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Prepping

It has been cray cray in the Followell house (basically ever since there was a “Followell house”) but for sure the last few months. Too much to catch up on so I’ll just start in the middle…

We are anticipating to travel to get Eden in October or November. Now, everything in adoption world is full of “tentatives” and “ish”, but to even fathom it being that soon is a big excitement to us! We will be writing out her whole story on our blogs at some point as well as documenting her coming home through pictures (duh) so I won’t go into the nitty gritty of all that has happened since February. Basically in a nutshell it has been- generosity overload, friends stepping up, family rallying around, minds being blown, prayers being answered, paperwork (IT NEVER ENDS!), waiting, training, scheduling, waiting, getting answers, applying for visas and “govermenty” stuff, dreaming, anticipating, reading…repeat, repeat, repeat. The small happenings are wildly important and will be shared at a later date. But you can get the picture.

If I had to title what right now is looking like, it would be “Preparing”.  I am beginning to buy things for our trip. Small things like sippy cups and tylenol, but the fact that a “travel pile” exists in a closet is exhilarating. Meg’s drawers are beginning to be rearranged to make room for Eden’s clothes. Reading a couple of books about attachment for adopted children. Attempting to get way ahead in all my work responsibilities. Lining up doctors for appointments. Applying for visas. Having “maybe this is our last time without kids for a while” date nights. Buying things that say India even if they are of no use to us. Making lists and getting shots- hoping it all gets lined up, checked off, filed, stamped and completed before the time we lift off.

Thinking over and over in my head the past 21/2 years from decision to adopt, to waiting on our court papers leaves me in utter amazement. That Eden will no longer just be a t-shirt worn, but a child with a full personality. A little sister trying to mimic Meg. A girl who needs her daddy when she falls down. A momma’s girl (for sure 🙂 Her little life has felt anything but little to us. We will never be the same because of it. And I have a feeling, others may feel the same way.

Our adoption post about our court date got around 600 likes. At first I feel so stupid even saying that because most would say “those aren’t real friends” or “social media kills you” or something in between the dramatics of both of those statements. But really, I like Facebook and other social media. Sure- like everything – in moderation. And we for sure try to be careful it isn’t interfering with our lives or allowing us to acquire our self worth from it. BUT let me tell you what it has been doing and showing me through this adoption- people are intrigued with real love. People are drawn to doing something bigger than themselves. They are aching for anything that sheds a light of hope and they still love a story of rescue (see the bottom for my brief thoughts on the use of that word). We have taken all of our “likes” as affirmation, encouragement, “go get em tigers” and they have honestly pressed us on in days that felt so so long and never ending.

I write these words for a few reasons- 1. To update you a bit on where we are. 2. To say THANK YOU to all of you who have not only “liked” our posts but given money, thought, time, attention, prayer, petition, or kind words. So many people have sent a “random note” or “just thinking of you guys today” text. Countless people have bought t-shirts and post each time they wear them which always makes me feel like I just got a hug from Eden. It all seems small but I am here to tell you kindness is NEVER small. One of my favorite quotes is ” An act of kindness, however small, is never wasted.” I hope that we can be those small and big acts of kindness for others the rest of our lives. It has made all the difference.

Considering we feel like EVERYONE around us is bringing Eden home, we will update you once we hear the happenings of our court appointment September 4th. From there, we will know a closer time of travel. 🙂

much love,

Jess

 

PS. I need a GREAT memoir to read on the plane- suggestions?

PSS. RESCUE – many VERY smart and experienced people have warned us on claiming our adoption of Eden as a rescue story. That viewing it as that may cause pain for her or her self worth to be jeopardized. I want you to know I understand where you are coming from and we will not be glorifying the fact that WE rescued her or that SHE is the lucky one because of US. But in our belief, we understand rescue as a beautiful and sacrificial gift God our Father did for us. And THAT rescue story parallels with hers and is why we use the word rescue. In that light- to us- “rescue” is one of the best things you could experience. We share that in common with Eden and that is how her story needs to be told.

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Rusty Cookies

“How do you feel?”  Words that have been asked by my sweet friends and family, along with the simply curious, about my reaction toward our adoption status. About 6 weeks ago, as many of you know, we matched to a little girl. She has special needs and an amazing story to go with all of her cute self which can be found if you click here. My Robby wrote such an amazingly articulate and complete post on our decision and matching process that I didn’t find the need to add anything.  And my answer to that question of “how I felt” was just…good. The relief of having a face attach to my dreams of our little girl, the answered questions her story instantly provided to my wonder and just the mere fact that something finally happened after a long long time of nothing. All of this made me feel good. So, so good. Immediately after matching, we found out that a lot of our paperwork needed to be updated. So the last month plus has been filled with running around, getting signatures, blood work, background checks, notary stamps, paying fees, blah blah blah. But even that didn’t make me feel bad. I had done this once, I could do it again. After a few hiccups we finally got all the papers in, or so I thought. We still are waiting on one paper to complete the process. O-N-E. The paperwork will then go to India and begin being approved and then finally sent to court. But it can’t to a dad-gum thing until that piece of paper is sent to us. And this particular paper is one where you call the 1800 number and deal with the hellacious millions of choices you have to listen to just to press 0 and then frickin pound (little testy- I know- sorry). Today when I called-again-they told me that it would be faxed tomorrow-again-and I had some choice words. You know, as “choice” as a girl who has terrible comebacks and loves Jesus can be. But for me, I was mad. I was shaking by the end of the call because being stern is not my best attribute but at this point if they don’t give me that paper I will call tomorrow, jump through the phone and start rollin some heads (breathe Jess).  

So, if anyone were to ask me how I feel right now about our adoption, it’s frustrated. But I’m not just exasperated by the paper fiasco (although if you can’t tell I’m a little on edge about it). But I thought this was done. Like all the aching and “please pray for us” and “I’m so fragile and needy” and “this is all I can think/talk/pray about”- I thought I was on solid ground. The ground where I have steady footing and can hack it on my own. The ground where I don’t cry every other day just because I’m so overwhelmed by the good/bad/ugly parts of adoption and orphan care. I found myself slapping my cheeks in the mirror reciting “pull yourself together Jessica!” Which I don’t recommend because you may cry harder. Yet it was at this moment that I had a thought. A thought that will change my mind, my heart and how I treat others-hopefully forever…I never want my compassion to run out. Obviously most of us have our heart strings legitimately tugged over injustice and things of that nature. But I want my compassion to reach into my daily life. I want it to stretch past my comfort, through my annoyance and over my convenience. Maybe it’s just me, but I realized my compassion had a limit. People speaking about the same issue constantly, or someone asking of my help too much/often. Maybe it was someone confessing a problem that I didn’t feel like was that big of a deal. Whatever the case was, I gave what I thought the “good” person would give. And then moved on (boy that is so ugly when you put it into words!) But now being on the side of my “issue” that has lasted over 2 years and STILL crying out for help and in need of the shoulders, hands and feet of others- I never want to have a cap on my concern over another persons pain and hardship. Ever. Again. 

Now, how do I feel? Moved. Moved to feel what I feel and hope for people whose wells of compassion won’t run out on me. Moved that I serve a God whose compassion is constant no matter what. And moved to make it my life’s goal to be a safe haven of endless acceptance and love to all others fighting this hard battle of life, whatever their specific battle might be. 

In conclusion- to all you worriers out there- I am not in a state of depression or in a low place. I have MUCH to be overjoyed about. My brother just got married to a precious woman, we just returned from an amazing trip to Austin, and we actually are buying a house (that is a whole post in itself). And if that wasn’t enough, my little Megsie is turning into the most tender and funny little girl I know. My life is still good. Great even. I just don’t want people to live with the “instagram life” perception of me. All of that is true (the cute posts and fun activities) but it isn’t the whole story. There’s just a little rust on my cookie-cutter life. I personally think it tastes better that way.

Little heavy. I’ll write about how much I like pizza in my next post.

LYLAS 🙂

Jess 

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The dad gum good “Good Wife”

I made new year’s revolutions (as my group of friends is calling it). But I’m not going to blog about that cause it’s really not impressive until I’ve actually accomplished some of them, so I’ll hit you up in April with my results (or I’ll pretend like it never happened if I plummet into failure 🙂

I am, however, going to talk a bit about something that is ruining my life and that is the show “The Good Wife”. Yes, I realize it is now in like season 20 or so but as usual, Robby and I jump on TV bandwagons a lot later than the rest of the world. We just finished season one and just started the second and it is going to be the end of me. The unwatched episodes loom over me and in the back of my mind most of the day until we sit and watch 1, or 2, or 3 (certainly NOT 4!…except that one time) episodes. Robby and I innocently ask one another “what do you want to do tonight?” As if there were actually other options. Even last night, we did other things until almost 10pm. I finished a great and sad book (The Book Thief) and he worked on some editing. Acting like we were more mature than to be reeled in by that box in our living room. And then we watched an episode until 11pm. If we can only get caught up then we will be forced to just watch once a week and life will resume to a normal-ish status of followell tv watching which is usually not that much. 

This late night tv watching has a few not-so- great side effects. 

1. I can’t go to sleep right away. My mind is tossing and turning over the characters and their drama (judge on judgers).

2. I have been sleeping in (7:30-8ish) which totally skips over my morning work out.

What has happened to me? Before the holidays, I was getting up around 5:00, working out, getting my coffee, reading and cleaning a bit before my people woke up. I had a schedule! Now I am doing something different every day. And with the weather being so cold, it makes it even worse to retreat from the oasis of snuggles that is our cozy, warm bed. This is a disaster! – or is it? I failed to mention that Robby and I are like giddy children late at night. We laugh, sneak treats from the fridge (which these healthier days is almond butter), discuss random topics (ok mostly TGW) under our string of white lights still hanging on our bed from Christmas – I can’t let go of the white lights. We snuggle in the morning, taking turns slamming our alarms off (again- don’t get mad-we have a toddler so 7:30am is “sleeping late”). It’s like we are just living each day and not worrying much about tomorrow. 🙂

As I wrap up this rabbit chase, I’ll try to make my point and share just one of my NY revolutions (I know I said I wouldn’t but I changed my mind)…

relax. enjoy. breathe in. let go. soak up.

I’m sure I’ll reinstate a couple of early morning workouts and I really do enjoy drinking something hot and watching the world wake up. But my schedule can stand to be shaken up a bit. I’ll run a few nights instead of mornings or just park the car far away from the grocery store to get in some cardio. I don’t know about you, but I need to relax. I need to not be so hard on myself and stop maxing out  my to do list. I need to prioritize making memories and not DOING so much. I want cooking dinner together to be a family activity, and to say yes to Meg when she asks “one mo book?” even if it is past her bed time of 8. I need to plan to have times of UN-PLANNED things. I need to say more yes to “not doing anything” and make more room for the “whatever happens”. I’m not talking about spontaneity-like crazy things to spice up life, and I’m not talking about being lazy. I guess what I’m saying is what I’ve already said. Let’s…

relax. enjoy. breathe in. let go. soak up.

much love- jess

 

 

 

 

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MY HAPPY BIRTHDAY.

Hello world- well “another year has gone byyyy” (celine dion plug). I am now the big 2. 8.  My 27th year of life was popping at the seems with some hard lessons, new insights, a few extra pounds, sweet moments with family and a new awareness of myself. I can safely say that although harder, each year of my life has gotten sweeter and sweeter. So I have big hopes for this next one and am setting a few goals!  Some silly, some more serious. It’s kinda a long one so feel no guilt in skimming!

28th year goals- Giving you what my goals are and why they’re important to me.

1.Be confident.  I’ve lost a little bit of my nerve to just be myself. Example-wearing kinda mismatched clothes; dancing at random times; expressing and standing on a conviction even if I think it might make someone uncomfortable; being silly. Those are all me. And this year- they’re making a come back!

2. Laugh at myself more. –  I can be naive and gullible. Which leads me to say absurd and COMPLETELY wrong things. No more being embarrassed. I know what I know. And what I don’t know- I’ll learn.

3. Quit biting my nails.  Because it’s gross. And a bad habit.

4. “Funkify” my closet.  My style is eclectic. No eccentric but mixed up. One day I’ll be pretty in pink, the next sporty spice and the next edgy punk girl. I like this.  I tend to dress with my mood. I need more items that look less like others and more like myself.

4. Healthy Eating – Yes this year has come with about 5 pounds which I want to go away and am working on. But this year I don’t want it to be about weight but health. I wanna feel energized and alert.

5. Get Eden home. Not in my control. But I still want this and DESPERATELY hoping for it this year.

6. Get up earlier. If I can melt my way off the bed and onto the floor, stagger over the shoes/clothes from the day before, hit the bathroom and turn the light on then AFTER that I would LOVE mornings. They are kind of my “me” time. And as our family grows I bet the only time our home will be quiet. My goal is 5:15 Monday-Thursday.

7. Hug. I want people around me to NEVER doubt I love them, have missed them, want them around always, and that they are worth my affection.

8. Write more. Once I thought I might write a book. Maybe that will happen but just writing MORE would be a good start (Maybe I’ll blog like 5 times this year! 🙂

9. Learn to kindly discipline Meg.  We are in the stage of helping Meg be obedient. My hope is not to just direct her behavior but create heart change in her. Already many times I’ve had to stop a conversation or leave an event to show her what is acceptable and what isn’t. But she is worth me stopping whatever I’m doing and taking time to teach. Above all I want her to know I love her in her success and failure but I also love her too much to give her everything she wants (even though I kinda want to!)

10. Care for the older and elderly. I have neighbors who are older, some elderly, a few sick, a couple widowed. And I scoot in and out with a wave and an occasional card. But this year, I wanna go and sit and hear more stories and share more tea cookies and drink endless cups of coffee. I want to remind them their lives are not “over” and are still a benefit to society and me!

11.  Be more flexible. literally. Gonna stretch my way into some splits for my 29th year 🙂

12. Dance weekly. Weather it is with friends, Robby and me making up a dance to a song (Our first of which will be Whitney Houston “I wanna dance with somebody”) or just by myself getting dressed or Meg’s nap. I need more dancing!

13. Get rid of excess. Bout to be a major clean out at the Followells. I love a purge but am sentimental so it takes about 7 purges to actually get it all gone. Here comes the 7th and it’s gonna be a doozy!

14. Try new fruits. I want to expand mine and Meg’s palate. Each time I’m at the grocery store I’ll get a new fruit. First attempt at this I got pomegranate. SO SO GOOD!

15. Receive correction. It’s partly pride, partly being too analytical, partly being overly sensitive. But humility is not my first reaction to correction. I internalize way too much. This year I hope to receive correction more humbly.

16. Shoot more at weddings. I’m getting a little, tiny, microscopically, itty bitty bit better at shooting. I kinda am starting to like it. I need to take more shots, try more angles, get closer to my subjects, learn the mechanics of the camera and be more FEARLESS (plug to our photog friends out there).

17.  Go on 2 girls trips this year. From a girl with 3 brothers whose best friends were always mostly guys; I have learned and come full circle to the fact that I desperately need my ladies. And more concentrated time with them!

18. Make our house a home of prayer. I hope for our house to be a home for hurting, those needing comfort, sick, upset, struggling, confused, lonely and lost. Because we want to be a family that prays. And we want to be a family that opens our home- for anyone- always.

19. Cook every recipe in my 3 favorite cookbooks. The Homemade Pantry and both Catherine McCord’s Weelicious cookbooks are my FAVORITES! I love food and want to learn to use it, respect it, create with it and explore. So I’ll start with cooking through these 3 and see where that takes me.

20. Build something. With my hands. Nail, paint, create, saw, measure, mess up, start again.

21. Spend less, think more. We aren’t too frivolous but I think I could be more thought out and less spontaneous when it comes to spending. I want our money to make the most impact and want to take some time to think how we could do that.

22. Shoot more videos of Meg. Lord knows we have thousands (literally)  pictures of Meg. But her cute, squeaky, funny personality can’t be heard through pictures. I want to capture more of her silliness on moving camera.

23. Get out of my norm once a month. Whether it is volunteering, joining a cross cultural group, doing a new activity with Meg, hanging out with new people; I’d love to just get out of our comfort zone once a month. I think our eyes need to see the world around us is bigger than our day to day lives.

24. Spend more time with family. I have great parents- I want to see them more. My 3 brothers are full of humor, wisdom and love and I need that. My in-laws are precious jewels that I actually like. My Robby and Meg are most funny when put together. I want more time with all of these folks. I’ll drive, meet 1/2 way, Skype, face time my way to connecting to my family this year.

25. Drink “blacker” coffee. Just to cut sugar out. So I can EAT more of it than drink it. 🙂

26. Read. Read. Read. Blogs, books, government articles, magazines….

27. Finish what I start. I’m notorious for cleaning then getting tired, starting a project and shoving it in a closet; not cleaning up a mess. NO MORE! (or at least less 🙂

28.  Don’t beat myself up if everything on this list doesn’t happen.  Remember I’m human. Goals are awesome but only if they create a positive striving, not prideful completion. I’m gonna give these a go and see what happens!

Heres to 28, my friends.

much love,

jess

PS- Shout out to my Robby for loving me so so well. Among all the gifts he gave me today (and they are fabulous!) he and Meg are all I need in my day to day to fill my life with happiness (I do love some cheese! but it’s true!)

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For-e-ver…

 

IMG_1273

“for-e-ver” – quote from one of my all time favorite childhood movies (Sandlot); how long this “wedding season” spring/summer/fall has felt; since the picture of the cutest lil pig ever was taken (Meg halloween 2011 above); and the length of time it has been since I have blogged. I want to thank both of my faithful followers for staying tuned (again- shout out to mom and dad 🙂

My mind and heart are so full since the last time I wrote that it’s really intimidating to start again. But I really do love thinking and writing and writing what I think so let’s get back up on that horse Jess! (end self-pep talk).

I’ll start simple and confess that I am a homebody! It’s true! Contrary to my social behavior, home is my favorite place to be. I love the attire (“sporty spice” is my normal look although “slightly like a boy in oversized clothes” is a severely close second), I love cooking and smelling up the whole house with bacon or cookies or whatever new candle my scent-obsessed Robby has bought. I love a movie with popcorn on my deep couch under the best blanket that was given by our bff Elizabeth who calls me poodle (which at first sounds like she either likes me or it would be annoying but from her it’s a MAJOR compliment and term of intense endearment). I crave getting out of the bed, especially when it’s cold, throwing on a sweatshirt on and reading with some hot beverage while the sun comes up. I could go on. and on. and on.  Being away from home the past few months off and on has been great. Traveling is one of our hobbies and comes with the profession so I try to take it all in. But, here comes the cheesy but true line, there is really no place like home for me.

So my challenge to myself and to all of you (if there are any) is to embrace the home. Love it, cling to your moments there. Cook and eat with those you love (and maybe help clean up). Carve some pumpkins, or rearrange the mantle. Have a hot chocolate and Harry Potter marathon, snuggle with your baby and read as many books as she wants. These are little things. But I tell you that I am finding these are the little things that empower and refresh me for the “bigger” ones. Or maybe…they are the bigger ones.

Much love,

jess

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Lessons for life

So I was looking through some thoughts I use to write when I was too much of a pansy to start a blog. Sometimes I read things I wrote in the past and think “Oh thank GOD I didn’t display this for the public eye!” But every once in a blue moon I stumble on an old thought my younger self had and I think “hmm, this ole cat has some depth.” Again, only once in a blue moon. Below are some thoughts I wrote nearly 2 years ago right after Meg. Something I needed to read again. I guess some lessons are just “lessons for life”. I hope I never stop learning. 

The Counting Game

 Being a mom for now 8 weeks (happy 2 months Meg!), my mind is beginning to shape into “mommy brain”. However I’m still waiting on the eyes in the back of my head to appear. With a few months under my belt, my thoughts are shifting (THANKFULLY) from poop and pee to naps and smiles. Sometimes I even think ahead to ballet or soccer? Cheerleading (God help me) or choir? Track or dance? Maybe, knock on wood, even photography? Poor Meg. Not even controlling her own spit and I’m gearing up for extra curriculars!

I know I’m probably not alone in the world of dreaming ahead moms. More than likely most of us have envisioned the next phase of our child’s life.  However, lately I’ve realized a habit in myself that has reared its ugly head even more so since motherhood.  Counting.  Counting seems like a harmless skill we teach our 3 year olds but in reality can be a dangerous trap that controls our lives.  When I got pregnant I counted down the months to Meg’s birth. Then when she was born I counted her weight, how long she ate, how many “stinkies” she made. Now it’s the length she sleeps (not long enough!), how many times she holds her head up; what is the shortest amount of time I can take to shower? Counting-All things. All day.

 Then I began to realize that I not only do that in “mommydom” but in other things. In working it was, “how long until lunch?” In marriage it’s “how many minutes late is my husband”? The counting extends to calorie intake, waiting in line to order food, how many quiet times I’ve had this week. When is Christmas? My birthday? Vacation? No area of life is safe from the counting game. The harm comes not from the counting but what the counting produces. Impatience. Which is the foundation for a life of judging others, unreachable expectations, nagging loved ones, criticizing friends, and neglecting joy.

 As was said above, counting in and of itself is not harmful. We should count how much we spend to be good stewards of our money. We should be aware of calories so our bodies stay in shape. There is certainly nothing wrong with a countdown to your birthday (16 days for me)! And as my pastor Michael Manuel says, sometimes a countdown is good for those seasons of life where you need a light at the end of the tunnel. Counting can be a useful tool to organize, enrich and excite life.

 To count or not to count? What’s the answer to this question. For me, I will continue to count. I will count what is necessary and I will count what is joyful but I will not count my life away.  I’ll make dinner joyfully instead of counting how many things Robby has missed helping with in his 20 minutes of being late.  I’ll count my calories so I can be healthy AND have a huge piece of cake to commemorate major holidays. I’ll stop counting the number of quiet times and start counting my blessings. I’ll count Meg’s smiles instead of tummy time and I’ll enjoy the conversations with my mom instead of always “having to go”.

 Maybe you are a naturally laid back soul. The kind that operates like you live in a small African village where time is arranged by the sun and not a watch.  Control and scheduling your life has never been an issue and you embrace each moment like it’s your last. Give praise for that-and teach me! But if there are any of you out there counting to pass the time I urge you to stop. Be still. Know he is God and delight in the life he has given you.  And when  you see me-ask if I’m doing the same.

 Much Love,

Jess

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To Eden…

I wonder a lot about you.  What you will be like.  What will be your first favorite Disney character. If you’ll be wild and crazy like your joyful sister, or have a more meek and even type of delight. Will you squeal when you see us? Or will you cry because we scare you a little. What will you struggle with, being adopted? Having a multiracial family- will that make you proud or ashamed at times? Why did your birthmother allow us the honor of being the ones to enjoy you? Were you hurt? Are you being hurt right now? Do you feel the love we have for you? Will you feel it soon? Is someone holding you right now? Are you sleeping on a bed? The floor? Have you ever been kissed? Hugged? Held? Will you want to be, at first? I want you here. Now. Right, right, right now. I don’t like to wait. But in this I have no choice.

 

 I wonder about me. Will I have what it takes to be your mom? Can I be strong enough in all the change and transitions? Will your weaknesses overwhelm me? Will your strengths? How many times will I cry before you come? How many times after? The lump in my throat gets bigger with each day as I think about you. Can I handle this waiting task? Will I go crazy? Ok…will I go MORE crazy :). Do people understand how I feel? Loving some little person so much that I’ve never even seen in a photo. Missing someone I have never met. Do I understand how I feel?

 

I wonder about us. Imagining you and Meg giggling late into the night and not even having the heart to come stop it.  Watching your daddy take a million pictures of you attempting to make up for lost time. Seeing you on our street, mooching sweets off our neighbors, following your sister’s lead. I envision smiles on the faces of our church body as we roll through the doors 5 minutes passed with my fair skinned beauty and dark haired princess, probably shoeless beside me. 

 

So in my wonder there is curiosity, fear, excitement, anticipation, a lil worry a lot of imagination, a bit impatience, and heart about to burst.  But I’ll keep wondering. And wondering. And wondering.  Because that is what we have right now- me and you little princess. Wonder. And maybe, and hopefully, somewhere you are wondering about me too.