Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Synchronicity

It’s stunning how life lines up in just the right and improbable ways. I am astounded by how perfectly things work out when I let go of control, relax a little, throw caution to the wind even. When I stop forcing things into place, they seem to fall into even better order than I could have dreamed up and manipulated into place.

I’ve had plans with my friend Gina from New York for over three months. She was in town this past weekend and we’d put a dinner date on our calendars for Monday the 27th. Well as luck would have it, the chaos of the past month just happened to culminate on that exact day. It was the day of appointments and road construction, tears and cursing. But we had had the plans so long I was determined to keep them. I even tried to help my daughter through the day without a nap so that she would crash out early and Gina and I would be able to talk in peace about the artwork that she is going to do for this blog and possibly for the cover of my some-day-coming book.

But on that Monday of apocalyptic suffering, nothing could go right. Not even skipping a nap so that I could have some peace and quiet in the evening. My daughter crashed out at 4pm guaranteeing a long, late and cranky night. Just when I thought the universe really was conspiring to ruin me, Gina called and suggested we meet the next night instead. It was the first time all day I sighed with relief.

That night Ryan and Twila and I lay in bed and watched movies, hardly able to move from exhaustion of the day and fell asleep ready for it to be over.

Yesterday the floors were sanded. Twila and I spent the day at the zoo. I was determined to relax and have some fun. It was a perfect, sunny day. We walked around, visiting the tigers, the prairie dogs, the camels, the sand sharks. If I began to pull Twila by the hand, hurrying her along, she would say to me: “Mommy, let’s go really slow.” And we would.

Last night when Gina did come over, there was no furniture on the main floor’s raw wood save for the couch tipped on its side in the kitchen. But it didn’t bother me. It was the first time I had seen Gina in years and the very first time she had seen my house and usually I would feel the need to make it look perfect, to cook one of my best meals and have my daughter happily sleeping or rested enough to contentedly watch a movie while we talked.

Instead, I threw some couch cushions on the floor, plugged in a singular lamp and opened a couple bottles of Erath Pinot Gris. We talked and laughed and caught up. My sister Amy and her boyfriend stopped by and pulled up a piece of floor. They helped placate my terribly wild and fussy two-year-old so that Gina and I could talk a little business—not as much as I had hoped, but enough to get us started—and we had fun.

I let go of my need to make things perfect, to micromanage and manipulate a situation into my imperfect image of how things should be. The house was so messed up, the week so stressful and busy that I knew my human efforts could not possibly salvage it. I actually recognized (for maybe the first time ever) that I can’t make everything work how I want it to all the time; so I let go and threw my hands up and threw the couch cushions on the floor. And I think the universe was satisfied that it had finally proven its point.

Monday, April 27, 2009

You Know You’re in Trouble When…


When your bi-annual dental cleaning is the most relaxing part of your week, you know you’re in trouble. It seems that just when I am really taking life in stride, rolling with the punches, focusing on the journey, the process, trying to be really Zen about the chaos of life, that is when the universe decides to throw all its S#@* at the proverbial fan. Like I just can’t get a break until I admit that I cannot effectively keep my cool through all of the day’s trials.

Not until I am literally screaming at the car seat that won’t come out of my car, watching a new feast of nuts, dried fruit and crusty cheese shower onto my just-vacuumed car carpet, being honked at by a stream of fast-moving cars, ignoring my hazard lights as they flash desperately and silently as I curse through gritted teeth, tears stinging my eyes, will the universe take its big foot off my head and let me get off the dirt.

I know I’m not the first person to have a hard day, to share a car with her husband, to be stuck in traffic, to have too many things to do at once, to have unprofessional professionals poorly executing a huge project in my house, or to have a flu-ish toddler who is giving up her nap. But knowing that I am in good, hardworking company only comforts me so much.

I have been putting a lot of stock in positive affirmations lately. I believe very strongly in visualization, the power of positive thinking. So I have been repeating, chanting, writing phrases that I hear and appreciate. One that I like a lot, which I read in Julia Cameron’s The Artists Way is: Life is not an emergency. I say it all the time and try to believe it. It seems the last two weeks my life has become more and more frantic not less. So I have been working to formulate the positive form of this chant, to make it a true affirmation. What life is instead of what life is not.
So here is what I came up with: Life is a peaceful walk down a long and beautiful path.

Life is a peaceful walk down a long and beautiful path.
Life is a peaceful walk down a long and beautiful path.
Life is a peaceful walk down a long and beautiful path.
Life is a peaceful walk down a long and beautiful path.
Life is a peaceful walk down a long and beautiful path.
Now I just have to live it.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Friday Edition: Have Your Health and Crave it Too!


Mushroom Barley Casserole

This simple, light, side dish will satisfy your cravings for fresh spring fare and your desire your be healthy. With vegetables and whole grains, you can’t beat this casserole.

Ingredients:
1. 5 tablespoons unsalted butter
2. 2 medium onions, chopped
3. 4 ½ cups fresh mushrooms (shitake or similar) thinly sliced
4. 1 ½ cups barley
5. ¾ teaspoon dried thyme
6. Salt and pepper to taste
7. 4 ½ cups broth
8. ½ cup fresh grated parmesan

Method:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
2. Melt butter in a large iron skillet over medium/high heat
3. Add all ingredients except stock
4. Brown, stirring frequently for about ten minutes or until mushrooms are browned
5. Scrape contents into a large (2 quart) baking dish, add broth and stir to combine
6. Cover and bake 60-75 minutes
7. Add a little water if needed and bake a further 10-15 minutes (grains should be al dente but tender)
8. Serve with fresh parmesan on top.
Enjoy!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

A Gymnastics Miracle


As I think I have mentioned, my daughter is going through a renewed interest in never letting me out of her sight. Even though you read about these things and hear other mothers talk about them, it is still such a shock to see your child back slide developmentally. Separation anxiety has snuck up to our home like a thief through the back window and has found me thinking unhelpful things like: “I thought we were over this.” “Didn’t she already figure this out?” “Is she EVER going to: sleep through the night, stop yelling, play on her own, stop whining to be held, follow directions, use her good manners, stop spilling…?” the list goes on.
As much as I try to live in the moment, it seems that parenting struggles send me into over-analytical tailspins. I have been at my max a lot lately. It seems I can’t write for two minutes without Twila wanting to nurse, wanting a new cup, wanting a different movie, a toy that's been missing for two years--when does it end? We easily spend an hour negotiating her needs, neither fulfilling her desire for attention nor my desire to get even one thing accomplished.
As we push forward to finish projects around the house so that we can reclaim some semblance of order in our home, I make only small accomplishments and those are made with a small child Velcroed to my hip, neck or leg. So it seemed like a small miracle when Twila happily walked out the door to go to gymnastics with my sister Heidi Monday morning.
I desperately needed just one hour to myself so I asked Heidi if she would fill in for me at gymnastics. She was more than willing (“If T will go along with it…” she added skeptically). Usually the rule of motherhood is that if you need something really badly, there is no way it will happen. In fact, the more you need something (sleep, a shower, cooperation) the less likely you are to get it.
I furtively packed her snack bag and zipped her coat with a nervous grin on my face. The smile she returned was warm and sincere, then she pecked me on the lips and spun to bolt out the front door. Neither Heidi nor I commented on the fact that they would be close to an hour early for class, we simple exchanged shocked looks and waved silently goodbye.
The morning was deliciously quiet as I sat in the midst of our construction mess, ignoring the piles of dishes in the sink, ignoring the sheets of wallpaper on the floor, ignoring even the half painted wall, I sat and wrote in silence.


Monday, April 20, 2009

Humility and House Paint

So my daughter is just over two-and-a-half and going through that classic separation anxiety spike. What they say about two-and-a-half year olds is true. Each day is a little more trying than the last. But there are bursts of amazing joy. My daughter is extremely strong willed. She always has been. I was never able to distract her from what she wanted—these days, what she wants is me. Determination is a good characteristic in adults; in toddlers—challenging.

This past weekend we were doing some major household projects. We’ve been wanting a fresh coat of paint inside for a long time and finally decided to execute. But painting with a toddler is not quite as easy as painting when you are newly married and can sit around lazily running a roller over your walls, sipping beers and listening to talk radio...or whatever cool things we used to listen to when we were newly married.

Twila wanted so desperately to help us paint and we tried to include her by giving her small brushes with a speck of paint and cordoning off a safe square of wall. But if you’ve ever known a two-and-a-half year old, you know already that our attempts to direct her help were useless.

The two-year-old battle cry is “I CAN DO IT MYSELF!” paint splattered everywhere. Her brush was dunked to the bottom of the can, her arm thrust in up to her elbow. Our woodwork looked like a Jackson Pollock. It was not our best parenting moment. We were crabby, which made her push us harder. There were tears; there was yelling. We needed help.

I’ve never been good at reaching out and asking for help. It might be my life’s work to learn how to ask for help and accept it graciously without feeling like I need to instantly and overly pay back the debt. I am just one of those people who feels much more in her element helping than being helped. Maybe this is egotism, pride.

I am over and over again stunned, when I do muster the humility to ask for help, by how much my friends and family seem to actually want to help me. My sister came over Saturday morning and stayed for hours playing with Twila and volunteering help when Twila just needed me (often because of the separation anxiety—being in the threshold of the bathroom while I white-washed the walls just felt too far).

My brother and his girlfriend came that afternoon when Twila got up from her nap and chased her around on the lawn. My parents and grandmother came and helped tape and paint and make play doe snakes in the midst of our construction mess. Even Sandy came with my birthdaughter Nicole and her youngest brother.

They took Twila for a wagon walk and Sandy and Nicole walked around the house and gave us tips on what colors to use where. Sandy has an amazing eye for color and a personality to sell you on her suggestions. When Sandy says something, you just believe it. Nicole has that same trait.
I chuckled to myself watching the two of them walk around in the same confident way, talking with the same tone of voice, using the same expressions. Sandy and I have commented in the past what a unique opportunity we have to study nature versus nurture. I see so much of Sandy in Nicole; Sandy reports seeing the telltale Schweickhardt drama in her.

By the end of Sunday night, I could not believe how much we had accomplished. I could hardly hold my head up, but our house was painted, Twila was happy, which was in and of itself a small miracle, and I had worked my humility muscle once again.

It seems to be getting easier, little by little. Whether it’s asking my mother-in-law to take my daughter to the park, my friends to babysit, my siblings to bring coffee or food when we’re stuck at home with a cold, or asking my family to play with my demanding and clingy daughter so we can paint our house, there is something beautiful in finding the humility to ask for help.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Friday Edition: Have Your Health and Crave it Too!


Chicken and White Bean Soup
In early spring, nothing beats a light fare hot soup to compliment the cool evenings.

Ingredients:
8 tablespoon olive oil
2 teaspoons chopped fresh sage
1 teaspoon dried herbs de province
Sprinkle of salt
1 lb skinless boneless chicken breast cut into cubes
1 small onion chopped
2 med carrots, chopped
1 large celery stalk, thinly sliced
½ cup tomato puree
4 cups chicken broth
15 oz cannellini beans
1 bay leaf

Method:
Heat half the olive oil and first four ingredients in a skillet over medium heat (four minutes)
Pour herb oil into bowl and cool
Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in large pot, sauté chicken cubes 5 minutes
With a slotted spoon, transfer chicken to a bowl, add 2 tablespoons herb oil to the pot
Add onion, carrots, celery to the pot; sauté until they begin to brown about 15 minutes
Mix in last 5 ingredients, bring to a boil
Reduce heat, simmer 15 minutes
Add chicken, simmer until cooked through, about 5 minutes
Season with salt and pepper, ladle into bowls
Gently swirl 1 teaspoon of herb oil into each bowl
Enjoy!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

“My Birthdaughter Saved My Life”

This is the story of one of the birthmothers I have met over the last few weeks.
I grew up in a single parent home. While I love my mom more than life, it was hard growing up without a dad. When I was a teenager I was so mad at my dad I hung around older guys and men who had more messed up stories than I did. I thought: “hey I'm protected and they must care about me because they sleep with me and give me all kinds of attention.” Getting pregnant was like cold water splashed on my face. When I found out I was pregnant it was like the world was crashing down on me.
I gave birth to my beautiful treasure in November of 2006. I had complications in the end of my pregnancy and she came almost 6 weeks early. When I woke up [after my cesarean] and was able to move, they wheeled me in to see [my] sleeping little girl. Well she ended up getting sick and had to transfer to a different hospital so her stay was about two weeks.
I did what I promised I wouldn’t do: I grew attached to her and I wanted to keep her.
But keeping an open mind, I still looked at adoption books and I found a couple I really liked a lot. My case worker called me the next day and said they really wanted to help me in this choice that I was going to make whether I kept her or not. So we talked for a few hours and in my heart I knew that this was the right couple to be my daughter’s parents.
So the next week I had her in my arms and I came into the adoption agency and placed my daughter in her a mommy’s arms. They fell in love with her. They love her so much to this day. I found her father and for the good of our daughter we both terminated our rights together.
Even though I placed her for adoption, I’m still a part of her life so I couldn’t do those things [of my past] anymore. I thought, what is she going to think when she finds out I did all this stuff? Every choice I make I always try to ask myself: what would she say if she found out about this? Having a child made me grow up. I want her to be proud of me.
This year will be three years that I have been a birthmom. And so far everything is going really well. I still have good contact with my birthdaughter. In no uncertain terms, she saved me.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Check Out This Article

Just wanted to write a quick note today to let you know that I was contacted by the President of a great adoption website, Adoption Under One Roof, and asked to write an article for them.
See my article and this comprehensive adoption website by clicking here.
I hope you're enjoying the warmth of this Minnesota Spring Day!
-Melissa

Monday, April 13, 2009

Open Adoption: The Best Bet


When my birthdaughter’s mother and I first set out to try this open adoption thing ten years ago, we had no idea how it might go. Together we had this infant baby whom we both loved, and a sincere desire to do what was best for her. And that’s all we had.

Entering open adoption was the biggest leap of faith I have ever taken. I am glad that I didn’t, at age eighteen, have the scope of experience to think of all the possible repercussions and outcomes of open adoption. Surely there are frightening possibilities.

I know adoptive mothers worry (as I would too) about who their child’s birthmother will be. “If I have an open adoption,” they think, “then I am agreeing to let a woman into my life who I don’t even know.” This is a scary notion. “What if she’s not nice? What if she’s unstable? What if she tells my child things I don’t want him to know? What if she doesn’t let me parent? What if she changes her mind?

With these real and valid concerns lingering, it is easy to come to the conclusion that it is actually in the best interest of the child being adopted to keep him separate from his birthmother. But I suggest that this view, while often made with loving intentions, is short-sighted.

Denying a child the ability to know where he comes from has been proven to impact his sense of identity . I hope to show over the next couple of weeks through testimony from birthmothers and adopted children, and adoptive parents, that some degree of openness is truly best for all members of the adoption triad in almost every adoption.

There are, as I will discuss and show, exceptions to this rule. Aren’t there always? My own birthdaughter’s little brother has a birth family that is less than cooperative about the open adoption relationship. They overstep boundaries and disregard their birthson’s parent’s wishes. And in that case, the parents need to set boundaries that protect their child and protect themselves as a family unit.

The adoptive family is the primary family unit. We’ll just get that out of the way right now. I believe that the adoptive family is the created family of origin and deserve preserving above and beyond the individual preferences of birthmothers, birthfathers and other extended family members.

I look forward to sharing some of the stories I have heard in my on-line endeavors. And I hope to hear your feedback, thoughts, comments, disagreements, questions and concerns. I look forward to hearing from you.

Stay Tuned!
-Melissa

Friday, April 10, 2009

Friday Edition: Craving Health!

Green Beans in Tomato Sauce

A simple, easy way to double your servings of fruits and veggies, I prefer Muir Glenn Organic tomatoes.

Ingredients:
1. ½ cup olive oil
2. 1 tsp chile oil
3. 1 garlic clove, crushed
4. Two 16 oz. cans chopped tomatoes
5. 1 ¼ lbs organic green beans, stems removed
6. Sea salt to taste

Method:
1. Heat both oils in a heavy saucepan over medium heat
2. Add the garlic and cook until just golden
3. Stir in the tomatoes and ½ cup water, simmer
4. Add a pinch of salt and bring to a boil
5. Add the green beans, cover and simmer for thirty to forty minutes stiring occasionally until beans are tender
6. Serve warm
Enjoy!!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Technology’s Place

As part of my push to get in touch with the primary audience for my manuscript on adoption, and meet other online readers and writers, I have recently joined several massive on-line adoption and birthmother support groups—as well as Twitter.

As I have (slowly, oh so slowly) grown accustomed to tweeting and twittering, I have found what an amazing resource Twitter actually is. I have met more writers, birthmothers and adoptive parents in the last week than I have over the last decade of birthmotherhood and writing. And what I’ve found in the online adoption communities is astounding.

Why did it take me so long to tap this virtual wellspring of adoption networks? I don’t know. Perhaps I felt that I was coping just fine on my own, or that I was feeling so good about my adoption that I didn’t need community. Did I feel that I had nothing to offer anyone else? What I have begun to find, in the online communities that have been formed around the adoption triad, is pure beauty. Some women are in pain because of their placements, some are totally delighted with theirs but are present to support others as they heal, forgive or maybe forget. Some just want to tell their story.

I can see that I have missed out on something big by not joining these communities sooner. I am, for the first time, in contact with other adults who write—as a career. Yes, they exist. And by meeting them I am strengthened in my enduring belief that I too can make writing a career. In my adoption groups my eyes have been opened to the diversity of experience of the thousands of women nationwide who—for a wide variety of different reasons—make the decision to place their babies. And with their permission, I will be sharing some of their stories here on my blog.

As I posited a few weeks ago, there is inherent beauty in adoption. But it takes many forms. Sometimes the beauty is in the pure perfection of the match and placement, the respect and gratitude held by all parties of an open adoption relationship, the generosity offered from one mother to the other. But sometimes the beauty is deeper, more difficult to find.

I have begun to see beauty in the way struggling birthmothers work for healing, recovery. There is beauty in the pain. And there is beauty in the support that they offer each other. Though the rise of technology, at times, threatens to suck time away at an alarming rate (as we ask ourselves: where did the time go?) there is beauty in technology too. How many birthmothers who would otherwise be isolated in their hometowns, or neighborhoods, now have real community and friendship with women who share their struggle?

How many writers who feel at times that writing is a hopeless endeavor, going the way of the palm pilot, the word processor or the ­­VCR, find in their online communities, support, encouragement and reminders that writing is a legitimate and thriving craft? And in that way, technology is irreplaceably valuable.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Love in the Time of Twittering

I told someone recently that I’m a writer. “How can you be a writer in this day and age? No one reads anymore,” he said.

Well I beg to differ. It seems all we do these days is read, face book, twitter, online mags, websites and blogs, email. What we don’t do is talk, in person or walk or hike or bike or camp. We do plenty of reading—just not on paper.

But how can we writers keep up with this technologically advanced reading? I was told to blog, to tweet and join online groups, then and only then can I attempt to write an old fashion “book” about open adoption and birthmotherhood and try to get someone to publish it—on paper. First I have to prove that people want to hear what I have to say, that people will read a book written by me, written on paper. So somehow someone decided that the best way to prove this fact was to get an online following. But truth be told, it’s exhausting.

I feel so old fashioned when I go on twitter and dive face first into the sea of readers, writers, chatters, and link givers. I don't know what to tweet about!! How do people come up with clever things to say all day long?

Is this really the future of writing: online phrases and quipy sentences? Are gone the days of reading classic literature, on paper? Will future classics sound more like Google-derived techno-phrases?
Madam Tweeterly's Lover
Oliver Tweet
The Heart is a lonely Tweeter
All the Pretty Tweeters
Temple of my Tweeter
Utweepia
Moby Tweet

Tweeting. I still cannot say this word without smiling.
“Honey what are doing after dinner?”
“Oh I’m going to go tweet in the living room.”
“Mom, can you read me a book?”
“Sure dear, just let me finish this tweet to my tweeps.”

Seriously, why does technology make me feel so old? Well as old-fashioned as this may make me sound, I will maintain that the beauty of reading is in the pages, the paper pages that you can flip through with your fingers, smell with your nose, dog-ear when you are called away, read even in a power-outage, by candle light, hide under the covers with when you are supposed to be sleeping, take on camping trips or to a picnic table or park bench. I have to believe as a would-be writer that the days of the paper pages are not gone.

But if we want to keep this romanticized version of reading and writing alive, we have to be book readers—especially us writers. We have to go to used and new book shops and not just the big chains with coffee shops built into them. We have to go to the little hole-in-the wall places that might actually carry our books when they are published. Because someday I want my daughter, my birthdaughter, all my future children and even my grandchildren to know the smell of an old book and how it is distinctly different from the smell of a new book. I want them to know what a library is, and not in an historical sense but in an intimate and familiar way. I want them to know the sound of a page tearing when you turn it too fast out of excitement to see what happens in the next line of text. I want them to know the smell of pages that have been left in a damp basement and turned moldy. I want them to know that “reading” necessarily suggests using a “book.”

So we writers must be readers. If you share this dream with me, go and buy a book, or check one out at the library. I just discovered a used bookstore called The Paperback Exchange on 50th and Penn Ave. in Minneapolis. Bring in your old paperbacks and get %75 off all your paperback purchases. Long live the book.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Friday Edition: Have Your Health and Crave it Too!

Grilled Zucchini and Brown Rice with Balsamic Reduction

Pregnant or not, we all need more vegetables in our diet. Thats right, all of us—even you! This delicious recipe will give you an excuse to dust off your grill and enjoy the warmth of spring.

Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups brown rice
4 zucchini, halved lengthwise
1 large red onion, cut crosswise into 3 thick slices
1/4 cup plus 1/3 cup olive oil
2 cups plus 5 balsamic vinegar
2 cups fresh corn kernels (optional)

Method:
Add rice to large pot of boiling salted water. Cover partially and cook until just tender, about 30 minutes. Drain well. Transfer to large bowl and cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally.

Place zucchini and onion slices in shallow dish. Mix 1/4 cup oil, 2 tablespoons balsamic in small bowl. Pour over vegetables. Let stand 30 minutes, turning once.

Prepare barbecue (medium-high heat). When the grill is hot, season onion and zucchini with salt and pepper and place on grill. Cover and cook until tender and brown, occasionally turning and basting with marinade, about 8 minutes.

While veggies are grilling, bring two cups of balsamic vinegar to a rolling boil in a med saucepan, reduce heat and simmer until vinegar is reduced by half. The consistency should be syrupy—coating the back of a spoon. If you reduce the vinegar enough it will become sweet and delicious –don’t short the time.

Transfer veggies to a platter. Cut onion slices into quarters. Cut zucchini crosswise into 1-inch pieces. Add onion and zucchini to rice. Mix in corn. Serve balsamic reduction on the side for dipping, or topping.
Enjoy!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

When Life Happens

I locked myself out of my house yesterday; with my two-year-old-daughter; in the blowing, thirty-eight-degree chill; with our outdoor key strategically placed on top of the fridge; and my daughter’s hat and gloves in the front hall closet.

I was distraught. The panic crept in slowly at first as I one-by-one eliminated possible safety nets. My outdoor key: missing from its hook, my neighbors: no longer had a spare, my husband: doesn’t carry a key, doors: all locked, bolted, my windows: always kept locked this time of year. I frantically searched the garden where we once kept a solitary rusted key to the ancient front lock. Nothing.

All during my searching I tried to keep my tone light, cheery for my remarkably intuitive daughter who was, all the while, watching my face closely for signs of tumult. Twila kept asking to go in; kept saying she was cold. The panic built.

After nearly an hour of racking my brain and searching the perimeter of my home for the non-existent weakness that would permit me to sneak past our all too effective security, I made the call I dreaded: I phoned my husband at work. After the obligatory questions about where my key was, why our neighbors didn’t have a spare and what good I thought our outdoor key would do us on top of the fridge, he patiently looked up a lock smith and sent him our way.

I sat on our three season porch with the blessedly present space heater radiating warmth into the small enclosure, watching my daughter joyously jump from one piece of discarded furniture to the next—somehow our three season porch turns into a dump from November until later April—wondering what life is all about anyway.

I fancy myself a spiritual person, I am an optimist. I like to see the bright side of adversity, try to glean little life lessons and jewels of wisdom from the challenges, struggles and heartaches we inevitably experience during our stay here on earth. But getting my new SCHLAGE door lock unceremoniously bored out to the tune of $180.00 seems more than any person is meant to bear.

As I waited for Mark, the kind, Israeli locksmith to come and admit me to my own home, I tried to keep a smile on my face for my daughter, but my mind was chanting: why? For what stupid reason did I leave my keys inside? What am I trying to teach myself with this tidbit of stupidity? What does it mean when life chucks lemons at our heads? What am I supposed to learn? What am I supposed to learn?

By the end of the evening I had learned that kindness sometimes comes from where you least expect it. My friend Mark did not charge me $180. He charged me $70. He also threw in a new lock to replace the one that was destroyed. After he opened the door wide allowing us passage to the warmth of our home, we stood in the entry way and talked about how he came to work as a locksmith in America. He has been here for two years and, though he did not go into detail, he said simply and earnestly, “I love America; the people are wonderful; they don’t know all they have.” He added as he handed me the lock with my diminished receipt, “Sometimes we just have to help each other out.”