The Final 2 Mintues

Growing up Amason meant watching a lot of football and having quite an understanding of every moment that could occur in a game. Dad taught me how to appreciate the game from start to finish, no matter if your team was winning or losing. In winning and losing, Dad taught me how to see character in teams, coaches and players. But most importantly, he taught me how you could really know the real character of a team, the entire team, by how they played the final 2 minutes of every game; no matter how close or far apart the score was in the game.

As a kid, I didn’t fully understand but as I grew up, I began to understand what he meant. In a close game, did a team stick to their true selves or did they change who they are just because of the situation they were in for that moment? Did the team practice enough for the situation they are in or are they just looking for some desperate measure to work? In a blowout win or loss, how did they act? Did they respect their opponent or did they trash talk or attempt to embarrass their opponent?

As I got older, I grew to appreciate the final 2 minutes of a game and for this reason, I try not to leave a game or celebrate until the clock hits 0:00. It’s hard to explain to some but others know it for a fact that I have a very hard time leaving early. Most think it’s because I want to stay but honestly, it’s out of respect for those playing. No matter that outcome.

Over the past year, I saw something I did not want to see. I saw my Dad enter the 4th quarter of his life and begin to move very fast through this quarter. We all knew he would begin his 4th quarter but we never wanted it to happen and we never thought he would arrive to his final 2 minutes so quickly. Just as Dad said about football teams in the final 2 minutes, I learned more about him during this time than I ever thought I could. And, it was beautiful.

It was October 1st when the final 2 minutes began for him. He had just arrived home from a month long hospital stay and all he could say was, “I’m tired.” We knew he was tired and needed rest but in true Tom form, he fought. He had fought for years and as he realized he was in the final 2 minutes, he fought and his true character was bright and shining. Up to this point, I thought I knew my Dad. I thought for sure there was nothing more I could learn about him or from him. I saw this final 2 minutes as a time to reflect and he saw it as a time to teach, say goodbye and love us until the clock hit 0:00. In his final minutes, we didn’t know what to expect. He knew exactly what he was going to do and it was beautiful. It was an experience I will never forget.

I always knew my Dad loved Jesus and all people. He was always willing to help those who he could help and there were times, when, helping others meant something else had to give. He was called to help others and he obeyed that calling. What I never saw from him though was a spiritual side that would touch many people. He always wanted us to go to church, even when he couldn’t, because in his words, “You have to figure out who Jesus is to you and you can’t do it without seeking Him on your own.” But the thing is, I was too blind to see his words were his spiritual side. I saw it as him doing what he was supposed to do as a husband and dad but what he was doing was what God had told him to do. Let us search, on our own, to find our Jesus, not his. As his clock went from 2 minutes down, we continued to see things that were hard but beautiful. I saw my Dad get to say goodbye to his wife of 47 years, his 4 boys, their spouses, former in laws, each living grandchild and many friends and other family members. This is something not everyone gets a chance to have. I’m thankful he was able to have this time with each of us.

He would be comatose for hours and then all of the sudden, he would wake up and be clear with whoever was in the room. Where we really saw the beauty of this time was when, one night, a pastor came by to read scripture and pray over him. There was a lot going on that night in the house with some plumbing problems but God didn’t let that stop him from showing up in a great way! As the pastor read and prayed, I looked at Dad and I could tell he was quoting the scripture being read. As we finished, the pastor looked at Dad and said thanks for allowing him to come over. At that moment, Dad reached up, grabbed his hand and began praying for the pastor. It was a beautiful time and something I had never seen my Dad do in my life. To me, this was out of his comfort zone but, in the final few minutes, he did something that God asked him to do. Pray for this pastor, not his pastor, but this certain pastor. For his family, his ministry and his future. This is something this pastor had said he had never had happen to him. A man, on his deathbed praying for him. It was a beautiful moment.

As Dad’s time continued to diminish, he had several visitors to say bye, love you and thanks for being in their life. It was touching and then, on October 12, he asked for certain people to be at his bedside that evening. The people were his wife, 2 of his sons and their wives and his pastor. As we all gathered around him, he said thank you in his way to everyone. He said goodbye because he knew this would be one of his last audible moments. His final words to my wife were, “Whatever tomorrow brings, trust God with every fiber. I love you.” These were not only his final words to Christy but his final instructions to us as a family. To, every morning, trust God with every fiber and always love. Another beautiful moment! And then, after we all pulled ourselves back together, he asked for prayer and after the prayers were over, he grabbed his pastor’s hand and prayed for his pastor and his ministry. This pastor also said this had never happened to him in all his years of ministry. It was another beautiful moment.

Over the next two weeks, leading up to his death, we had glimpses into Dad’s character and every moment matched exactly who he was throughout his life. He fought hard and remained positive, just as he had in life. Over the years, the pain that was associated with all of his injuries could have defined him as a person or forced him into a life not worth living. But because of his character, the pain grew him into the man he became and the person we loved. It forced us all to adapt at times but he certainly lived a worthy life. Too many times in life, people get defined by what causes them pain but in Dad’s life, he used the pain, hurts and circumstances and created a testimony to share to the world. He also did this in his final 2 minutes.

As I look back at Dad’s final 2 minutes, I saw Dad’s true character and it was no different in the final drive than it was in every quarter before. He never changed who he was, no matter the circumstance. A true man in every way possible. I am grateful to have been able to spend just about every minute watching his final drive. It wasn’t easy on any of us but it was beautiful. There were times when we would cry out to God, “Why oh Lord have you not released him from his pain?” We know why; because there was still time left on the clock and we don’t leave when there’s still time left. We are thankful for the things we learned on that last drive with Dad. He showed us on that final drive, up to the very last breath, as he had my entire life, to be strong, brave and courageous and to never give up on this thing called life.

Dad, I thank you for every lesson, correction, hug, kiss and I love you. You will remain with me every day and from time to time, I hear you say, “Den, I love you.” Thank you for living a life worth living and for showing so many how to play a full game, to the very last second. Without you showing me this, I wouldn’t have been able to walk with you on your last drive. You are an amazing man and you will never be forgotten. I love you buddy!

It’s Been Real

It’s been real, a phrase I heard Dad say to Mom just before he went into surgery the last time. When he said this, Mom really didn’t know what to say and I wasn’t sure exactly what he meant. We weren’t sure if he would come through the surgery, so I took it as, it was his way of saying, thanks, I love you and I’ve had a blast all at the same time. As I think back to that night, that’s exactly what he was saying. As I really sit and think about how he simply said, it’s been real, I couldn’t help but think, he’s right.

His life has been real. Dad has never hidden his feelings or sugar coated anything. You know where you stand with Tom Amason and you know who he is; for better or worse. That’s what I love about him. He’s honest and driven. He is tough but gentle at the same time. He has a way of correcting you and loving you at the same time. He is grouchy but fun loving.

Dad has had a blast in life since the beginning. As a kid, I remember hearing stories from his mom about how he would mess with her about everything. One time, he was mad about having to do the dishes and decided, while his mom was going to the bathroom, to put a knife between his fingers, pour ketchup all over the place and started screaming that he had cut himself. She came running out of the bathroom, crying and well, not fully dressed to see what happened. He couldn’t contain himself when she was standing there crying that her baby was hurt. He started laughing and she wasn’t pleased. There are tons of stories like this from his life!

As Dad grew, he played high school, college and professional football. As he said, this was the time of his life, until he met Mom. Dad loved his playing days and has told me time and time again, he had no regrets about playing football and would do it again if given the chance.

Playing ball gave him a toughness and work ethic that is still at work today. Football absolutely was a dream but it was where he learned more about who he was as a man. Everything I can remember Dad doing, he did with passion and determination. He has taught me so many things and I am still learning from him today.

As a kid, Dad taught me you have to work and work hard in order to provide for your family. I remember going to the bank as a kid and hanging out at his office and hoping he could show me what he was doing. He had no problem doing this. I learned as he worked.

I learned how to work but I also learned how to love. I learned you have to have love for those around you or you will not be successful. I watched Dad serve our family and community in many ways. I remember him always telling me to be my best and how upset he was when I wasn’t. He wanted me to be my best and looking back, I wasn’t always and that was disrespectful. For this, I am sorry. Growing up Amason, as I call it, was fun! We had a blast but we worked. We did things as a family and still do today. Not as often but we are still together.

After Dad’s accident in 1987, our family changed but stayed the same. The people didn’t change but the roles did. Dad couldn’t work and Mom continued working, providing and being the caretaker of all of us. To this day, she takes care of him and he wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s a love story in its own way and is so very beautiful. Within their love story, there’s been fun, pain and love. But mostly love. Dad always wanted Mom by his side and today, that is where she is. Selflessly showing her love and devotion. It’s beautiful. It’s hope for those who have no hope because of hard times. It’s their love story for all to learn from if they paid attention to them over the years. I think I did. Or at the very least, I hope I did.

Dad’s life has been real. It’s been real fun and real hard at times. He’s been through more than anyone could imagine but is still fighting and loving today. I’ve never met a guy like him and I probably never will again. He’s been a wonderful example and with his fighting today, he is still are a great example. He frustrated me at times but I’ve never wanted anyone but his as a Dad. These past few days, I’ve realized what he meant by saying, “It’s been real.”

Dad, I hope to live my life like you have lived yours and become half the fighter and man you are now. People who know the man you are, love you for who you are; all of you. You are more than a Dad. You are a husband, son, brother, mentor and friend to so many people. You have been loved and have shown love. You are a real man in every aspect of what it means to be a man. Thank you for your life. Thank you for being real and showing me how to be real. Thank you for the correction when I needed it and love all the time.

I don’t know how much time you have left in this world buddy but let me say, it’s been real. Real fun and full of real love! I love you buddy.

It’s RAD but it’s not always fun

Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) is a rare but serious condition in which an infant or young child doesn’t establish healthy attachments with parents or caregivers. Reactive attachment disorder may develop if the child’s basic needs for comfort, affection and nurturing aren’t met and loving, caring, stable attachments with others are not established.

Many kids who suffer some sort of trauma in life, especially via abuse or neglect, have RAD. I had no understanding of this disorder until we brought E2 into our lives. At first, we didn’t know what to think or what was wrong. When she came into our home, she was seeing a counselor but that counselor didn’t visit with us about her much. Actually, I never met this counselor. After a couple of months of dealing with this, we knew we had to change something in order to try and get help. We were told of another counselor and from day 1, he has been an amazing help. He talked to us about RAD and we probably had that deer in the headlights look. He explained to us what we going on with her and from there, we began trying to gain an understanding of what was going on inside her mind and body. There’s just no way to fully grasp how hard life must be for someone with RAD.

Someone with RAD is a different being all together. They typically are very sweet and affectionate to strangers or people they have very superficial relationships with in life. But in the home, things are much different. There are fits, lies, anger, disobedience toward parents but especially Mom. There’s disrespect for authority in the home, again, especially towards Mom. They are very impulsive and sometimes cannot control themselves when eating or having things just to have things (hoarding). They seem to bossy and have a hard time hearing no or even saying no. They don’t take responsibility for their actions and have little or no conscience. A kid with RAD isn’t easy on the household but they aren’t to be given up on either.

In our home, I’ll be honest, there are times it’s hard to wake up not knowing exactly what you are going to face. We have been told time and time again, you’re good parents but it takes a whole different set of skills to deal with the someone with RAD. It takes determination, a stripping down of who we are to E1 & G and become someone totally different for E2, all the while being the same to all 3. It’s a balance that’s hard. It’s not impossible but some days it seems to be more than impossible. For me, dealing with E2 and her problems is easier than it is for Christy. But after much research and listening, it seems to be I have it much easier than she does when dealing with E2. For some reason, that mother relationship is the hardest for someone with RAD to connect to. I know why and it’s all the natural part of life. When a baby is born, it’s almost always Mom who holds the baby first. She feeds them from her own body. She nurtures, loves, holds and does everything for that baby. But someone with RAD didn’t get that. Maybe they got some of it but typically, they didn’t get much from Mom. It’s hard for them to trust a Mom figure and will do everything they can to push away and test to see when Mom will leave them; like has been done time and time again. Kids with RAD will lie, cheat, steal, manipulate and avoid closeness at all costs. As they begin to feel that attachment in a family unit, they push and they push hard. Break rules just to break rules so maybe they don’t have to attach. Lie, just to lie. Steal from people they get close to just because if they get caught, it might help push that person away. They can be destructive to themselves or their property. They typically can’t be trusted and are defiant and oppositional. They tend to be hollow or empty inside. All of these things are hard, especially for a Mom to have to see and deal with.

Not all RAD kids are the same. Not everything I described is true of our E2. She has those moments of defiance, opposition, lying, nonsense chatter and questions about everything. She acts different toward me than she does with Christy. She digs her heels in when Christy wants something out of her but goes out of her way to please me. She knows those little things she can say that hurt her Mom so bad but enjoys doing it so she doesn’t have to attach to her. At first, I thought it was an unconscious act on her part but after research and visiting with others, it’s not. She’s very deliberate and calculated when to dig in or hurt her Mom. It’s who she is today but hopefully it won’t be her forever.

You may read this and think, man, E2 is a horrible child. No she is not. Actually, she has a tender heart who cares about justice in this world; as long as that justice isn’t holding her accountable by her Mom! She has such a sweet spirit we see come out and when we do, we rejoice in that moment. Her fits aren’t like some kids with RAD and we’ve seen such growth in her and in us. As she grows further in our family, she pushes away but from time to time, she gives in and attempts to attach. Her past was not a good past but it’s still her past. She is forgetting faces and names of those who she was with for her first 8 years. I remember being told when going through our training to become foster parents, that a study had been done about the effects of telling a child they would never see their family again. They said their brain released the same hormone and they same psychological effects took place as to telling an adult they were going to prison for life and would not see their family again. A life sentence of hell in their minds. Sadly, too many of these kids actually do live in a life that is like hell to them. Not nearly as many of them get adopted each year, especially those who are over the age of 6. After the age of 6, the chance of getting adopted goes down drastically each year. Most of these kids end up aging out of the system and are left to be on their own. They don’t have places to turn and many of them never got the security of a family to attach to later in life. It is a life sentence and many of them struggle. There are many successes but without understanding, patience and love from people, it’s hard for many of these kids.

We pray daily for E2 and our family. We pray she has good days and when a bad day is there, we pray to get through it. We pray for every person she comes in contact with daily to be a good influence and that she follows their good behavior. We pray she can bond with girls and boys at school and them accept her for who she is and that she never has to deal with the ill effects of mean kids at school. We pray she continues to let things go that hurt and accept the love from anyone who shows love. We pray for her to be guided by God, not her own desires in life. We pray for a healing that can occur and for a renewed spirit in her life. We are proud of her growth over the past couple of years and we hardly recognize her from the first time she stepped in our house. She may have a long way to go but the distance she has come is amazing! And honestly, don’t we all have a long ways to go to get there where we need to be?  We pray for her future and we pray she never leaves us.

We pray for E1 & G as well. We pray for strength, understanding and love when facing each day. We pray for their friends to accept their sister and for them to protect her if they don’t accept her. We pray for them to be the examples of love and grace for E2 to see in our home from someone closer to her age. We pray for a connection to their sister that they have with each other. E1 & G have grown so much over the past 2 years and I am so proud of them. They, especially E1, have given up so much to someone who isn’t appreciative acting, who takes more time and energy from their parents than they were used to and someone who shows them no love, even when they love on her. They are 2 of my rocks in my house. They don’t fully understand why we brought this sister into our family but they say every day they wouldn’t change anything because God wanted her to be with our family. They are amazing; even when they don’t have to be or don’t feel like being amazing.

We also pray for each other as a couple. My prayer is for Christy to gain strength when there is none left. My prayer is for E2 to realize how amazing her mother is and wants to be there for her. I also pray for Christy’s spirit not to be broken by this disorder and to keep moving forward daily. It’s hard on her but I know she has the strength, desire and love to keep going forward. It’s not easy for me to watch Christy struggle but I also don’t fully know her struggle. I can say I understand but I truly don’t. I don’t have a kid, who daily, finds every way to push me away just because of the past. Not just because of the past but because she is also scared of her future. What happens if Mom leaves me? What happens if Mom isn’t there when she said would be there? What happens if Mom’s not there to answer my 1 million questions before noon? What if… You get the point. Anxiety of too many what if’s and yet not enough time to heal the past hurts or gain trust in the new life. Not understanding what love and grace is and certainly not understanding how to accept the love and grace given.

I don’t write this to get sympathy but to possibly help someone one day. Maybe our struggles and successes will encourage someone to reach out for help in dealing with someone with RAD or themselves if they have RAD. I write this to let you know we aren’t great people for adopting a child and truly don’t want recognition or a pat on the back for doing this. We only did what we believed God told us to do and have loved every minute of it; no matter if it’s good or bad. I write this to share a bit of our life because I believe it’s good for each of us to be exposed so we can see just how far all of us have come. I also write this because it’s my release. My release of RAD as a disorder and say what it is; it’s part of our family and we can either learn to deal with it, keep plugging forward and show E2 there’s hope in the future or we can let it rip us apart as a family and as individuals. The latter is not an option. We will keep plugging forward because we know there’s a hope of release from RAD for E2 and each of us and there’s a great chance she will gain an understanding of love and grace that will free her as it has freed us!

Why June 6th Matters (At least to us)

As we approach June 6th, I am reminded of how that day was the day our family really started to change. Christy and I had already made the decision to bring E2 into our family but there were things that had to be done before we could welcome her to her forever home. June 6, 2013 will be the day the Amason family changed forever. Here’s a look back over the past two years.

As we woke up on the morning of June 6, 2013, we never thought about how our life was about to change. It was a Thursday and the kids were finishing school for the year the next day. We were readying ourselves for a family vacation to Washington DC and then up to NYC. It was our last trip as a family of four. We had things to get done for the trip but we also had to get ready to do a lot of work getting our foster care license finished. We had filled out paperwork and had our FBI fingerprinting scheduled but there were classes; lots of classes still to take and we were just beginning that evening.

As the morning progressed, Christy and I went about our day as normal. The only thing out of the ordinary is we had to get our oldest dog, Chester, some shots in order to be licensed. Christy and I both took him to the vet that afternoon and the news we got wasn’t so good. Chester had lost lots of weight over the past few months, which we knew but the doctor wasn’t sure why. As we discussed the shots he needed, he asked us if we could do some blood tests to make sure of kidney function so the shots wouldn’t react negatively. We agreed, because the last thing we wanted, was for him to suffer at all. As the doctor came back in, the news wasn’t good. He said Chester would live a few more weeks, possibly a few months but couldn’t take shots. He said he could send paperwork to the state explaining why he couldn’t have shots but the chances of them allowing us to bring in E2 wasn’t good if his shots weren’t up to date. We discussed the best possible options and it was at that moment, we said goodbye to the greatest dog in the world. Chester was truly a gift from God to us and our kids. He brought us headaches at times but more joy than a pet should ever bring. Saying goodbye was hard but we knew it was a necessary step to doing what God wanted us to do in bringing E2 into our home.

We left the vet’s office and headed straight to our first foster care training class. It took us a few minutes to gain composure but we knew Chester was not suffering and we knew this decision was one we would be facing in the near future anyway. As we got to our first class, we focused. Focused in on what we had to do so we could do what God was asking us to do.

The next day, we went and had our fingerprints done. The lady at the office notified us it would be 6-8 weeks before they came back. This discouraged us because we could finish our classes and do everything but if the fingerprints didn’t come back in time, our girl may be placed somewhere else. This was not an option in our mind. We were going to bring her to our home. We prayed the timing would work and I remember our trainer saying, “God will work out the time. Don’t worry, she will be yours if it’s His will.” Easy to say, hard to believe when you’re relying on the US government to come through!

After a few classes, it was time to take a break and head to DC & NYC for a fun 10 day vacation. We met up with some friends and had an absolute blast in DC with them and our brothers! As a family of 4, we were ready for the changes ahead and thought there was no way better than to end our family of 4 than with a great vacation. And that’s what we did!

As we came back to reality, there were more classes, interviews and things to prepare for inspections of our house. So many inspections and let me say, by becoming a foster home, you have the safest house on the planet. Locks everywhere, medicine locked up at least once, possibly twice, no loaded weapons, more carbon monoxide detectors than you can imagine, smoke alarms everywhere and on and on. We had some wonderful help along the way with this as well. Our faith family came over one night and helped clean, install locks, move things around and on and on. We couldn’t get everything done and they rescued us!

As time went on, we passed the inspections and we only needed our fingerprints. Looking back, I was honestly negative about this happening. Then, out of the blue, Christy said she had received a phone call and we were good to go with the fingerprints and they had come in basically in record time! Yes, God moved in the FBI!! With the prints in, all we needed was a final review and our girl! This process was the worst. Not for any other reason than it was out of our hands. All we could do is wait.

As we neared the end of July, we got nervous something might be wrong. The case workers weren’t responding to our agency and we were in the dark. Then, again out of the blue, Christy received a phone call from E2’s case worker. E2 was in her office and they were explaining to her there was a family who wanted her to come live with them. She was a bit nervous and asked if we could come to the office and meet her. We were a bit shocked and hurried to her.

We sat in the room with the case worker and E2. We talked and she stared. We weren’t sure what she was thinking. She didn’t say much, which is understandable. We told her about E1 & G, her room, the dogs and about us. The case worker asked if there was anything she wanted to ask and E2 asked if she could go with us right then. It was set up that she would come with us over the weekend but she was ready! The case worker made sure with her boss and her current placement. We couldn’t take her from there but we could pick her up later in the day. It was July 31, 2013 and we’ve been a family of 5 since.

Since that day, we’ve had firsts, lots of firsts. We’ve had tears of joy and of sadness. We’ve heard screaming over not wanting to do something and screaming of happiness just because we came home. We’ve had laughs, oh the way all 3 of our kids laugh. We’ve had disagreements and disappointments but we’ve also had agreements and lots of accomplishments for all of us. We’ve been told we are amazing for bringing in this child and ridiculed for “messing” up our perfect family. Neither is true. We are not amazing for bringing her in, we are still amazed God chose us to help raise her. Our family wasn’t perfect before but it’s exactly what we thought it would be now. There are times of ugliness in our house but it’s outweighed by the beauty each person brings in our home. We aren’t to be praised for bringing this little girl in to our home, we are to praise because she has a home that happens to be under our roof. Too many kids just don’t have this and we are proud to have been chosen to help.

Times haven’t been easy for us as parents but for E1 & G, life has been tough but lovely. They welcomed in a new sibling; not by birth but by adoption. They had a say in this journey and have been on board since day one. Times have been tough but through the toughness, they have grown immensely. Major changes to kids later in life is not easy but they have survived and are learning daily how to adapt.

As we have moved through the past 2 years, I am still amazed at how things are today. The little girl we welcomed in has, for the most part, disappeared. Her looks have changed so much and her desires have also changed. She has gone from no hope to having hope. She still has her triggers and as we find out what they are, we do our best to protect her from the world she left behind. She still frustrates us with control issues but we know it’s so much better now that it was a few months ago. She still argues with her mom, leaves stuff out and tries us in every way possible but she also gives us hugs, kisses and only wants to be around us. What more could we ask? The “face” (the one she gives when she is mad or upset with us) still pisses us off but her smile melts our hearts and reminds us, she has come a long way in a short time.

We are asked very often, knowing what you know now, would you make the same decision? The answer is easy. Yes, we would do it exactly like this again. There’s not one thing I would change because with every fight, tear, laugh and first, there has been learning, coping, a chance to hug, growth but mostly, grace and love given and received. You can’t take a few negatives away and still gain what we have gained. Many people also ask about E1 & G and how this has changed their world. Yes, their world has changed. I believe in their minds, it’s been for the better; although at times, I know for a fact how had it has been for each of them. I’ve been proud of them. They haven’t always shown her grace but at times, she hasn’t always deserved it either. They have all three fought like siblings should and we are told often, this is a good sign. But each of them have ultimately shown love to each other when needed. This makes us smile.

The past 2 years have been hard. I’m not going to lie. I tell people often this has been the hardest thing we’ve done in our almost 20 years of marriage. But it’s been rewarding as well. We’ve been blessed over the past 2 years more than we could have imagined. We don’t feel we saved a little girl from a tough life, we believe she was always supposed to be with us. It was just in God’s timing, not ours.

Thanks to everyone who has helped make the past 2 years amazing. You all know who you are. Those who prayed over us, the one who told Christy to go get E2 if she felt it was God’s plan, to our parents for not acting like we were crazy but helping out with so much. We are truly blessed to have 2 sets of wonderful parents to be Grandparents to our children. Thanks to those who have understood we aren’t amazing for bringing her in but how we have been amazed through this process and a special thanks to those who are in the same place we are and understand how hard it is but how beautiful it is at the same time.

I look forward to each June 6th, not because of who we lost that day but because of who we eventually gained because of that day. It’s still hard thinking back to Chester and the joy he brought us but that joy wouldn’t be the same today without our little mess! Thanks to God for allowing us to help raise her and be her earthly parents. We never could have imagined our family being blessed in this manner in such a short period through tears, fights, “the face”, laughter, hugs, kisses and more firsts than we could imagine.

Happy June 6th (a few days early)!

From the Amason family

Black Trash Bags

Today, while cleaning out a car and placing someone’s belongings into black trash bags, I was overcome with emotion for E2 and her past. I know it seems weird but there are times like these when I realize how over blessed I am by God. It’s times like these I am more than thankful for God bringing this little girl into our lives and showing all of us how much love He has for each of us. It’s times like this, I am led to share. So, here it goes:

Over the past few weeks we have been getting ready to move into a new house. Since gaining E2, the girls have shared a room and we finally found a house where they will each have their own space. While talking about things last night, E2 stated she had never moved like this before. As I thought about it, it’s true, she has never moved in a manner of packing things in boxes in an organized, slow manner.

In her life, moving has always been chaotic and most of the time, running from someone or something. Moving to her wasn’t stated as moving, it was stated as going on a trip and never returning. This was confusing to her and rightfully so. When we had had her for about 2 months, we went on a trip and as we packed, she didn’t understand leaving and not taking everything you could carry in a black trash bag. It broke our hearts to find she had never taken a trip and come back to the same place. Since then, she has been on many trips and returned home!

Now, as we pack our things to get ready for the move, she can finally see how moving is supposed to be. It’s not chaotic, in a rush or running from someone or something. It’s running toward a new place. It’s sad to leave our current place only because of the good memories we had in this place.

It’s her first house that truly became her home. It’s the place where running from has been replaced by running to. It’s a place where, for the past 15 months, she has woke up each morning without the fear of having to run or having someone come and take her from her family. It’s the place where she came in with a few things in black trash bags and leaves with much more in secure boxes. It’s where she has learned and grown so much over the past 15 or so months and taught each of us so much more than she could ever have imagined teaching us. It’s been a place where correction was shown in love and where she began to trust people for the first time. It’s her present, where the past can’t reside and the new house is her future, where hope and love will continue. It’s her time to let go of those black trash bags, partially full of broken toys and hurtful memories and carry out boxes full of her things but most importantly, to walk out with a heart that has been shown love and that shows love in her own way.

I am thankful for her carrying black trash bags into our house and walking out without them. I look forward to our future in our new home and to see each of our 3 kids grow into the young adults God planned to them to be.  I am grateful God has blessed us with each of our 3 kids, E1, G & E2 and with the resources to change black bags into suitcases and boxes.

Ella’s Story – From Gotcha to Adoption!

It was a Wednesday morning around 10 and we were just getting things opened up at the car lot when Christy’s phone rang. It was July 31, 2013 to be exact. It was a number that looked familiar but we weren’t sure who it was. When Christy answered, all I heard was, okay, I will be right there. As she started bolting out the door, I asked what was happening. She told me our Little Miss who we had been waiting to get wanted to meet us. We closed the lot and headed out! It was with that phone call when we went from a table for 4 to a table for 5.

The case worker, was telling her all about getting a short term visit with her over the weekend. She was telling her maybe we could pick her up for some time and maybe if she wanted, she could spend a night or two with us. As we walked into the office to meet her for the first time, our hearts were beating crazy fast. It was like we had rushed to the hospital for the arrival of one of our kids! As we sat in the room with her, she was shy and didn’t have much to say. We talked to her about things she liked and about us in general terms. She seemed to liven up a little more as we showed her pictures of her soon to be sister, brother and dogs. We showed her pictures of her room and told her we were ready for her to come live with us. As we got close to the end of our first time with her, she looked at the case worker and wondered why she had to wait a few more days to spend more time with us. The case worker asked her what she meant and she let her know she wanted to go with us and if she couldn’t then she at least wanted us to come get her that night. After discussing it with her current placement, the case worker and her boss, they  agreed to her request.

I should have realized from that discussion, Ella gets her way. She was nice about it but questioned the reasoning of waiting and has been questioning things every day since! In good ways and in bad ways. As we moved from hoping to get her to “Gotcha” day and beyond, we have learned many things about ourselves. Every person who has been in this gap of her life has learned something about themselves. Some good, some bad but always a learning experience!

Christy and I have learned being parents to kids you have from birth is hard but having someone come in your home after 8 years of being with other people is a whole new challenge. What worked for E1 & G didn’t always with E2. It was frustrating at times and tag team parenting has become a must in our house. When one parent’s tank is empty, the other tags in and takes over. With the help of our counselor, we have learned how to adapt to every situation and how to diffuse fuses after they have been lit but before explosions occur! We have been stretched emotionally and spiritually. As we took 1 step in a positive direction, it seemed we would get knocked back 10 steps. But we refused to give in or give up!

The time since gotcha day hasn’t always been easy. But it has taught us people, especially kids, can change when people love on them. And sometimes the love has to be extremely tough. There have been times she has missed out on parties, dinners, time with friends or her electronic time because of the bad decisions she has made. There have been times because of a fit she wasn’t allowed to sit at the table with us until she has calmed down and wanted to act like a part of the family and there have been times when E1 & G have been allowed to leave the house just to chill because of her poor decisions. Some might say this is harsh but when it’s done in love, it’s tough love. We are just trying to get certain behaviors out of her system now because later in life, these actions won’t be tolerated. It’s better to learn now than have to change later.

There’s also been the great times! The first of everything we have done has been amazing! Her first true vacation, first live football games, first family party, first time to play a team sport and her first score on the sports. Watching her face go from scared to overjoyed as she got to do something new.

And her teaching us how to be more thankful for the things we have and to not take for granted our blessings but to share them. I have probably learned more from her in the past year than she will ever know. Her stories have made us cry and hurt but they have helped us understand her a bit more. Neither of us came from her situation and helping her through these tough times has been trying on us but growing us at the same time.

As I looked back at our gotcha day pictures, I see a child’s eyes without hope, love or direction. She looked lost in this world and it pained us to see any child this way; especially one we cared for so much. She didn’t even look alive when we got her. But as time passed, every time her case workers would come in, they wouldn’t recognize her from one month to the next. She was growing physically but emotionally, she was healing. She started to gain hope in the love she was being shown by not only us but by so many people. Grandparents, case workers, counselors, church leaders, friends at school and our friends. They fully accepted her and this did her heart well. She has grown so much over the past year and as she grows, she becomes more alive.

She reminds me of me most of the times and this makes me smile. She is a “Daddy’s” girl but when she really needs love, she always turns to Mommy. She is ornery but loving. She can be crude but heck, can’t we all! She’s tough and has plenty of “street” smarts. She is beginning to take jokes better but she certainly dishes plenty of them out. She has the full love and support of E1 & G as their sister and this shows at home and at other places. For this, I am thankful.

As we come to this day, adoption day, we are full of happiness and joy. We haven’t done this by ourselves. We have had the love and support of so many people over the past year. I can’t imagine doing this without each of you. We also couldn’t have done this without the provision of our Lord and Savior. From the very beginning, we have seen God move in ways only He could move. From moving in my hard heart in the very beginning about 18 months ago to getting every piece of paperwork back from the state and the feds in perfect timing. This wasn’t us, this was all HIM!

I don’t know how Ella’s story finishes but I do know from Gotcha to Adoption, it’s been wild and crazy, just like her! And we wouldn’t have done it any other way!

We truly thank you all for your help, support, prayers and love.

With all the happiness & love in our hearts,

Dennis, Christy, Elisabeth, Garrett & Ella Amason

Finding East

East. Such a simple word with the following meaning; a cardinal point of the compass, 90 degrees to the right of north. Perhaps when you hear this word, this is pretty much what you think. I’m not in your head, so I have no idea but usually, when we think of East, it’s in the sense of the direction. Perhaps when you hear the word East, it’s where the sun comes up every morning. Maybe it’s a reminder that tomorrow is here and it’s time to go do something. Or perhaps, it has a totally different meaning.

For me, when I hear East, I thought directionally as well. Until a few weeks ago when I saw a video, then it brought a whole new meaning to me. What I realized is we all have an East. It’s where we wake up every morning, it’s where we play, go to school, congregate with family and friends. It’s our comfort. It’s our now and we fully understand where our East resides.

But what you may not know is that not everyone has a sense of East. They don’t have a place to wake up every morning, to play, they bounce from one school to the next, they don’t have a place to go to when things are bad or when they are sad. They don’t have the luxury of waking up every morning and knowing exactly where the sun is today. They have to look around, get to know new places and pray this is going to be their East. For them, it’s traumatic and causes a sense of not knowing much about today and they certainly can’t see past today.

As we grow, our East is taught to us and if we are lucky enough, we fully know our East as we enter school. By knowing where East is, we also have a good sense of the other directions as well. North is up, South is down and West is our future. Without knowing exactly where East is in our lives though, it’s impossible to know where the other directions truly are, especially West, which, is our future. Go West young man doesn’t mean much to those who can’t grasp East first. This is unsettling in them and it causes confusion and heartache. It seems as if they are the only lost ones but they aren’t. They just can’t see far enough in other directions to see past their own confusion and heartache.

I never really thought about any of this until God placed a little girl in our life with absolutely no sense of East, therefore, no sense of any direction. It was hard at first to understand the confusion and frustration in her but when I finally realized, I’ve always known East and looked forward to going further West, I knew her pain was something I couldn’t grasp. I am thankful I wasn’t able to grasp it or comprehend it. It’s painful and frustrating for those who don’t know where East is. It leaves a sense of not being able to look back at yesterday, not belonging today and hopelessness for the future.

Knowing where our East is gives us a place to firmly stand and say, here I am, waiting for the sun to shine down on me and I will follow the rising sun through the day and see where it takes me today. And as we get more firmly planted in our east, we can look back at where we came from, see where we are and have that clear direction of West. We are proud of our directionally challenged girl. She has most definitely let go and allowed herself to begin developing the sense of her East. She knows where she will wake up every morning, who will take care of her and that there is a West out there just waiting for her to discover it!