Teddy

When I was little, I always wanted a gargantuan stuffed animal, so when I saw that Costco had giant bears for $30 each, I was tempted. For the boys, of course.

We had our nephew in town, and I thought it would be the perfect party favor to send him home with. My sister would be thrilled (heh, heh, heh . . .) I couldn’t resist. In the store, my nephew carried his on his shoulders, while the boys stuffed theirs into a shopping cart. You should have seen the looks we got. Huge smiles, looks of longing, little kids pointing, and this one girl who gave her boyfriend a meaningful look and said, I’ve always wanted a giant bear.” I wanted to tell everyone, “Just do it. Buy the bear. It’s thirty bucks of fluffy love- you can’t beat that!”

 

Three boys and their bears

We buckled all three of those bad boys into my back seat.

Now we’re home and the bears have joined the family. We lounge on them. They lie alongside the boy’s beds and sit with us on the couch when we watch a movie. Those giant bears make no logical sense. I can’t tell you why they make me so happy. I loved my sister’s reaction when we pulled that giant bear out of the car to send home with her. “You did NOT do this, this is a joke, you’re joking . . .” All for the bargain price of $30.

Growing a tomato plant may not have made a whole lot of sense either, when I could buy them from the grocery store. I had to water it every day, worry about bugs and birds, and haul it out to the lake for the summer where I killed a patch of grass in the protected courtyard just to keep it safe from the deer. Despite the illogical, my tomato plant has given me great joy. The tomatoes have been hearty and plentiful. We’ve had tomato and mozzarella salads, tomato sauce, and plain old tomatoes with salt sprinkled on them.

Our adoption may not seem to make a whole heck of a lot of sense. We’ve spent hours and hours filling out paperwork, often redundant. We’ve worried and rushed and mailed, and dreamed. At the end of 3 and a half months, we’ve almost got our paperwork complete. Still no little girl in sight. We have one more letter we’re waiting on, something we have to go to Houston to get. Then we’ll bundle it all up and mail it to Honduras to be translated. Then approved. And then we’ll be on the list. Looks like next spring before we see our little girl. Totally illogical, and yet a total thrill, to imagine what life will be like. For now, I’ll lounge on the bear and dream about the day when we get her picture, travel to Honduras, and hold our baby girl.

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Why I Love Legos

I don’t know if I even need words for this post, since you can’t help but love legos when you see what Benji and his friend made the other day.

Lego Creations

They are vehicles for their ugly dolls.

But since I am a writer, I have to add words. What I love about legos is that they can be used different ways. Sure, you can build the picture on the box the legos came in, carefully separating all your pieces and following the directions. You can put it together and put it up on a high shelf and guard it closely whenever small children are near.

Or, you can make what’s on the front of the box first, then gradually pilfer one creation to make another. You use your imagination, restricted only by the pieces available to you. In our case, that’s a large tub full of assorted pieces from dozens of different lego kits. The boys make do with what they find. They alter their creations piece-by-piece, as they discover new ways to go about achieving their vision.

Ugly Doll Transporter

On this particular day, Benji’s brother left for camp for two weeks. There was potential for boredom, whining, and general unhappiness, but instead, he made these awesome creations with his friend.

This same day, I woke up filled with a sense of anxiety. Nate was gone, there was much to do to get ready for an upcoming trip, and I hadn’t worked on my story in weeks. But I made time to meet writing friends for coffee, and ended up talking with them for two hours about things I care about deeply. It wasn’t the piece I thought I needed, but it fit exactly where I put it.

That night I tried a new recipe for dinner, and had the time to cook without rushing around the kitchen. Things simmered, and our house filled with good smells. I could have been “getting things done.” If I was looking at a list of instructions for how to build a perfect model for achieving my goals, spending time cooking dinner would not have been one of my pieces. After eating, Clay, Alayna, Benji and I went out on the boat. The sun set while Alayna surfed behind the boat, a black silhouette. Bats skimmed the surface of the lake. Clay made us laugh as he surfed and turned a 360, first successfully, and then not so successfully.

The only thing that could have made the day better is if Nate was with us. If I had done some writing. If we’d moved forward on the adoption . . . but I worked with what I had. I sunk my hands deep into a tub full of displaced pieces, a tub full of potential, and made something of my day. Too often I waste my days feeling anxious, fretting over what my day “should have” looked like, when I could have made Ugly Doll transporters.

Check out my cool blue shades!

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Almost

This is what “almost” looks like.

Maybe in a day or so, I’ll be eating our first tomato. I didn’t post a picture of my first tomato while it was still on the plant. I didn’t even really mean to pick it. I was just admiring it, turning it on the vine so I could see it better, and it popped off in my hand. I displayed it proudly on an upside down plastic glass in the middle of our island, with my “Tomato” book front and center beside it. It was still a little hard, so I decided to let it ripen up for a few days.

It had a black spot on the bottom, but I didn’t worry. I figured I could easily cut it out. I dreamed of how I might eat that first tomato. Sprinkled with salt? It wasn’t big enough to make a sauce, and I didn’t have any basil or mozzarella to make it the way my friend does. So, salt it would be. But then, a few days later, I cut into it.

Fail. I was pretty proud of myself for not getting more upset. Maybe it’s because I have twenty other tomatoes on the vine, and I figure they won’t all look this way on the inside. I was willing to wait a little longer. I figured all good gardeners have a few fails in their past. It was just a notch on my belt.

I’ve gotten several rejection letters from agents the past few weeks. They gave me the same feeling as when I cut into my first tomato. But several of them were generous enough to offer some advice. I think I started my story in the wrong place, so I’m going to edit before I send any more out. There are still many tomatoes on the vine. Many great agents.

Almost. We got our home study back from our caseworker, which means we’re one step closer to our baby. Someday soon we’ll getting our invitation to be fingerprinted. We’ll be tidying up our dossier and putting this process in Honduran hands.

Almost. I can be depressed by those rejections from agents, or I can move forward with each one. Taking the advice that feels right and continuing the search, with a better manuscript each time.

Almost. Any day now I’ll break out the salt and slice through a red, ripe tomato.

Almost.

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Planking

You’ve heard about planking, right? The “big” internet craze? Okay, so maybe it isn’t all that big, but you’d be surprised how many pictures you come across of people planking. Clay became aware of it a couple weeks ago, and the Davises just had to try:

Meredith and Benji Plank

 

Alayna Planks

Benji and Nate Plank

Clay Planks

The “official” definition I found when I googled is the act of lying facedown for a photograph. More specifically: to put your body face down to the ground (or table, or object, or anything) with your arms to the side. Ours aren’t all that exciting compared to the man planking between two camels, or the two women planking in Vegas on either side of Elvis, but I still got the smallest of thrills. Why?

We did something together as a family. Some of my favorite moments have been spent with my entire family, whether around a dinner table or on a plane to Morocco. Even better, we laughed together. Oh, I love to laugh. It happens when I hear my voice echo back to me if my phone gets funky. Or when I see bodies all stretched in wavy mirrors. We took this picture at a “Hall of Mirrors” in Lucerne, Switzerland.

That day I laughed ‘till tears ran down my cheeks and I had to cross my legs so I wouldn’t pee. But another reason I liked planking is because we put ourselves in an unusual position and saw our world from a different perspective. Our living room looked different lying horizontal on a barstool. And it felt a little weird, but cool, to put my body in a place it had never been before.

There’s a point to this post on planking. We’re doing this adoption as a family, everyone is on “board” and can’t wait to meet their new daughter/sister. It is the topic of frequent dinner conversations as we talk about going to Honduras and try to come up with names. And the whole naming thing has led to lots of laughter, and I’m sure that’s just the beginning. Bringing a baby into our home means diaper explosions, carrots on the face, and those funny phrases she’ll come up with when she starts to talk. There is a lot of laughter in our future.

And we’re definitely putting ourselves in a place we’ve never been before. Lots of places. In particular this week, Clay and me drove to Fort Worth to meet two of the people who live in Honduras, and lots of the people we’ve been corresponding with via email and phone. We really liked everyone, and got lots of questions answered. There are still plenty of questions out there. There is uncertainty, and a healthy bit of fear, but I think it really isn’t an adventure without a little uncertainty and fear.

I also did a psychological review which is required of both Clay and I for the adoption. I’ve never sat in a chair in a psychologist’s office, and it’s been a long time since I took a bubble test. The MMPI had more than 500 true or false statements, which ranged anywhere from “I enjoy fixing door latches” to “I’ve thought about killing myself.” That same afternoon we had our home study. Our caseworker was a really nice woman who asked us some easy and hard questions. We were pleased to find out we’ll be seeing her over the years for child evaluations once we adopt our girl. She was full of ideas and advice that made a lot of sense.

Because this is all new to us, this adopting business, and we can use all the ideas and advice we can get. But we’re in it together as a family. I didn’t find out until later that day of our home study that Alayna had missed a fun day with her friends, who all got together to swim and watch a movie. She hadn’t even asked if she could go, because she knew where she needed to be. Where she wanted to be.

So I have a new definition for planking, the Davis definition: doing something together, experiencing much laughter, as we put ourselves in places we’ve never been before. Come on, admit it, you want to try. I can’t wait to see the pictures . . .

 

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Tomatoes and an Elf Shoe

Oh, how we’re going to learn patience in the adoption process. I think that’s why I rejoice so much over the gargantuan size of my tomato plant.

My Huge Tomato Plant

It’s already enormous, after less than two months. Taller than me. My gut gets all aflutter when I see it. My peppers, on the other hand, have not been nearly as hardy. They haven’t grown much, and despite promising little bud-like things, I have only one pepper. It looks a little like an elf shoe.

Elf Shoe Pepper (Jalapeno)

So far, the adoption process has been like growing a pepper. We’ve got our homestudy date on the calendar, a little elf shoe, but there is still so, so much that needs to happen before we’re nuzzling a soft little noggin’ into that part of the neck that seems made to fit a baby’s head. I know at the homestudy we’ll be asked why we want to adopt. We’ll be asked again at the psychological exam, just another stepping stone to getting the dossier complete. For those not familiar with the terminology (we weren’t until recently) you have to have a homestudy to have a complete dossier, and you have to have a complete dossier to be matched with a child in Honduras. The dossier is the official pack of paperwork that we’ll send. Back to that question: Why do we want to adopt? Why do I want to adopt? Why are we willing to go through all this paperwork and waiting?

It’s not because my kids want a baby, though they do. Not because Clay wants a baby, though he does, too. I’ve heard some parents say their family just didn’t seem complete, they knew they were supposed to have another child. But that’s not really the right answer for me, either. The reason I want to adopt a baby is because the best thing I’ve done with my life is raise children. Better than writing books, running, reading, traveling around the world, and yes, even better than growing a tomato plant taller than me. Diapers, giant plastic toys, and lack of sleep are a small price to pay for laughter around a dinner table, reading a book to a child in bed at night, or spying on one of my kids lost in a world all their own. Sharing my home with a child opens my eyes to a world I would never have seen without them.

Our family is not incomplete right now. But it can become deeper and richer. Clay and I have the health, energy, and resources to raise another child. Most of all, we both feel called to it. The elusive “call,” that you can’t put your finger on, but you know. You feel. And as soon as you act on the call, you get confirmation. So-and-so has a friend in Honduras who works with orphanages. We were told this not one, not two, not three, but four times. Four separate, different contacts in Honduras, once we decided that’s where we wanted to adopt. And that’s just the beginning of the open doors.

Today I saw pictures of a family we know who is picking up their little boy in Rwanda. I felt like I was looking at someone else’s giant tomato plant, and all I had was a little elf shoe of an adoption process going. But I have to trust that eventually the call that planted this seed will continue to grow and grow until we’re picking up our baby. Something taller than ourselves is at work, overseeing the growth of the Davis family, and with his help, we will bear some beautiful fruit.

It's Growing . . .

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Togas and Toenails

This week I had to learn to tie a toga, and cut our guinea pig, Mohawk’s, toenails. This seemed appropriate, as we forge ahead with paperwork, continuously stepping into the great unknown. I’d never tied a toga before, but I figured it out. Benji had a Greek and Roman Feast at school and he looked quite stately.

I never cut Mohawk’s toenails before, as evidenced by their gnarly appearance.

I was less successful in my clipping endeavors, and had to call a neighbor for help.

We finished a second big round of paperwork this week, and we’ll soon be contacted by a caseworker for our homestudy, the next benchmark on our road to our little girl. We’ve never done a homestudy before, never adopted a child before, but we’ll figure it out. We’ll probably call on neighbors for help. And family, and friends, and our church. And God for sure. Lots of praying going on around here. And toga-tying. And toenail-cutting. Life’s an adventure, and there are lots of stories to be told.

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White Out and Sticky Tabs

If it didn’t feel real before, it does now!

We printed out some of the adoption paperwork last night and Clay and I began tackling it today. I knew it took courage and a calling and lots of love to adopt.

I didn’t realize the need for lots of sticky tabs and white out.

I am not a good form-filler-outer. I write too fast (hmmm, could be linked to my talking genes) and don’t always look first to see if a) it needs a notary or b) I’m writing in the right box or c) which birth date goes with which child. Thankfully, I found the white out, and some colorful paper clips to boot. The pages are now bristling with sticky tabs, places Clay needs to sign or read or we need to figure out together. It feels good to be doing something, anything that brings us closer to this child.

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Hurry Up and Wait

This Sunday we ran into a friend whose family is adopting internationally, and when we asked him if there was any news about their child, he just shrugged and said, “Oh, you know, it’s hurry up and wait.” I can’t seem to get those words out of my head. Here’s why:

My early girl tomatoes don’t even have flowers on them yet! The plant is growing, true. They’ve at least doubled in size, and the branches are stretching outside the cage, but no tomatoes. I thought they would be “early” bloomers, so come on girl, grow me some ‘maters! I was in such a hurry to get them planted, once I finally decided to make the commitment and give it a try. I didn’t want to waste any of the growing season, so I rushed to the nursery with my friend. I bought liquid seaweed, and I fertilized. I water at the hint of dry soil. I do everything I can do, and now I wait. If a watched pot never boils, what happens to a watched plant?

My jalapenos are more exciting.

Can you see it? Right in front of the finger?

Benji and I oo’d and ah’d over these babies they way you might ooo and ahhh over tiny fingers and toes. Such a cute little pepper.

But I’m not just hurrying and waiting with the plants. I’ve been working diligently on a middle grade novel, sending it to readers, revising, blocking hours on my calendar so I could get it in tip-top shape. I sent a query to an agent yesterday, and got an automatic email reply that she’s out of the office until the end of April. In my dreams, she emails me from her vacation and says to send her the novel because she wants to read it while she’s on the beach sipping on a frozen margarita. Does a watched inbox ever get emails?

And on the adoption front, we’re entering the hurry-up phase. As of last night, we’ve decided to pursue Honduras. There have been many open doors in that direction. Many “coincidences,” people crossing our path with connections to Honduras. An author friend is house-sitting there for a year, we met a couple living in Honduras and working in orphanages who is in Dallas for a couple weeks, and every day or so when we mention Honduras, someone knows someone or has a connection that provides another open door. So we step through the doors, until they start closing.

I am thankful for the “hurry up and wait.” It helps me prepare for the inevitable. I know the next few weeks and months we’ll be busy filling out paperwork and making doctor’s appointments and preparing for a home study. Clay and I are type A, we’ll get the work done. We met with a wonderful woman this week who can help us navigate these waters. Weeks from now, when we’re frazzled or tuckered out, we’ll wait a while. We can expect to wait months before we’re matched with a child. I can see us now, out on the back porch, on the other side of the next few busy weeks. We’ll have a salt shaker in hand, and on a plate, a big, juicy, sliced up tomato. Good things come to those who wait.

“But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.” Romans 8:24-25


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The Extraordinary Ordinary

“Do not look at the faces in the illustrated papers. Look at the faces in the street.” –G.K. Chesteron

This was the quote we chose as the banner for our “trip around the world” site, which we called “Faces in the Street.” It says everything we wanted to say about why we traveled for nine and a half months. We wanted to meet those faces on the other side of the globe. We wanted to hear their stories. We wanted them to become real. This blog is about the stories right here at home, because we all have stories to tell. The “Stories in the Street.” There are stories in homes, grocery store aisles, and cafeterias. I want to hear them. I want to “live deep and suck out all the marrow of life.” (Henry David Thoreau) This is where I’ll share my stories. I hope you’ll share yours, too.

I came across a Jacques Cousteau quote that says exactly what I want to say about life, my writing, and this blog. “When one man, for whatever reason, has the opportunity to lead an extraordinary life, he has no right to keep it to himself.”

We all lead extraordinary lives. The extraordinary can be found in the most ordinary things. A leaf with fuzzy balls on the back. The first hint of a tomato. Coming home with my arms full of groceries to find an elaborate dart game taking place in my living room. I’m talking take-the-picture-off-the-wall-and-mount-a-target elaborate. Of course extraordinary can be found in the big moments of our lives, too. Our trip around the world. A first book contract. The adoption of a child.

I begin this blog on the cusp of big adventures, and small ones. I’ll be sending a middle grade manuscript to agents in the coming weeks. Our family recently decided to adopt a baby. And I just planted my first tomato plant. Ever. If it is successful, it will be the first time I’ve ever grown something I can eat.

I write this blog because I want to share my adventures, big and small, with others. I want to encourage others to share their stories with me. I’m a lover of stories, big and small. If you’ve found your way to this page, maybe you are, too.

Check back  for updates on manuscripts, babies, and, hopefully, tomatoes.

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