Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Hello, is anyone there?

While we haven't been asked this exact question, we've been asked similar questions by a few people and it certainly is a fair question to ask. If you have been following us after we started our blog three years ago, you may have noticed that's it's been a long time since we last posted on this blog. In fact, our last post was dated a year ago today. We didn't mean to leave it so long, but that's how things have gone. If you've followed us online another way (such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or Pinterest) over the last four years, you've probably noticed that we're not completely silent there, but we're not saying much either.

So, why have we been so quiet? 

Sometimes it's hard to know what to say when things aren't going well and we just haven't known what to say. No one wants to be down, least of all us, but that's where we are when it comes to adoption. We think about it all the time, but it's hard and sometimes putting more out there online just makes it harder.

And, are we still hoping to adopt?

This is a good question and we have some answers but first, we would like to say thank you to everyone who has followed us and supported us these long four years. Even though we have been quiet, we still appreciate each and every person who follows us and particularly appreciate those who comment on our blog, like our Facebook posts, etc. when they do occasionally happen. As most of you know, this journey to adopt has been very tough for us and the support we have received has helped to carry us this far. Thank you so much for supporting us on this long journey. We'd like to say it's nearly over, but there's no way to tell.

We realize now that we're coming up on four years of waiting with Independent Adoption Center (IAC), that it is well past time to stop pretending that things are ok with our adoption plans. Things aren't ok. Don't get us wrong, in 2010 we made a conscious decision to work with IAC and part of us still hopes that it might somehow work out with them, though it seems increasingly unlikely. There were a lot of reasons we went with them, including the success that two couples we knew had with them when they adopted fairly quickly. And that does happen, not just for them, but for other hopeful adoptive parents too. However, there are many other people like us who have been waiting with IAC for over eighteen months. It's been two or three years for some and like us, there are others who have waited four years or even longer. 

Over the last few years we've realized that what we thought would be a relatively straightforward path to parenthood certainly hasn't been for us. And perhaps it shouldn't be for anyone since this type of adoption involves parents consciously choosing to place their child forever with adoptive parents. It is not an easy decision and one that is not to be taken lightly by anyone involved in the process - the parents who place their child, the parents who adopt, or those who work to help make it happen. In any case, our journey has been significantly longer, much more expensive, and far more complex and emotionally draining than we ever thought possible. We ran out of steam quite a while back as you can tell from our troubles posting on this blog and other places.

We've often thought that we should switch paths, but as with many things in life, it's not so simple. Adoption can be very expensive depending on the path you choose, and while we didn't pursue the most expensive path, we didn't choose the cheapest one either. So while many have suggested we switch agencies, work with a lawyer or facilitator, pursue international adoption, etc. the simple reality is that we don't have money for any of those options. Of course, we could try to borrow the money or raise it through one of those newfangled funding sites, but we don't want the newest member of our family to come home to a sea of debt, nor do we want to live with that kind of debt if it's just going to be the two of us. Asking others to pay for our adoption doesn't seem quite right either, especially when you consider the vast number of adoption options that claim they are "the solution", but are still largely a matter of luck.

And we've learned the hard way that luck is what a lot of adoption is about. We didn't realize how much luck factored into it when we began our journey and this knowledge might not have changed anything even if we had known. All we can say is that we're now at the point where hundreds of pregnant women considering adoption for their babies have received paper copies of our letter and they haven't chosen us. We don't know why, but it can't help that our letter usually goes out in a large packet of letters - composed of a couple dozen or even a hundred or more. (We often wonder how does anyone choose adoptive parents from a packet with a hundred or more letters? It seems like an overwhelming task, even under the best of circumstances.) Thousands of people have heard about us online through our network of followers and through other means including this blog and our various efforts. But unfortunately our luck has not been good and we are still childless after all this time. We realize some find comfort in embracing the idea that there is a baby out there for every family who wants to adopt. And we wish we could believe this, but we no longer can because we know it isn't always true. Some have their hearts broken more times than they can bear. Some people run out of resources. Some find the journey too long to continue without even a glimpse of the end in sight. We understand the last one because we often feel this way these days.

Just a pretty sunset we've seen while we're waiting.

So, back to the title question. We are here and this is what's been going on with us. We are still active with IAC and our profile is out there to be chosen if anyone wants us. While our hope to adopt is a faint glimmer of what it was when we started our journey, it is still there. We're not sure what's next for us, but we will try to include you as we figure it out.

Monday, January 27, 2014

The New Year Begins

It’s hard to believe we’re already a month into 2014. Time really seems to have flown these last few weeks, but maybe that’s because we’ve been so busy.

The last time we posted was on Christmas Eve. We had a nice Christmas with Susan’s parents and brother here in California, and we sent long-distance wishes to Mitch’s mom in Massachusetts and aunt in Florida by phone that morning. It was a quiet and low-key day, and while we had a good time celebrating with family, we couldn’t help but feel some sadness that this wouldn’t be baby’s first Christmas with us. We really hope we can put those ornaments up this December!

We celebrated New Year’s Eve with dinner at our favorite Indian restaurant and a movie. It was another quiet holiday, but that’s how we felt. We were both glad to put a difficult year behind us and to welcome what we hope is a much better one.

A few days later, we visited the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena. It was the last weekend of a modern sculpture show, and we wanted to make sure we had a chance to take it in. We both had a good time, although Mitch was especially happy to have had the opportunity to take a walk on one of the sculptures, a floor made of 100 aluminum squares by Carl Andre.

It's not every day you get to walk on a Carl Andre sculpture!

The following weekend we managed to fit in one more trip to, you guessed it, Disneyland. This would be our last chance to see the holiday decorations at the Haunted Mansion and It’s a Small World, and we just couldn’t pass it up. It will probably be a while before we go back, and this visit was enough to hold us over until then.

Susan took a Tuesday off from work the following week so we could go to the LA Zoo with our cousin Beth and her husband and three little boys. We had such a great time visiting the tigers and koalas with our extended family, and we can’t wait to do it again! We’re especially looking forward to doing so as parents someday.

Susan interacting with our young cousins at the LA Zoo.

The weekend after that we took a long drive up the coast. We stopped in Santa Monica for breakfast before carrying on to Goleta, north of Santa Barbara, and a visit to a grove where monarch butterflies spend the winter. It was quite a sight to see 2500 butterflies clinging to the long leaves of the eucalyptus trees, and one we want to share with our future little person someday. We stopped in Santa Barbara for a walk along the wharf, then stopped for dinner at a favorite spot on our way back home.

Little Mitch and his Gram (and a dinosaur too, of course!)

On a less fun note, this month also marked the anniversary of the passing of Mitch’s grandmother. We both really miss her, and we’re both sad that we won’t have the chance to introduce her to our child someday.

Like I said at the beginning, this has been a busy month for us. It was great to spend some good times with our family, and it was also nice to have such nice times when it was just the two of us. We’ll have an exciting story for you next month, so keep checking in for updates. Until then, thanks for reading our blog and we hope you all stay safe and happy.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

We wish you a Merry Christmas!

Enjoying the holiday decorations at Disneyland
Christmas is almost here and it's time for another update. The last month has been very busy in many ways, but quiet as far as our adoption plans so there's not much to say about that. We're still waiting and looking forward to what 2014 may have in store for us. 

While it's not easy to continue to wait for a child to be placed in our home, we've made a choice to enjoy everything we can this holiday season. It's not always easy since we had hoped we be parents right now, but the joys of the season have won out. Despite Mitch's unusually busy work schedule this year, we've found time to decorate our tree and use our Disneyland passes to appreciate the holiday versions of the Haunted Mansion and It's a Small World. Disney does a great job with their decorations and we love going to see all the lights and fun holiday stuff.

We also had a bit of an adventure right after our last update. Susan usually takes beading classes at Brea Bead Works, which is not too far from where we live. It's rare that she takes classes elsewhere, but at the end of November she saw a beaded icicle class offered in San Diego. It seemed like a perfect class since Susan loves icicles and had recently learned the stitch used to create the icicle. The class was on the last weekend day that Mitch had off before the holiday chaos at work, so we headed down to Bead Gallery where the class was held. It was fun trip down there and Susan thoroughly enjoyed trying a class in a new setting. The project was an icicle made up of beads spiral stitched together and we think it came out really well. It's a nice addition to our Christmas tree.

Beaded icicle by Susan

The San Diego trip was so much fun that Mitch ended up going a second time. Susan had meant to purchase a cute pair of Christmas tree earrings at the store while we were there together, but we were on our way to another event after the class and she had forgotten to pick it up. We thought about having the store send the item to us, but Mitch decided he'd rather go in person so he headed back there for a special errand on weekday off. It was just the kind of really sweet thing he does sometimes. 

Appreciating the joys of the holiday season makes us happy. We are very fortunate after all. Of course we'd love the chance to become parents and have a family of our own, but life is good to us and we're lucky there are so many joys in our lives. We hope the holiday season finds you well wherever you are. Merry Christmas to you and yours!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

2013 Adoption Bloggers Interview Project

This year has been a challenging year for us and we had been finding it very difficult to write for our blog. So when the 2013 Adoption Bloggers Interview Project came up in October, my first thought was no way. It might be good to read everyone's interviews, but what would I say? After all, we only had 2 posts for the whole year at that point. I wondered if our blog could even be part of the project since it was so sparse. Then my interview partner from last year asked me about it and encouraged me. So I reconsidered and signed up. And I'm glad I did. Not only did I get to meet someone new, but I also got back into writing for our blog.

This year I was paired with Cassandra Sines, mother of 3 adopted children with special needs. Her youngest is 3 years old and her oldest is 11. She started blogging about her experiences several years ago before she adopted her 3rd child. Her blog includes her journey to adopt her youngest son as well as the challenges, triumphs, disappointments, and joys she's experienced throughout her children's many tests, diagnoses, and treatments. The name of Cassandra's blog is Life with Three Special Needs Children


1. You've been blogging for a long time (since 2008). What prompted you to start your blog? What keeps you motivated to continue writing through the years and the many challenges your family has faced?

I started blogging as a way to write out my feelings with respect to as to what we were going through our children at the time, but also wanted to share with others what we were going through with hopes that it would help them if they were in similar situations. I really feel that God blessed Tony and I with special needs children for the purpose of sharing our struggle with other families to help them.

2. It must often be difficult to find time to write for your blog with all that do you for your family. Is there a particular time of day that works best for you to write? Any suggestions for making time to write?

Yes, it is difficult to find time to write. Usually when I do have something I want to write, I generally do it after the kids go to bed. I really do not have any specific suggestions about making time to write, as I haven’t really been putting the time into my blog that I would like. The last few years have been very chaotic and stressful for our family and it seems that there is not a lot of time to do a lot of things that that I want to do.

3. I noticed you began to review books on your blog a couple of years of ago. What inspired you to start reviewing books? Are there any books you'd really like to review, but haven't gotten the chance?

I started reviewing books to make myself find the time to read. Having three kids with special needs there isn’t a lot of time for “me” time. A lot of people kept stressing to me that I needed to find time for me. I really enjoy reading and had missed it. I had other friends that did reviews and figured that if I had “deadlines” that would force me to read I would be taking some time for me as well as adding content to my blog at the same time. I can’t say that there is anything that I have not had a chance to read that I haven’t because I am pretty selective as to what I review, based on the type of book and also based on the timing of when the review needs to be written and what is going on in our family at the time.

4. Knowing all that you know now, what would you go back and tell yourself when you were first learning that your oldest child had special needs? Do you have any advice for other parents first learning that their child has special needs?

Stay strong!!! And rely on God as He is not going to give me more than I can handle. I would also make sure I always find a way to take more time for me and make sure to take care of myself! I have always put everything I have into making sure my children’s needs were met, that I have not always taken care of myself. The one thing that I have realized just recently is that I cannot take care of my children effectively if I am not taking care of myself.

The only other advice I would have to give to any other parents who are learning of a special needs diagnosis, keep your marriage a priority!

5. You mention several times in your blog how much you hate waiting, and yet you've had to wait lots of times for various reasons over the years. There was the wait before matching with your older son's birthmother, waiting to finalize the adoption for your younger son, and of course lots of waiting for doctor's appointments and test results over the years. How do you manage all this waiting, what keeps you going?

Yes, I am not a very patient waiter. However, waiting is a necessary evil. What has kept me going is my faith in God and knowing that He has a purpose in the waiting and He is working things out for His good and perfect purpose. (Even if the answer is not what I want it to be!) But I also keep going because there is no other option. I cannot give up because ultimately I have to keep going for my kids and keep fighting for them to receive all the help that they essentially need.

6. I noticed that animals come up several times in your blog. There was an early post about a service dog for your older son and then there were posts about hippotherapy (therapy aided by a horse) for both of your sons. Where did you first learn about hippotherapy? Do animals continue to play a role in your children's lives?

I learned about hippotherapy through a support group at our church that my husband and I lead at our church. One of the members of our church contacted me to tell me about her hippotherapy organization that she runs at her home and came and shared at one of our meetings. My oldest started attending at the next session she offered. Then my youngest, when he was old enough (when he turned 2), he started attending and has been attending ever since. My youngest just completed his fourth session and is doing FABULOUS! It is amazing to watch him interact with the horse and how much more effective the occupational therapy he receives while on the horse is. Most of the time he doesn’t even realize that he is at therapy!!!! 

7. Parents' Hope Network was mentioned in one of your posts and I gather it's a project you were starting with your husband to help other families with special needs children. Have you continued this project and if so, could you tell us more about it?

Yes, Parents’ Hope Network is something my husband and I have started to help families with special needs children. One thing that we had a hard time finding was resources when our children were first diagnosed and we do not want other families to have that same difficulty. It is our desire to use this organization as a clearinghouse of resource information so that parents have a one-stop shop of information. However, with the difficulties we have had lately with our daughter, this endeavor has had to be placed on the backburner. We are hoping that things are able to get rolling again soon.

8. We know from your blog that you are devoted to your family and that you love cooking and reading. What other interests do you have? Would you ever blog about them?

Those are really my main interests. I would really love to volunteer either with a hospital or with CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate), which works with foster children. Just right now I do not have the time to be able to do that.

9. You and your husband used 2 different methods for adopting your 3 children, working with a private agency for the first and the foster care system for the second and third. What surprised you the most about each path?

What surprised me the most was how much easier adopting from foster care was. I’m not sure if it was because we had adopted previously and they were able to use our home study from our first adoption and just update it for our second, or if we knew what to expect, but adopting from the state foster care system seemed much easier and lot less stressful the first time. Our youngest’s adoption was a little more stressful, only because we had fostered him and there was a slight hiccup. Once we were able to overcome the hiccup, it was smooth sailing and we were able to finalize after the normal waiting and paperwork shuffle!

10. Are there any other blogs, websites, or resources you've found particularly helpful along your journey and would recommend to other families looking to adopt or families with children that have special needs?

When we first started our adoption process, blogs weren’t really active, it was more forums where I found most of my information. I used adoption.com mostly for support. After my two oldest were diagnosed, I spent a lot of time at the Child & Adolescent Bipolar Foundation’s (now Balanced Mind Foundation) website, where they also have online support groups, one group which is specifically for adoptive families.


If you're interested in the questions I was asked and my answers, then check out Cassandra's interview of me here

And now for some thank you's. The first thank you goes to Cassandra for participating as my partner for this year's project. I know she has a lot going on her in life with her 3 children and I'm grateful she found the time to participate as my partner for this project. It was good to have met her online and I appreciate hearing her perspective on adoption. 

A huge thank you goes to Heather Schade who once again organized over 100 bloggers into pairs for our interviews and kept us on track. This year had an extra layer of complexity in that participants were divided into 3 groups. The first two groups posted interviews on November 12th and November 19th. Cassandra and I are part of the last group posting today, November 26th

And I'd like to thank Melinda, my interview partner from last year's project. We've kept in touch since then and she's made waiting to adopt and blogging about it much easier to bear. I'm glad to know her and very much appreciate her encouraging me to participate in the project this year. 

Friday, November 22, 2013

Opa! Celebrating family and love!

This has been a month filled with fun times, family get-togethers and a couple of anniversaries, and we haven’t even gotten to Thanksgiving yet! 

The first of those fun times was Halloween. Mitch had to work that evening, but Susan was able to visit with our cousin Beth and her three sons. While the twins were a little young to fully appreciate trick-or-treating, their big brother enjoyed going door to door, and Susan really liked being able to spend time with all of them on that special night. Hopefully next year, we’ll have our own little pumpkin to dress up with!

A few days later we celebrated our 6th wedding anniversary. Instead of going away for a few days, like we did last year, we decided to celebrate at our local happiest place on earth, and made a day of it at Disneyland. We didn’t get soaked on Grizzly River this time, but we did speed down the roads of Radiator Springs in Cars Land and then enjoyed a couple of mint juleps in New Orleans Square. This fun day was topped off with a visit to our favorite Indian restaurant for a romantic dinner for two. 

Susan received her partner assignment for this year’s Open Adoption Blogger Interview Project, and spent some time reading her partner’s blog and coming up with a list of questions for her. We will have that interview here in just a few days, so keep an eye out for it!

Last weekend, we had the chance to get together with a big part of our extended family. Mitch’s aunt and uncle who live nearby were having a visit from one of their sons and his wife and daughters. Since they live in Europe and don’t visit that often, a giant family brunch was organized, bringing together three generations of our family in one place. The good times (and the mimosas) flowed as about 30 of us gathered on a sunny Sunday morning by the sea. It was wonderful to be part of such a happy time and to see so many young members of the family playing together. It wasn’t Thanksgiving yet, but we felt that kind of love and connection, and we are very thankful that we are part of such a community of loving people. That is what we want to share with a child someday.

At the beginning of this post, I said there were a couple of anniversaries this month. Our wedding anniversary was the first and happier one. The second is the monthly anniversary of our wait. It's now officially 31 months that we have been waiting to adopt and unlike our wedding anniversary, it's not cause for celebration. It isn’t an anniversary we ever thought we’d have to face. We keep working hard to get our message out there, and we’re still hoping for the best, but 31 months is a long time. We want to stop waiting and start being parents. This month has reminded us how much love there is in our family. Now we want to share it w
ith our child.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

An Even Longer Haul

A year ago we wrote a post titled The Long Haul about what then seemed like a long wait to adopt a baby. In that post we said, "We've been traveling on a much longer road then we could have possibly imagined." A year later we're still traveling on that same road. It's clear that the road is even longer than it was then and our imaginations are stretched to visualize just how long this road could possibly be. This road has go someplace, right? 

That's a tricky question. We often hear that everyone who's qualified will eventually adopt, even if it takes a long time. We hear that we just have to hang in there. Our agency has told us this many times as have many other people. And yet, we know from the experiences of others that the wait can stretch beyond what works for them. So they end their adoption journey and make a choice to take their lives in a different direction. 

We recently heard that a couple adopted a baby after waiting almost 9 years. They're a real couple, we've met them. And yes, you read right, that's 9 years!!! It's awesome that things finally worked out for them, but waiting for 9 years? That's a long time and it scares us that our own road might stretch out into the distance that long. I'll grant that most people don't wait almost 9 years, either because they have far better luck or they don't possess the incredible patience and tenacity it takes to hope and wait for so long. That said, many waits to adopt do stretch on for 3, 4, or more years. And after all, for us waiting 9 years would mean waiting another 6.5 years and not starting our family until 2019!!! Just imagine all the things that will be different in all our lives by then!

I go back and look that post I wrote a year ago, trying to remember exactly where I was in our journey when I wrote it. I'm trying to remember if I really considered that we might still be waiting a year later and I don't believe I did. I don't know if it occurred to me or not, but I'm sure I thought things would be different by now, either because we had adopted or because we had significantly changed our direction. It didn't seem possible that we would be on the same flat, endless stretch of highway that we've traveled on for miles and miles.

Of course we did hit a very curvy stretch of road for a while there when we matched and then unmatched. We could see our destination right in front of us when we matched, though we knew it was in the distance and we had a bit more traveling to do. And then it vanished when our match failed. Our destination is still out there, but it's really hard to see right now. In fact, it's been a while since we've caught sight of it. Waiting sucks, we said this last year and we'll say it again because it does. 

Much of 2013 has been about our weariness as travelers on this road. Sure, we distract ourselves with trips to Disneyland and other fun places and enjoy our time together as much as we can. Despite all our best efforts, we know we're waiting and it still sucks. Even harder, some of the changes this year have been difficult as all the rest of life goes on around us. Looking back on that post from last year, I see we shared some really good tips and we'd share them again because they have helped us.

The advice from #3 about budgeting and saving money helped us greatly when it came time to redo our adoption letter early this year and pay for more printing. It also helped when we matched and found ourselves paying a non-refundable match fee and some of M from Florida's living expenses.  The good news is that the match fee is only paid once so we don't have to pay it next time we match, but it's almost time to print more letters and incur some other expenses in order to continue our journey. The path we chose to travel certainly has not been cheap. That's something we wish we had realized and accepted before we set off, but that's a topic for another post.

I'm also particularly struck by our advice from #5 and #7. It's been a real struggle to stay engaged with life since our failed match, but it is sound advice and is slowly starting to help. While it still feels strange after our failed match, it no longer feels like we are taking baby steps when we get ourselves out there. Engaging with the world has helped, and though we wanted to disappear after that failed match, I'm glad we didn't. And supporting each other has made all the difference. As Winnie the Pooh says, "It's so much friendlier with two." We've always agreed and the long journey we're on proves it all the more. I couldn't do all this without Mitch by my side and I know he feels the same way. We're so lucky to have each other and travel this life together, especially when the road stretches out in front of us for miles with no end in sight. None of us knows what the future holds, but Mitch and I can say that we made the best decision of our lives when we got married. We'll be celebrating that decision with our 6th anniversary this weekend!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Turning 30

LOL, we're not really turning 30. That was a while ago as most of you know, but we have now been waiting for 30 months.

Last month, we said that fall was a time for cooler weather and lots of opportunities for fun. Well, we were right about the fun, but the cooler weather has mostly held off. This was a good thing for a recent trip to Disneyland, when we found out just how much fun it can be plunging down a raging river. But let’s start at the beginning.

Just a few days after we reached the 29 month mark in our wait to become parents, we found out that Mitch was the winner of one of the prizes from the 2013 Bead Shop Hop. Even better, it was from our “home store”, Brea Bead Works, a shop we’ve been visiting since they opened 11 years ago. Susan has taken many fun classes there, and while she had put those classes on hold while we were waiting to adopt, she has recently started up again. If you read our post on the lessons we learned from our failed match, you know why.

Yay! Mitch won a prize on the 2013 Bead Shop Hop!

A few days later, we spent the day at Disneyland and California Adventure. With our annual passes, and Disneyland being so close, we had gotten into the habit of taking shorter trips to the Magic Kingdom, but this time, we decided to make a whole day of it. It’s a good thing we did, too, because it took all day to dry off from the thorough soaking we got on our new favorite ride, Grizzly River Run. This exciting tumble down roaring rapids proved to be so much fun, we rode it twice, laughing all the way down. Later, we found ourselves some new headwear for a visit to Fantasyland, and we ended the day with a great view of the fireworks as we headed back to the car.

Enjoying a great day at Disneyland!

We went to see Nia Vardalos again when she spoke in Mission Viejo about her journey to parenthood through adoption. You might remember that we saw her at the LA Times Festival of Books back in April, just as her book Instant Mom was being published. This time, Susan had had the chance to read the book, and when we went up to the signing table to say hello to Nia and to thank her for sharing her story, she autographed our book again! She agreed with our hope that the next we time see her, it would be as parents rather than a waiting couple.

Nia Vardalos was so sweet and signed our copy of her book, twice!

A few days later, Susan's 2012 Open Adoption Blogger Interview Project interview partner encouraged her to participate in this year’s project. At first Susan was reluctant since we have not blogged very much this year, but she quickly remembered how great last year's project was. She signed up for the 2013 project and is happy to be participating again. Details are being sorted out right now and interviews will be posted over 3 weekends. Look for her post in November!

Remember that prize basket that Mitch won? It included a beginner’s level leather bracelet kit, and while he had only done a few little make-and-takes on the Bead Shop Hops in years past, this time Mitch decided to tag along with Susan to Brea’s BYOP (Bring Your Own Project) night. We had such a good time working on our craft projects side by side that we will definitely do it again when the opportunity presents itself. Mitch even picked up another kit to make on his own.

Finally, we came to the 30 month mark with a pair of blog posts detailing our matching and unmatching earlier this year, and some of the things we are taking with us as we move forward.

We have been waiting 30 months to become parents through open adoption. The wait is tough, but this month we found some new ways to have fun with old favorites. Whether it was riding a new ride, sharing an activity that used to be just for one of us, or finding new lessons in what was a very difficult experience, this last month has been a time for finding the joy in what we have while still looking toward to the future.