Miracle Monday: The Story of Michael Oher in “Blind Side”

This weekend Craig and I slipped away on Saturday afternoon to take in a matinee.  Blind Side is a movie I NEVER would have picked in a million years . . . if I hadn’t already known the remarkable back story. As it was, it was so compelling I scarcely noticed the football.

The gentle giant (played by Quinton Aaron), found wandering in the frigid Memphis air, is picked up by the Tuohy family (Tim McGraw, Sandra Bullock) who proceed to take him home, feed and clothe him, pay for a private tutor, and teach him the business end of a football. Out of the thousands of kids who languish in the system, or worse, this kid gets a chance . . . and, despite all odds, he makes the most of it. Today he is offensive lineman for the Baltimore Ravens (NFL).

Perhaps not surprisingly — the issue is raised for us in the first few seconds of the movie — not everyone see the “rescue” as a good thing. Some even hint that the “poor black jock” is simply being exploited by his adoptive family, who only want to offer him up to their alma mater.  What other reason could a wealthy white couple have for taking in a poor black homeless kid?  This kind of cold-blooded generalization is articulated all too well in the following article by Steve Sailer entitled “The Next Liberal Fad: A ‘Stolen Generation’ of Black Children?”

Reviewing Blind Side and Precious, Steve Sailer observes, “These two films help us understand the common denominator of the demands increasingly heard in the media for mandatory preschool, longer school days, shorter summer vacations, and universal post-high school education. They flow from the inevitable logic of the following syllogism:

What isn’t clear to me is what, exactly, is the preferred PC alternative. Leave Michael on the streets to find his way back to the Projects, so he can die like the rest? Sure, the Tuohy’s offered Michael opportunities he wouldn’t have had if he had stayed with another family in the projects — and in many ways, I’m sure his life would have been easier had he been able to stay with the family friends who’d originally had him placed in Briarcrest. We’ll never know, since that option was not available to him.

Ultimately the standard has to be “best interests of the child.” And sadly, those interests must sometimes be prioritized because there are simply no options to cover them all. Had the black family in the beginning of the movie continued to raise Michael in their home, it is likely he would never have been drafted to the NFL . . . although he could have.

And yet, the reality was that Michael’s choice was not between a black family and a white family. It was between a white family and NO family, since neither his father (who had disappeared) or his mother (who by her own admission could not care for him and did not even want to see him) could care for him.

Can anyone seriously argue that being raised by the Tuohy’s was less desirable than returning him to the gang in the projects, to be devoured by gangs and drug peddlers, not much better than animals themselves? Of course not.

Nuture vs. nature. In the world of adoption, it’s never an either-or proposition. To thrive and reach his full potential, a child must have both. Invariably, it involves the kind of support for which Michael Oher became famous: an instinctively protective “I’ve got your back.” And from that position, it’s very easy to turn a “blind side” to everything else.

Miracle Monday: Letter from a Birth Mom

Today at The R House I came across this letter from a birthmother to her child, explaining the way she came to decide on adoption. Mrs.R’s post “Another Reason I Love Open Adoption” is a compelling one. And I wanted to pass it along in case you’re interested in reading about open adoption. (I believe Mrs. R is a foster-adoptive mother.)

Bottom line: The birth mom in this letter had a loving, supportive friend made it possible for her to weigh her options — all her options — completely and without judgment.  You can read the story here.

Like many young moms, she started out vascillating between motherhood and abortion. Only gradually, as she learned more about adoption and realized how unprepared she and the child’s father were for parenthood, did she find the courage to reconsider her original position.

It’s not often you find such selfless courage. May God bless her for it.

Miracle Monday: “Strong Women and Holy Mothers”

mother teresa windowToday I’d like to share with you a lovely post I found over at “Happy Catholic,” who writes about Drana Bojaxhiu, the mother of Blessed Mother Teresa (patroness of foster families).

Favorite quote: 

Mother Teresa said her mother used to tell her: “When you do good, do it quietly, as if you were tossing a pebble into the sea.” That is a beautiful image of the hidden life. Of the life lived totally in the presence of God. It reminds me of what St. John the Baptist said: “[Christ] must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30).

Now … go and read the rest!

Miracle Monday: Between the Dreaming and the Coming True

numeroffYesterday I opened a comment from a reader, Mei-Ling (who if memory serves is an adult adoptee, can’t remember from which country), who writes:

Since you didn’t allow commentary on the other post, and I’m just too lazy to e-mail you, here goes: “Should we adoptive parents just go away quietly to lick our wounds, and wait for our child to make up his mind about who is “real” parents are?” Why can’t both sets be real in their own ways, -beyond- the birth roles (for biological parents)?”

“Why can’t …”  Like so many questions where families are concerned, there is always the dreaming, and the coming true (what the rest of us refer to as “reality.”)  In the world adoption, it is indeed possible for the Normal Rockwell scenario to work out (Patricia Dischler describes it very well in her book).

It’s also likely that it won’t. That the child will grow up and be unable to contact his or her parents — or, upon meeting them, discover that the reunification creates more questions and hardships than it resolves. Either way, as one social worker (who was herself both an adoptee and birthmother) explained it to me, “Knowing doesn’t resolve anything. It just changes the landscape.” Sooner or later, those dreams have to be exchanged for reality, as part of the maturing process. And how much, or how well, each side of the triad interacts as the years go on varies so much from one family to the next that there needs to be some safeguards in place to protect the needs and rights of all concerned.

“Why can’t …?” Today in the paper I noticed that one of my favorite children’s book authors, Laura Numeroff (of “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie” fame) is coming out with two new books, one of which is called, “Would I Trade My Parents?”  This question is not the sole property of adopted children, incidentally.

We all have the Rockwellian dream where everyone gathers around the Thanksgiving spread, sweet-smelling and full of scintilating conversation and not the teensiest hint of negativity. No secrets, no confrontations, no irritations, only total happiness. (This quest for Norman Rockwellville for many years caused some of us to avoid family get-togethers entirely.)  In the ideal world, everyone gets along. In the ideal world, there are no issues of anxiety or regret or bitterness. Everyone acts like a grown-up, without unreasonable expectations or extraordinary neediness.

Sadly, all too often this is not the world we live in. The world we live in is fully of damaged souls, who see things through their own expectations, needs, wishes, and experiences. I came across an example of this as I was opening Mei-Ling’s e-mail. A shadow fell across my computer screen, and I turned to find a neighborhood girl standing behind me, red-eyed and dressed far more provocatively than her thirteen-year-old self could quite carry off. She had brought her little brother to visit my son for the last time — it turns out her parents are finally calling it quits.

For as long as we’ve known this family, they have been “on the edge” — the kids have turned up here, clearly looking for a safe place to hang out. The things they say and do fall in that uncomfortable area: not quite bad enough that I need to call social services, but bad enough that I can’t allow my kids play with them unsupervised.  Bad enough that in my selfish moments, I wish with all my heart that the whole family would just go away. Now I was getting my wish, and I couldn’t help but feel a little guilty that it had worked out the way I’d wanted.

Sadly, as I looked into that young girl’s eyes, I realized that her nightmare was just beginning. “It’s just for a while,” she tells me, sticking her chin out a bit. “Mom needs to find a place to feel safe, and think things through.” I’ve seen that look of defiance before — on my niece, as she told me about what it was like to find out her birth father had been most unequivocal about not wanting to see her. “I still have my real dad,” she said.

And so we’re back to that word again. “Real.” Not what we wish the past was, or what the future might be. What is, right now. Basing our life, our choices, and our energies on what we know, what we have — rather than what we wish could be. Some wishes and dreams, if we give them too much power but don’t ourselves have the power to make them come true, can be our undoing.

We all go through it, though the details vary widely. When I got married, I wished with all my heart that my in-laws, who lived 20 minutes away, would welcome me into the circle and make a place for me there. I wished my new mother would invite me to tea, or invite the kids on play dates, or offer to take them overnight so Craig and I could sleep in one Saturday morning without getting our eyeballs poked. The reality, God bless them, is very different. And so I had to choose: accept the reality, or waste a great deal of emotional energy on what I clearly could never have.

“Why can’t …?” It’s a wistful question, full of yearning. It’s a good one, and sometimes the answer to that question is “It can.” But not always. And when the answer is, “It just can’t,” well . . . part of growing up is learning to accept that reality as well. To accept that, as much as we love them, our family is going to disappoint us. And to recognize that sometimes the best revenge we can possibly have on the painful aspects of our past, is to live in such a way that this pain ends with us, and will not be passed on to our own children.

Make no mistake, they will feel pain. I know this, and have done what I can to give them tools to express it and release it, so the toxic anger doesn’t poison their little hearts. I pray a lot, asking their angels to safeguard their dreams. Only time will tell if that’s enough.

The Gas Grill of Love: Heidi Bratton at CatholicExchange.com

11891-Two-Entwined-Golden-Wedding-Rings-Clipart-PictureIn her recent article entitled “How Serious Is Your Marriage,” my friend Heidi Bratton observes:

I think we’re a bunch of suburban cowboys living in a gas grill world. We want the flames of love, ignited with just one sparkling courtship and wedding, to keep leaping high while we go off and grab a beer.  But marriage is not even remotely like a gas grill.  Marriage, by its very nature, requires a long-term, personal investment, and not even on eBay will we find a bottomless tank of pressurized love to keep our marriage sizzling in our physical or emotional absence.

Click here to check out the whole article . . . wonderful food for thought!

Miracle Monday: Teaching Our Kids to Handle Adversity

At the website for Psychology Today, Francis Beckwith’s sister Elizabeth blogs about her new book, Raising the Perfect Child Through Guilt and Manipulation (HarperCollins).

Recalling the “sting of gender misidentification” in which her mother responsed to an emotionally charged situation in her teenage daughter’s life with calming (albeit a tad catty) advice, Ms. Beckwith reminds us all of the nature of good parenting: teaching our children to negotiate the landminds (even those of our own unintentional making) until they are strong enough to do it alone.

In the words of my kids’ Vice Principal: “How are kids ever going to learn to handle adversity if they never encounter any?”

Reading Ms. Beckworth’s blog, I was immediately reminded of a disasterous haircut of my own — seventh grade, I think — involving a pair of pinking sheers. Not a pretty sight — had to walk with my head tilted to one side to make my bangs look straight until they grew long enough to cut!

For all you parents out there who wonder how your kids are going to survive your parenting efforts: Take heart! With any luck, most of them won’t grow up to write a book about it!

Miracle Monday: Foster Mom Nedra Woody

nedra2Today I came across this story about Staten Island foster mom Nedra Woody, who since 1996 has cared for a dozen foster children after having raised three girls of her own. She is in the process of adopting two of her foster sons, who are biological brothers.

Reading the story, I was struck by her story. She embodies many of the principles of self-care and foster child-care that I’ve come to realize are essential to the long-term well-being of a foster family. For example:

*  She doesn’t try to do it all herself, but cultivates a “support team” (some of whom have gone on to become foster parents themselves, natch.)

*  She sets strict family routines, which provide stability and order to the home — and helped her to raise her own daughters.

*  She takes time to let off steam (“Pokeno” games with her girlfriends). When motherhood becomes an unending cycle of drudgery and self-denial, the batteries run out fast.

*  She remembered to say “thank you.” To her friends. To her supporters. By cultivating an “attitude of gratitude,” you can get through a lot of tough situations in life. Nedra’s life proves it.

Thanks, Kacey Semler of SILive, for sharing this story!

Miracle Monday: Care Corner Orphanage Helps At-Risk Children in Thailand

Have you ever considered adopting a child in need of a home, but for some reason were unable to pursue this plan? Perhaps a spouse was not in favor, or finances didn’t permit it. If you would like to do something tangible for the children of our world in need of a good, Christian home, I’d like to tell you about Care Corner Orphanage.

ricky tanThis orphanage, which specializes in reaching at-risk and seriously ill children, is run by Ricky Tan and his wife; Ricky is a Malaysian Christian I knew well when we were both studying at Bethany College of Missions. I know him to be an honest, godly man — and I feel confident that anything you would donate toward the orphanage would be wisely spent. (Ricky’s picture is found at the top right and in the picture on the lower right.) He and his wife are the parents of the orphanage. You can read a touching account of his efforts to rescue an at-risk teenage girl here.

Care Corner has a sponsorship program that allows you to provide for the educational, medical, and other physical needs of a child for just $50/month. If you would like more information about this program, please contact Ricky at cctricky@loxinfo.co.th.

God bless you!

Miracle Monday: A Daughter’s Story of Life


The other day “Mighty Mom” sent me this link to a moving story about a mother who chose life for her daughter, despite having every medical reason not to do so!

Thanks, Sarah, for being willing to share your story.  Your mom sounds like an amazing woman.

(At the author’s request, this story may not be reproduced without her permission. But please do follow the link and read it … you’ll be glad you did!)