support that is second to none.  His life will, no doubt, look different than the other kids', but even they see the enormous potential inside of Kenny and want to see him live into that potential to the best of his ability.  

Looking him square in the eyes, as my own started to shed tears, I told Kenny that I adored him, that we have never had a moment's regret about adopting him and would have even if we had known he would have problems.  To reinforce that point, I reminded him that we knew very well what the girls had been subjected to, and that it was highly likely they would come with alcohol related challenges, which we have been lucky enough not to deal with in only subtle ways.  I asked him, "Did we ever consider not adopting the girls even though we knew their past and the likelihood there would be some tough stuff to work with?"

The light bulb moment happened, and he looked up at me with a slow grin beginning and said, "Come to think of it, no, you never thought for even one second of not adopting them, and you DID know they would probably have the same kinds of problems I had!"

I them reached across the table and grabbed his hands in mine, and told him, "You never, ever have to consider yourself a burden.  We all take care of each other, we all will always take care of each other.  It is our job as family, it is why we were brought together.  We all have special needs, some of them just look different."

He then said, "I was talking to Matt a little about this a few weeks ago, and I told him I was feeling like a lot of the money for the family and a ton of your time was spent on me, and how that wasn't fair to the other kids.  Matt reminded me that everyone has needed more of you at one time...that he got you and Dad for the first few years before Josh came home, then Josh was a mess and needed you to help him be able to learn how to love, then I came home and took a ton of your time...and I still do...and then the girls who needed you badly to feel safe.  It was nice of Matt to try and make me feel better, but I do know you have had to put more time and money into me than all the other kids put together."

"And I've loved every minute of it Kenny, and you are SO worth it!  And who knows?  I am betting as time goes on, each of the other kids will have a need for us to help them in a big way at some point in time.  And we'll all be there for them.  It's not about being 'even Steven', sweetie, it's about making sure that everyone is OK and gets what they need...and some will just need more than others, and it has nothing to do with you trying to take resources more than the others.  You had no control over how you were born, or what the orphanage did or didn't do for you.  But we all have control over what happens next, and I know you would be willing to sacrifice anything for your brothers and sisters, and they know that, too. " I said.

He thanked me profusely for always being honest and for talking with him about it.  He said he wanted to be a contributor, not a taker, and we talked about ALL the ways he contributes, many of which he had never thought of.  As we eventually walked out the door, my tall, handsome, resilient Kenny threw his arm protectively over my shoulder, and said, "I love that I can always talk with you, you make it easy.  Thanks, Mom..." then he escorted me to our car.  

Tonight, after watching a movie together, we all somehow ended up gathered around the dining room table, snacking and talking.  Dominick is awake later these days, as his early mornings have disappeared.  There was so much nonsense conversation, so much laughter, gentle teasing, and connecting going on.   It was one of those times when nothing important is going on, at least not on a surface level, and yet not a single person wanted to leave the moment behind.   We are going through a hard time right now, but it is still beautiful to live in this family.  Nothing else matters, really, but this love that is shared, this presence we all enjoy, this walking together...more often than not hand in hand, literally...and we have each other.  Nothing else matters.  Daily, I give thanks, that I get to live in the midst of all of this richness, all of this emotional maturity, all of this willingness to speak of matters of the heart.

We also know we have plenty of people pulling for us...people who have threatened to lay down in front of our van if we have to move in order to try and stop us, people who have offered concrete help in our employment search, people who have prayed for us and continue to encourage us.  We're fine, we are strong, we are loving and loved.  That's all anyone really needs.


1 comment:

LK said...

Cincy, I hope you are considering compiling your blog into a book. This could realistically be a source of income for your family. You are a good writer and your story is unique! Laura