Tuesday, September 6, 2022

The running community mourns, too.



I don't watch the news if I don't have to. Call it uninformed, but I'd rather not know most of what I see when it is on. Scrolling through social media tells me enough and most of it isn't good. Eliza Fletcher's picture on my feed hit me hard pretty quickly, though. It's difficult to scroll on past that. It checked a lot of my boxes- female runner, in her 30's, mother, teacher, Tennessee. I hate to see how this ended for her, for her family, friends and entire community. And I don't know why I felt led to write something about this stranger, but I think it might be because I feel like she could've been me or I could've been her or that this could happen anywhere to any of my precious and fierce running friends.

Already I've heard or read:

"Why was she running in the dark?" to which I'd jump to defend her by saying that as a mom this might be her only time to herself. It's hard for me to even type this all out and break it down for you. If she's anything like the runners that I know, she made time for her goals. Period.

"Well, running in a crop top or bra is asking for something sinister." Be better than this, people. This might be the most egregious. Women can and should run in whatever clothing that is breathable and comfortable to them. When you say something like this, you participate in victim shaming. 

She should've done this, She should've done that.

What SHOULD be the case is this: Women shouldn't have to fear going out on a run every single time they step outside.

Unfortunately, women are often thinking and planning around obstacles always out of necessity and habit. I've talked to our male counterparts and the same thought process and fear rarely pops into their minds much less dealing with it every single day on every single run.

My reality is-
I don't listen to music while running because I'm afraid I won't hear someone approaching.
I don't run in the dark anymore because I've been scared too many times. I've been yelled at in the wee morning hours. Cat called at 5am. I had a panic attack the last time I ran a Ragnar (relay race) during my nighttime shift.
I don't even like to run alone anymore because I was followed once and that almost made me find a new way of exercising all together. Just the other day, someone stopped me while I was out and asked if I was sure it was a good idea to be running alone. Creepy, but they had a point.
I carry mace, but every time I strap it on I know in my mind that it's only a small tool. The same would be true for a gun, too. If I'm approached in a car, I can easily see how I could be overpowered while caught off guard.

We can take precautions, but anything can happen. The very last thing onlookers should do is shame Eliza Fletcher in any way for waking up and participating in a sport she loved. There's space for sadness, a big huge gaping hole for those people she left behind. There's no room in the conversation for discussing what she should have done.

I hope you'll keep running. I hope you will stay safe.

Other tips for those who run or are getting into running:
Use a tracking app. Tell someone what your route is and when you'll be back. Don't develop a set routine. Mix up your routes and times of day. Fight for your goals and those who attempt to destroy them.

Eliza's face is etched into my brain and I will think of her when I lace up. I pray for her boys and her entire family. The running community mourns, too. 



Wednesday, April 6, 2022

Sitting Here With My Sadness

I'm sitting outside on a lounge chair in the backyard of our home in Tennessee. Our home for a few days more. Soon it will be someone else's home. Scattered around me are guacamole and lime tostitos, my therapy of choice today. The birds are lifting up their songs and the breeze is just the slightest bit cold. There are a thousand tasks I need to do, but perhaps this one is the most important- sitting here with my sadness on leaving Tennessee behind again. It's not the house with its busted gutters and never ending yard work. It's not even the stuff inside our home, although there are plenty of antiques and art that remind me of people I love. It's not the stuff with price tags that is in my heart, but instead all the memories that come with this land. 
If I look beyond my outstretched feet, I can see where three little boys used to run around shirtless in the sun before their sisters even came to be. Merit was one when we bought this house. We brought two more babies home to it. This is the longest we've lived anywhere.
That's not all I see. I see friends and their babies filling our yard on playdates before the kids were even old enough to go to school. I see Daddy coming home from work in his scrubs and jumping into the blowup pool the kids were playing in. I see those grins that spread across their faces! I remember rocking my babies outside when they were fussin'. I recall the tree I looked forward to blooming every year that fell down while we were snowed in in Colorado. I see the place where I ran out of my house to talk to my best friend when she told me she had cancer. I see our sweet Holly dog's final resting place. I see the land we retreated to when we were told to "stay home" and I feel all the comfort it gave us when the whole world had gone crazy.
This place isn't a house to me. This place is where we finally moved home after Jordan's service. It's where we decided we wanted to raise our kids around family and friends who love them. It's the community we had when we decided that we could bring a little brown girl from the other side of the world and make her feel welcome because small town people ARE good people and would welcome her, too. 
New life is sprouting up all around me- flowers in the yard, buds in the trees, and nephews even. I don't want to leave. 

Until next time, Sweet Southern Comfort.


Thursday, January 20, 2022

Why India?


The morning that we were to take custody of our daughter was supernatural. I awoke to the Muslim Call to Prayer in Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh, India. I showered and dressed and went downstairs to meet our lovely host, Manju. Together we shared chai and breakfast. My heart beat normally. My breath was steady. I’m an anxious person to my core and this overwhelming peace that had settled in was the best gift from God that day. Finally the time had come for us to get in the car and head to the place that held a part of my heart for so long. When we arrived, I eagerly yet calmly walked into the rest of my life.

Upon arrival, we were met by a council of sorts. Women in kurtas and saris and a few men sat down with us in a circle offering up more chai and conversation and wanted to know, “Why India?”

How many times have I had that asked since? There are several ways I could answer that question, but honestly the only one that is the most true is because God himself placed this specific child in our hearts and by following Him, we found her. We believe in this Holy Father who says, “I will not leave you as orphans. I will come to you.”

On the day we were matched with her, I remember feeling so blue. I had flown to our home in Tennessee after only being in Colorado for a few days with my family. My dearest friend had just suffered the loss of her father, an unimaginable debt in our lives and many others throughout our small community. I had gone back to attend the funeral and try to offer my meager support in the hardest of times. I decided to stay with my mom that weekend, despite owning our house just ten minutes down the road. Isn’t there just something about your mom’s place? It doesn’t matter that you didn’t grow up in that exact house, her peace and security she offers will follow anywhere she goes. That’s all I’ve ever wanted to create in my own family and I truly hurt for each and every person who has never experienced that love from their mom.

I was headed out the door- ready to meet my friends for a quick run. Running is an outlet for me and has been since the birth of our second child. It helps me to alleviate stress and I use it as my therapy. My friends were meeting me at the local track and I was hurrying out the door, borrowing my step dad’s hat and hoping desperately that my Garmin watch was charged (otherwise obviously the run won't count). Just as I was walking out the door, my cell rang and I just knew. The name that popped up on the caller id was connected to my adoption agency in Virginia. My mom was nearby and saw the excited look on my face. I ran back through the front door of her recently built home and pointed at the phone as we settled into my room (the guest room I’ve never actually lived in). She sat down at the desk. I perched on the bed and I put the phone on speaker mode.

“Hello?”

“Hi, Kacy. This is Lisa. How are you?”

“I’m good. It’s nice to hear from you!”

“Yes, I’m calling because I got a referral for your family today that I thought you might be interested in hearing about.”

I could hardly contain my excitement. I had been waiting for these words for so, so long.

Our coordinator had hardly told me her name and a little bit about her before I blurted out that she was definitely the one. I didn’t know her history. I hadn’t talked to my husband about her. I had learned her name thirty seconds ago, but I knew this was our girl and I was so incredibly happy. On the spot, I told our agency that we would be accepting, but out of respect for my husband and the process I would at least give him a call.

And that’s what I did. Just after I called a friend who had adopted from India a few years prior. She said, “You need to call Jordan!” as she laughed and cried with me. It was surreal. I had a name. I would soon have an email with a face.

I recall my mom writing down the letters “Aayushi” on a piece of scrap mail and us both practicing the word that was so foreign to our southern accents. Aayushi means long life and it became my prayer for her over the next year. My mother-in-law wrote it down on a piece of paper adorned with stickers and hung it on her refrigerator. We all awaited news of our girl on the other side of the world.

 I arrived at our local community track and checked my email on my phone. I saw the most beautiful full cheeked, tiny, chocolate- skinned baby flash up on my small screen and I was in love. I showed my friends as we ran a few miles and they rejoiced with me. I’ll never forget that day. I had a renewed purpose and it was getting to this baby girl as fast as I possibly could.

Why India? It was because that’s where Aayushi was.

Monday, January 3, 2022

Story of Us


My bare feet are propped up on the railing of a lanai in Central India. The breeze, while warm to me, has the locals in their winter wear. I feel it rolling off the water in front of me as I look out and see the most vast, open, unpopulated area I’ve seen since we arrived in this country two days ago. It’s the only space that hasn’t inhabited people upon people and I prefer to look out at it.

The ride to our tiny hotel was New York City on steroids. Horns honk constantly and outside the window tuktuks share the road with mopeds, walkers, cars, bicycles, and motorcycles. The weaving and beeping is unreal as the road lines are completely ignored by all who dare drive them. Entire families squeeze on motorcycles, the women with a side saddle approach and the kids sandwiched in between their parents or the handlebars. I had to look down a couple of times so I wouldn’t see how close we came to grazing people who didn’t even flinch.

The lush landscape boasts beautiful flowers and the city walls and structures are a sea of color. I’m romanticizing it, though. I’ve never seen such far stretching poverty either.

I feel sad here.

My Ari Jo spent her earliest days here without a family.

It’s not ugly to me, but the dense smog drains the sky of all color and makes me feel dreary. Inside I see my husband covered completely in a blanket, trying to shut the world out. I did this to him. The last time he was in the East, he was at war and ask any veteran, it’s hard to separate the two. I see him trying, though. It’s the way he calls her “our daughter” and “our little girl” that remind me he would do anything for us, even facing his biggest fears. I hope he sleeps. Tomorrow we get to meet our daughter for the first time and life will never be the same.

In my early college years, I always imagined I would adopt. Looking back, I see that it was a desire God planted in my heart, but at the time I think I just wanted to keep my body to myself. Little did I know, there’s no mother on Earth, biological, step, adoptive or otherwise that gets to keep a little privacy. Every bathroom trip or shower, every bottle or breast, every sleep deprived night, is shared with the little ones you love.

I grew up in a small town outside of Knoxville, Tennessee. I decided to leave that little town for a slightly bigger one in a college town in Middle Tennessee. My husband Jordan did the same, although I didn’t know him yet. We met thanks to his matchmaking mother and my talkative sister who were working together in the same office. They exchanged our facebook profiles and the rest is all history.

Jordan and I talked back and forth online and through texts. I thought he was becoming a friend. I agreed to meet up with him when he got into town. He was stationed at Ft. Wainwright, Alaska and was set to deploy in the coming months in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Before he left, he would come to Tennessee to visit his parents.  The night of our anti-date, I stressed for hours on what to wear. I suppose that should have been my first hint that I might care a little more than a friendly meeting encompassed. I finally landed on some black shorts and a floral print, silky top. I truly don’t know why I remember that. I recall very little in my head.

He picked me up in an old white Toyota Tacoma truck and we set off for an Italian restaurant that no longer exists. He talked the whole time, asking me questions and getting very little of a response. I liked to hear his stories and I liked sharing mine less. I think it made him uneasy, this woman of few words. He later told me he didn’t think the date was going too well because I was so quiet. By the end of the night, he walked me to my (parents’) front door and told me goodnight. I told him I had a good time and made a bee line to get inside. Upon entry, I wondered if he would ever try to call me again. I knew how I was coming across. I wasn’t not interested, though. On the contrary, I had this gut feeling that I was going to marry him and I told my mama so when she awoke early the next morning.

We spent the next year conversing over emails and AOL chat sessions. We talked about everything under the sun. Everything except adoption.

I put my desire to adopt away for awhile as I fell in love with him and an idea of a family one day. We were wed on a snowy day in January in the hills of Tennessee and we started our lives together in the Alaskan Winter of Fairbanks after he returned home from the Middle East. We knew we wanted to have children and so we wanted to get started quickly if we could. We struggled for awhile in the beginning. About eleven months after we were married, I found out I was pregnant. It was a beautiful, scary, and special time in our lives. After that, the babies kept on coming. It wasn’t fair, I knew. There were so many people hurting, struggling to become mothers. I sat on my couch with four kids surrounding me and felt overwhelmed but happy. The urge to adopt was faint, if not all together gone.

I can’t say when it changed, but change it did. I started feeling very aware of the great need for parents for children domestically and internationally. I became involved in foster care and then started testing the waters of international adoption conversations with my husband. Over that year, every sermon I heard was pointing me to His plan. Every song in worship brought me to tears. I knew I was standing in direct opposition to what God was calling me toward. I felt miserable not walking with Him. Jordan’s stance was clear. “We have four children, Kacy. Now, you want five? Why did I have a vasectomy if that was the case?” The conversations never went well and I decided that I had to give it to God. For the following year, I didn’t bring it up, not once. Instead, I prayed, “Lord, if this is not for us, please remove the desire from my heart and Lord, if this is for us, please give the desire to Jordan.” Then I waited.

At the close of 2019, he took me out to a nice dinner and told me he wanted to talk to me about something. We dressed in our best and sat down in an elegant steakhouse we could ill afford. It was there over flickering candlelight and boozy coffee drinks that we toasted to our next adventure: international adoption. He had come to me that night and said he had been thinking and he thought we should move forward in what God was calling us to do.

Obedience. That’s what has me listening to Hindi into the setting sun and typing up this love story for a girl who has for two years been on the other side of the world, but who is now just on the other side of town and tomorrow will be on the other side of this couch.

That conversation my husband and I had over two years ago happened right around the time that a beautiful, worthy, image bearer of Almighty God was born in Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh, India.

There are no mistakes.

 
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