I have TWO great books featured for my December Book Club!
My Book Club Pick for June!
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Nearly 40 guests were invited into their gorgeous new home, where we feasted on not one, but two, delicious smoked turkeys. I brought the mashed potatoes and pumpkin dump cake; all other the sides, salads, and desserts were provided by the rest of the grateful guests.
2lbs Brussel sprouts, trimmed and halved.
1/4 cup Olive oil
1 teaspoon each:
black pepper, and
1/4 cup Balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup Honey
Place prepared Brussel sprouts in a large bowl, toss with olive oil and seasonings until evenly coated (add or subtract seasonings as you desire, you know me, I use recipes as guides!)
Spread seasoned sprouts on a shallow baking pan and place in preheated 425 degree oven.
Meanwhile - combine vinegar and honey in saucepan and heat until mixture begins to reduce and thicken.
Roast sprouts until tender and some have begun to blacken - about 25-30 minutes, turning occasionally.
Remove from oven, drizzle glaze over the top, stir to coat and return to oven for approximately 5 more minutes.
Add cooked bacon or sausage crumbles to the roasting mixture if desired.
(If you’re as lucky as me, after dinner you’ll get a live musical performance! Because, while my son may not be a domestic wonder, he - and our good friend Sharif - can sure play guitar and sing!)
Here’s the short answer to the questions: I had three biological children from two of my marriages, and I have adopted 10 children (number 11 in process.) My husband, Paul, has 5 children of his own. So that brings my number to 14, and our combination to 19.
The longer version is this:
I’ve always wanted to be a mother. When I married at 22 I couldn’t wait to make my new family of “me and you” into “baby makes three.” My husband was a divorced father of 2 children already and not one that you wouldn’t exactly define as present or available. I knew I could change that. Ha!
At 24, I gave birth to Isaiah, “Sonny” as his dad called him… He is my Number 1, my first child, the miracle that made me a mama!
Fast forward 9 years later - my husband had found greener pastures around Sonny’s 2nd birthday and I had been a single mother since.
My job in radio had taken me from Seattle to Boston, and then on to Philadelphia. While in Boston I’d met a young man in a church group that was cute, charming, loved to laugh, and loved the Lord. I married him, glossing over the fact that he was 8 years younger, lived with his parents, and his fine set of wheels was - a bicycle. Soon after, I was thrilled to be pregnant with Shaylah, my baby number 2.
A few years later we were back in Seattle, Me, Sonny, Shay, and Doug. The marriage was shaky but I was determined to make it work. I was feeling that the 10 year gap between Sonny and Shaylah was too much and I thought about adoption. By thinking about it, I mean I moved forward, looking for a child to love, to embrace, to ‘fill out our family’. We were introduced to a boy, one year younger than Sonny, and learned about “twinning,” matching up children that are of similar age to one you already have in your home, which helps the bonding process. And so, enter my child #3, Emmanuell.
Manny, we soon learned, had two younger siblings in a foster-care situation. Of course they could come for visitations… of course you may call me Mom while you’re here… and when their foster family had a crisis and they needed to be re-homed, of course that home had to be ours. The month that Tangi and TJ (#’s 4 & 5) moved in with us? Of course I find out I’m pregnant!
When Zachariah, my third bio-babe and number 6 to join the family, was born, we’d gone from a family of four, to a family of eight in less than a two year period of time. Eight is great, but not so much for Shay and Zack’s dad.
In all fairness, I hadn’t given his push-back much consideration. I worked and provided for the family, I was willing to put in the late nights and early mornings, and anxiety isn’t a word in my personal vocabulary, so the fact that he was completely and totally overwhelmed didn’t really register. Two years later the marriage ended.
Soon after, I got a call from a friend who was an adoption facilitator. There was a toddler in need of a home, STAT. I drove to the parking lot of a local teriyaki restaurant; TK was placed into my arms and clung to me tightly. He was just a year younger than Zacky, and became child number 7.
My radio program had been syndicated for a while and my career was taking off. The older kids were transitioning out of the house and I found a farm (a life-long dream) to move myself and the three left at home to. Just three. Shaylah, now aged 12, Zacky 7, and TK 6. I renovated the farmhouse and built three bedrooms for three kids. One. Two. Three.
And oh… I dated a wonderful man briefly, a pastor with a young adult daughter who had a baby of her own. I fell in love with this earnest young woman, who had never had a mother in her life… Adult adoption? Yeah, it’s a thing. Lonika, my number 8, has never lived with me but became my daughter when she was well into her 20’s, and, I gained a granddaughter close to the boy’s age, all in one fell-swoop!
This plan was working until my attention was steered toward a Liberian refugee camp in Ghana, West Africa. Point Hope was re-born and soon I brought into my home and heart, Angel and Blessing, welcomming numbers 9 and 10! Surely this was enough!
Nooooo, because a few years later, Sammy, (#11) who had spent 15 years in an orphanage, and Bridget (#12) who had a personal horror story she shouldn’t have even survived, wandered into my life, my heart, and my home.
And then Blessings little sister, Delilah, my Lucky 13, whom I had been taking care of in Africa, became critically ill, and the birth mother, critically uncaring.
And then their little brother, Baby Paul - whom I was also caring for in Africa, and who had been dropped off with Point Hope personnel because their mother had decided he too, was not worth her time or attention.
And here I am - a mother of 14 (or will be as soon as Bae Paul’s process is complete).
Before bringing Sammy and Bridget home, I married Paul. We’d dated for 6 years and as a father of 5 grown children, he was looking forward to a child-free retirement. Hahaha!
He loves this crazy menagerie as much as me and is so stinkin’ in love with Baby Delilah and Baby Paul, to whom he is their Papa.
Last week I found myself in Washington DC, speaking to the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations about the crisis facing inter-country adoptions. It was important to me to be there, and share my story, because International adoptions have slowed to a trickle - down over 80% since 2004 and may cease all together. This means there are hundred of thousands of children that need homes. Children who are the victims of civil war, disease, famine… Children that have been ostracized because of physical or mental impairments, which are looked upon as a cursed in many societies... Children born female, which don’t have the same value as males…
When I completed my first international adoption in 2006, my children were two of 26,000 adopted from foreign countries. last year there was 4,200. This is a crisis.
I was also given the great honor of being inducted into the National Council for Adoptions, Adoption Hall of Fame, for my support of, commitment to, and involvement with building my family through the process of adoption and for founding Point Hope, a voice for forgotten children.
Here’s some statistics on the US foster care system that will shock you. There are over 486,000 in the foster care system right now. About 20,000 “aged-out” last year; that is, they reached the age of 18 (20 in some places,) were turned out of the temporary living placements they’d been given, and financial support ended. I ask people, “How many of you have an 18-25 year old child? Are they ready to be 100% self reliant? Who do they call when a tooth breaks, when their heart breaks, when they’ve been in a fender bender?” Another alarming reality; 80% of children - boys especially - who have spent time in the foster care system will be in jail before age 25.
Your favorite cheese ball recipe (I've included a recipe below if you don’t have one. Don’t be afraid to improvise and add/subtract spices and ingredients.)
Red, yellow, and orange bell pepper slices (the mini's do the trick!)
Crackers for tail feathers - oblong work best
Pepper Corns (or other edible "eyes".)
Make your cheese ball, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate until firm.
Remove from fridge, place on center of serving plate.
Insert "tail feathers" in a wide fan - I placed a smaller number in front and in back of the wide row.
Press Pecans in at the "shoulders" working down and toward the back.
Press the sliced almonds in near the tail feathers.
Press the pumpkin seeds in in front of the almonds.
Cut a slice of the Orange Bell Pepper to form a "head and neck (experiment with this) an press into the front of the cheese ball.
Cut a "wiggly" slice of Red Bell Pepper and "glue" to the neck with a bit of the cream cheese.
Cut a tiny bit of Yellow Bell Pepper for the beak. I used the tip of a paring knife to poke a hole in the "head" and inserted the bit for the beak.
Find some "eyes." I used a bit of cracker, but I thought later that pepper corns would have been perfect! Glue the eyes on with another little bit of cream cheese.
Now, present that proud fine "bird" with a bowl of crackers and shake your tail feathers!!!
1 (8 oz) packages cream cheese, room temperature.
3/4 cups finely shredded sharp cheddar cheese.
1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon bacon bits.
1 tablespoon chives, chopped.
1/2 teaspoon seasoning salt
Pinch cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon liquid smoke
Mix together all ingredients by hand, or using a mixer, in large bowl until well blended and an even consistency.
Form into a ball inside the bowl.
Wrap the ball in plastic wrap.
Place in the refrigerator until firm (about 2-3 hours.) Use the freezer for 30 minutes if you rarely think ahead (like me.)
Decorate your bird! OR
Roll in almond slices and serve with a basket of crackers.
It was a labor of love to write, and especially difficult after losing my son, Zachariah, to suicide. Finishing was nothing short of a miracle, but one, with the help of God, that happened.
Complete it, I did, and it’s all shiny, polished, and on book shelves ready for you to pick up and read! I hope that you do, and I hope something in what I write about my life and my heart inspires you to reach out to others, just one single heart at time. Get to known them, their hopes, hearts, dreams, and struggles…
This is the way we will change the world!
The book’s release is gathering a lot of attention. Here’s a few of the places I’ve been or have picked up on my story and how I hope to be a small part of changing the world - just as I encourage you to be - One Heart at a Time!
Find your favorite - or find new favorites - in the media coverage that follow !
On the show, we were able to talk about so many things - life, farm, kids, and the devastating loss of my beloved Zacky - and I couldn’t help but shed a few tears even though I told myself I wouldn’t!
Of course, we talked about my new book, One Heart At A Time, which is available wherever books are sold!
I had an amazing time with Robin, she is a warm, engaging, smart, and gracious woman who’s love knows no bounds, I’m so grateful to be included in that circle.
There I was, bright, early, and nervous, with my make-up on and in my Sunday best, talking to Megyn about my book and my life, the challenges, the joys, and how I am so very very blessed.
Megyn was engaging, sensitive, and kept me on-track (as I tend to go off on tangents about things I’m passionate about - and I’m passionate about a LOT of things!) I was grateful for her allowing me to share some facts and thoughts about the broken US foster-care system and I hope by doing so it touched both hearts and nerves. We have got to step up and do something about the way that kids are warehoused and shuffled around until their time runs out and they are forced out into society, broken and ill-prepared.
I thoroughly enjoyed my time with Megyn, and I hope to do it again soon.
Bonus - I was able to meet and hug a bright news personality, Jenna Bush Hager while on the set!
While you’re standing in line trying to keep your kids entertained, or making eyes at the toddler in the cart in front of you, look around for this weeks copy of Woman’s World Magazine!
Yep, that’s me on the cover, in the fuscia colored dress, looking happy as a girl from a small town that finds herself staring back from the cover of a national publication can be!
The folks at Woman’s World were so kind and compassionate, as all the media have been, when asking about my family is coping after our loss. I feel so fortunate that they chose to showcase me on their cover, and share a beautiful story of my family inside.
The stories contained between the glossy front and back covers always inspire and uplift me, and I am both honored and humbled to think that perhaps my story will do the same for you and others.
What an honor!
As a radio-gal, this has Extra Special meaning to me, and I’m so very pleased and proud to be featured in this new segment.
I was in the midst of the media blitz in The Big Apple - New York City - when it was brought to my attention that Parade Magazine had run an article me and One Heart… Here’s the link to that!
On Thursday morning I sat down to talk with Mike Galanos on HLN. (How handsome is he?!)
I loved his directness and his authenticity. I know Mike has the capacity to change the world and a platform to touch many hearts.
He did not shy away from asking about my faith, which is central to my being and what gets me through each and every day. We touched on Zacky and Sammy, my radio program, my sometimes crazy but wonderful life, Point Hope… and the big message; Say yes!
I had a delightful time with the morning team, and even though I’d covered the ground (I thought) several times before, found there is always more to talk about!
My heart feels so full and hopeful as I am gifted the opportunity to share my message with so many people on so many platforms.
I know there will be more to come, stay tuned and thank you for being a part of my world and my heart!
It's been an emotionally difficult few weeks.
A year ago, on October 2nd, my son, Zachariah, changed his address to "Heaven". I wrote this in my newsletter, and shared my raw truth with you, because to skip over it and write only about the wonder and joy of autumn would be disingenuous. I grieve.
Grief is like the wake of a great ship, beginning as a mighty and powerful wave that smashes against that which is closest, but continuing as many, many, many spreading ripples, reducing in size and fury, but still felt long after the ship has passed by.
It's been a year of firsts. The first day without him, the first Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year's. The first winter without his snow boarding gear piled up after a day on the slopes, the first spring, birthday, Mother's Day. The first summer of bonfires with his friends present in the evenings and he missing. The first anniversary of the last day I spent with him, and the last day he spent here on earth. I grieve.
And I hope.
I hope that you are not taking a single moment of a single day for granted. I hope that you are holding those you love close to you, if not physically, in thought, heart, and prayer.
I hope that you remember how much value you have to the world, how much you are loved, and how your absence would be felt not just by those who gave birth to you, by those who grew up with you, by those you brought into the world, but by the hundred, thousands, millions perhaps of lives that would be impacted by your absence.
I hope that you are greeting autumn with open arms and an open heart, marveling as I am, at the colorful display of turning foliage, the flight of birds overhead, and the sounds of children gathered in school yards.
And I hope that as the bushes and leaves shed their leaves, preparing for a Great Sleep so they may awaken in the spring refreshed, green, and Alive, you, as I, are taking a cue and learning to let go...