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What If Milk Could Make The Difference?

At my daughter’s preschool, milk is doled out based on punch cards. At the beginning of every month, I pay 10 dollars for her to have 20 punches. That’s milk every day of the week. And chocolate milk on Fridays, which she thinks is pretty special. If for some reason she runs out of punches, the school just starts a new punch card and adds it to her tuition bill for the next month.

Her entire life, milk has been a readily available commodity. She’s never had to go without, or to suffer from the lack of nutrition that milk provides. For my 4 year old, milk is simply what’s served with lunch. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for other kids around the world.

September 27th marks the 18th World School Milk Day; a celebration dedicated to commending the health benefits of school milk programs. Since 2008, Heifer International has been working to grow one of those programs in Tanzania, where children have long suffered from a lack of proper nutrition.

The milk program in Tanzania initially began by helping local farmers to boost milk production. Now those famers, government agencies, and school districts are working together to bring that milk into the classroom. The launch began this year, with 1,742 students in the Njombe region receiving 200ml packets of fresh, pasteurized milk, Monday through Friday, for the rest of the school year. Those packets contain a quarter of the daily calcium requirements for those students who receive them.

The goal is to bring that milk to a total of 9,000 students (age 9 and under) in the Njombe, Iringa, Mbeya, and Songwe regions. This full circle, “cow to the classroom,” implementation encourages students to focus on learning instead of hunger, and reduces poverty by increasing farmer incomes.

It’s a win-win for all involved.

But reaching that full potential is going to require a little help. Which is where we come in.

For $10 a month, I’m able to provide school milk for my little girl. But for a one-time donation of just $75, a child in Tanzania receives milk for an entire school year.

My child is lucky. She lives in a country where milk is readily available, and in a home where poverty is not a concern. We are lucky. But this is one small way we can help kids and families who don’t have the same resources.

Don’t have $75 to spare? You can make a donation of any size. Every little bit helps to bring milk to the kids who need it most. And just 40 cents a day means milk being provided to one more child who probably wouldn’t have it otherwise.

It’s a gift that benefits not only that child, but also their entire community.

#GiveHeifer

 

This post has been sponsored by Heifer International. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

 

While I’ve Been Out

I’ve been absolutely terrible about updating this space here. The good news is, that’s because my schedule has been completely packed with work. I haven’t had to bid or fight for jobs in well over a year now. I’m booking out a month or two in advance for editing clients, all word of mouth based on people who have been sent to me by past clients. And I have a packed writing schedule too, filled with work that I absolutely love.

When I set out on this adventure 4 years ago, I don’t think I really let myself imagine where it could take me. I simply wanted to be able to do what I love, to have flexibility in my schedule (so that I could be the type of mother I wanted to be) and to be able to provide for my little girl.

Somehow I’ve managed to accomplish all that and more. And I’m grateful. So incredibly grateful.

But, yeah… I have next to zero time for updating my own website.

We’ve also been dealing with this thing. Cheeks was diagnosed with Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis in June, and we’ve been navigating that news and what it means for her future. Which is just one more thing that’s kept me from making frequent updates here.

Guess what, though? Facebook is still an amazing way to keep up with me – I post there several times a day. And I’ve started to get a little addicted to Instagram as well. In fact, it was there that I first announced our newest addition. We’re now a family of three!

We adopted Maui on May 25th, and he has proven to be just the best addition to our family. So, yeah, if you want to be melted by adorable photos of a little girl and her puppy – Facebook and Instagram are where you can find that.

And if you’re just looking for some links to my recent work, I pin pretty much everything that has my name attached to it. There should be enough reading to keep you busy there for quite a while!

You’re welcome! 😉

Healthy Relationships Have Never Been My Thing, But I Want Them to Be Hers

Like most kids from broken homes, there are a lot of things about my childhood that I wish had been different. The way I grew up was messy, and the message I received from too early an age was that I was in the way… too much effort, too big a burden. I really didn’t belong anywhere, and was told by certain adults in my life, both directly and indirectly, that they would be happier if I wasn’t around.

Because of that, I learned early on to shape and mold myself into something others might accept. I was always kind of desperately searching for a sense of family. For somebody to really make me feel loved and wanted.

I didn’t always enter into the healthiest of relationships. The truth is, I didn’t really even have any examples of what a healthy relationship might look like. I just had a history of letting myself get taken advantage of, and sadly, of pushing away some of the best people who did come into my life.

You see, I had this thing where I was constantly trying to rewrite the past. My mom more or less disappeared from my life when I was 13 years old, and my stepmom made it clear from day one that I was not part of what she had signed up for in marrying my dad. The message I received, again and again, was that I was unwanted. And that I certainly wasn’t worth fighting for.

So in relationships, I was always striving to change minds. The people who treated me the worst were the ones I was most hell bent on convincing of my worth. As you can imagine, that never turned out well for me. But in the end, I really only ever had myself to blame. I was the one who was seeking out toxic. I was the one constantly trying to convince crappy people that I was worth their time, when in reality, they were never worth mine.

I bent over backwards for people who treated me terribly. I fell in love with men who were never going to love me back. And I cried so many tears over history repeating itself over and over and over again.

Because you can’t change people. And no matter how hard you try, you definitely can’t make them love you.

It took me a long time to see the mistakes I was making, and even longer to begin changing how I behaved in relationships and to start setting higher standards in regards to the type of people I spent my time with. We’re talking years of therapy here. And even still, I have a lot of work left to do. I’m terrible at confrontation, for instance, and am only slowly learning how to have adult conversations with people when I feel like they’ve done something to hurt me.

It has been a process. And at 34 years old, I’ve still never had a romantic relationship truly stand the test of time. But I have managed to build some pretty spectacular friendships. I’ve got a village around me now that serves as a testament to my growth in this area.

I’m capable of healthy relationships. And of walking away from unhealthy ones. It just took a lot of work to get here.

Today I look around at my circle of friends, most of whom grew up in healthy homes, and I can see the drastic differences in how they manage their relationships. There’s an ease to how they communicate and love that I’ve never really had. They are secure in their marriages and even capable of butting heads with a friend without that meaning the friendship is over.

These friends didn’t have to fight to learn some of the same lessons I did. Communication was big in the homes they grew up in, so they’ve always known how to handle difficult conversations. They witnessed parents and family members treating each other with care and respect, even in times of turmoil. They saw examples of loving marriages every day. And they never had to question, not once, how loved or wanted they may have been.

Now that I’m a mother, I want the same for my little girl. I want her to grow up with the comfortable confidence I see in my friends who grew up in healthy homes. I want her to be surrounded by healthy relationships she can learn from. And I want her to avoid so many of the mistakes I made in my teen and young adult years.

That’s why I love the platform AMAZE has put together. AMAZE is a collaboration between 3 expert organizations in the field of sex education: Advocates for Youth, Answer, and Youth Tech Health. They are using Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and even Snaptchat to provide tools for families to have those hard conversations. Their videos cover the “mechanics” of sex ed (like puberty) but they also explore more complex topics, like relationships, gender identity, and consent. Their whole goal is to give kids and families the foundation for building healthy relationships, and to make those conversations less weird.

#MoreInfoLessWeird

In my family, we didn’t really talk about the hard stuff, certainly not the problems sitting just beneath the surface. Every once in a while one of us would blow up and yell about those problems, but the healing conversations never actually happened. And much of what I was dealing with as a teen (sex, an eating disorder, cutting, and even suicidal thoughts and feelings), I was dealing with alone. I don’t blame my parents for that. It is what it is. But I want better for my daughter.

I want her to grow up knowing I’m here. That I’m listening.

I want her to understand she can come to me, even when she’s angry, and I will swallow my defensiveness and try my best to hear her.

I want her to learn how to navigate the hard conversations, and to grow up knowing her value doesn’t have to be proven to anyone.

I want to provide her with the examples of healthy relationships I didn’t really have growing up, and to make better choices in my own relationships so she doesn’t grow up thinking that unhealthy relationships are normal.

I know all of that starts with me. And I know that today and every day, the example I set matters.

I just hope I can live up to the challenge.

 

This post has been sponsored by Amaze. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

To read advice from other parents who have written about talking to kids about sex, consent, and healthy relationships, visit these posts:

 

I Don’t Like to Think About Where I Would Be Without Planned Parenthood

For several years in my early to mid-twenties, I was living without health insurance. This was before the Affordable Care Act made it possible for young adults to remain on their parent’s insurance until the age of 26.

Back then, I didn’t have a lot of options. I had a job working at a bar where I made enough in tips to pay my bills and fund my tuition, but it certainly didn’t come with benefits. And honestly, I was young and dumb—mostly convinced I was invincible and that I didn’t need health insurance anyway.

Over the course of those years, the only doctors I ever saw were the ones I visited at Planned Parenthood for my annual exam and my replenished supply of birth control.

The medical providers at Planned Parenthood were there for me when I found myself crippled in pain as a result of a bladder infection.

They were there for me when I had questions about best protecting myself from STDs.

They were there for me when I wanted to switch birth control pills in favor of a brand with fewer side effects.

And they were there for me when I was raped. When I told no one else what had happened to me. When I was shattered and bleeding and scared. When I was questioning myself and the circumstances surrounding what had happened. And when I needed an exam I didn’t want but knew was necessary.

Planned Parenthood was there.

They were compassionate. They were understanding. They were knowledgeable. And they called what had happened to me what it was—rape—almost a decade before I was finally willing to call it that myself.

For years, Planned Parenthood treated me when I didn’t have access to care anywhere else. They accepted payment on a sliding scale, so that a fear of not being able to afford their services never kept me from walking through their doors. And they helped to piece me back together, both physically and mentally, after an experience that shook me to my core.

Without Planned Parenthood, I don’t like to think about how those uninsured years of mine would have played out. Would I have gotten pregnant by one of the not-so-great guys I was dating at the time? Would I have put off treating that bladder infection, for fear of not being able to pay, until it landed me in the hospital? Would I have found myself drowning in medical bills I couldn’t afford because I hadn’t had access to preventative care in the first place?

Would I have suffered alone, literally torn open, after one of the worst and most confusing experiences of my life?

The “what ifs” are enough to keep me awake at night.

My story is certainly not unique, though. Without Planned Parenthood, there are 2.4 million women, men and adolescents in the United States alone, each year, whose lives could take a drastically different (and far more traumatic) turn.

The “what ifs” are heartbreaking to think about.
But those “what ifs” could very well become reality if the AHCA is allowed to pass. Because right now, this “healthcare bill” aims to defund the organization that has treated one in five women in the United States. The organization that opens their doors when insurance companies and for-profit medical centers shut theirs.

Planned Parenthood provides 295,000 Pap tests and more than 320,000 breast exams each year. They prevent an estimated 560,000 unintended pregnancies in that same time span. And they provide 4.2 million tests and treatments for sexually transmitted infections.

They do so much good work.

And the AHCA aims to put an end to all of that.

Of course, that’s not all the AHCA aims to do. This is a bill that is inherently anti-woman. In addition to removing funding for planned Parenthood, it will also allow insurance companies to charge women more in premiums for giving birth, having had a C-section, or being victims of domestic violence. That’s because the AHCA will allow each of those things to be considered a pre-existing condition, which insurance companies would then be permitted to charge more in premiums for. So much more as to be completely unaffordable for the average person.

The bill will also take away the essential benefits women have come to rely on—things like maternity coverage and newborn care will no longer be required to be covered.

All of this just scratches the surface of how deeply the AHCA aims to harm women. Which is why it is SO important we all raise our voices and remind the senate that we stand with Planned Parenthood, and against the AHCA.

We all deserve better. And this bill going through would be disastrous, not only for women, but for our country as whole. Because there are a lot of tragic “what-ifs” that stand to become reality if something isn’t done to stop this travesty of a bill before it is allowed to go any further.

Won’t you join us in standing up for women and against this political nightmare?

Stolen Dreams: Adoption Agency Screws Over Families Across the Country

The Independent Adoption Center was collecting fees and recruiting clients just days before declaring bankruptcy

Every once in awhile, I’ll be asked to write a piece that then never makes it to print. There can be a lot of reasons this happens, and most of the time I just move on to whatever the next assignment is.

That was the case with the piece I’m about to share. It’s old news now, but it’s also a story I feel really passionate about putting out into the world–these families deserve that much. So, I decided it was worth publishing here way after the fact, simply to serve as a reminder of the wrong that has been done.

 

About 3 years ago, I came into contact with an adoption scammer who unnerved me in every way. Jessica Lynn Shea had a long history of emotional scams, but when she reached out to me, it was as a birth mother looking to place her child for adoption.

I had adopted my own daughter just a year earlier, and wrote frequently about the random set of circumstances that led to my meeting her birth mother. So Jessica played into what she knew was a weakness of mine.

Unfortunately for her, I figured out what she was doing pretty quickly. I was even able to track down her real name (she’d given me a fake) and several other families she had scammed for months on end. I worked with her parole officer and the police department in her hometown, and she was eventually thrown back in jail for a parole violation… she’d previously been convicted of fraud.

What Jessica was doing deeply bothered me, but it was very clear that she was a sick woman. As I dug into the details of her case, though, I came to feel strongly that the agency she was scamming families through held a large portion of the blame.

The Independent Adoption Center (operating in 16 states) had given her access to freely contact their list of hopeful families without making any efforts at all to vet her. They hadn’t collected a driver’s license, or obtained any paperwork from her. They hadn’t confirmed her pregnancy with a doctor. They hadn’t even arranged a face-to-face meeting with her.

They just took her word that she was pregnant, and allowed her access to their database of families who had paid them anywhere from $10,000 to $20,000 to protect their interests.

Essentially, they were operating as a Craigslist for adoption. Only they were charging a great deal for families to have that exposure, and doing almost nothing to protect those families from scammers. In fact, they had been notified by two separate families about Jessica already, and yet continued to allow her to contact their families at will.

At the time, I wrote a scathing piece about all the Independent Adoption Center was doing wrong. Their practices were negligent, at best, and certainly borderline unethical.

Jessica Shea was a woman unhinged, but the Independent Adoption Center (IAC) had made a business of allowing scammers just like her access to families desperate for a child.

It recently came to my attention that Jessica is scamming again—a family she had offered yet another non-existent child to reached out to me to share their story. And when they did, I decided to do a quick Google search on IAC, curious to see if they had been implicated in any additional scams.

What I found was so much worse.

On Tuesday, January 31st, IAC declared bankruptcy, closing their doors forever. In business, this isn’t entirely uncommon. Bankruptcy is often a solution when the ship is sinking. But in adoption, this kind of move is especially heartbreaking when you consider who is left out in the cold.

Nicole Davis and her husband had been with IAC for almost 4 years. They had paid roughly $20,000 in fees, and had been waiting longer than most families with IAC for a placement. Recently, the agency sent them an e-mail promising more exposure to their profile… if they were willing to pay an additional $2,400 in fees. They were given no warning of the impending bankruptcy.

Two separate attorneys have told the Davis’s that the agency’s liquidated assets will first be disbursed to banks, then owed wages, then creditors, and last of all to the families who were working with IAC. According to the bankruptcy filing, there is only about $55,000 remaining in assets. Meanwhile, the agency reports owing clients around $650,000.

By the time all other debts are paid, there will be nothing left for the families that trusted IAC.

The agency retained a bankruptcy attorney in November of 2016. They paid that attorney over $18,000 in fees to begin the process of filing for bankruptcy. Yet they continued to recruit new clients, and to accept payments, up until just days before officially closing their doors.

Gwyneddh Jones had been preparing to officially sign with IAC and write them a $21,000 check when she got the news. The agency had last contacted her on January 27th to confirm her workshop registration and go over the fee schedule. No one gave her any indication she should hold off on writing that check.

Meanwhile, the bankruptcy paperwork shows that the Interim Executive Director for IAC, Marcia Hodges, was making over $18,000 a month. The Assistant Executive Director, Kathleen Silber, was making $10,000 a month.

Both women will be paid lost wages and unused vacation time before the families they collected checks from ever see a dime.

Caitlin Stuart had actually been matched with a birth mother through IAC in October of 2016. In December, her daughter Evelyn Louise was born. The adoption is still in the post-placement stage, which means that IAC was still technically supposed to be completing the legal end of things as part of the $18,500 Caitlin had paid them.

There were 1,886 adoptions in progress through IAC when the bankruptcy was announced. All of these families now have to deal with getting new home studies and hiring lawyers to complete their adoptions. In Caitlin’s case, the Department of Social Services has stepped in to help. But not all families have been as lucky.

Greg Wilson and his wife had been with IAC for about four years. They had paid around $15,000 in fees. “We’ve given up now,” he told me. “We had been waiting for so long, and now we feel like it’s too late, and too expensive, to start over.”

Their hope for expanding their family is gone.

Marianne Puechl and her partner had actually connected with a potential birth mother through their own efforts. They spoke about a week before IAC’s announcement, and Marianne had urged the woman to contact IAC for information and counseling, telling her that was the agency they were working with. They had a strong connection and Marianne felt hopeful. The woman first contacted IAC the day before the announcement was made. No one from their offices let her know they would be closing their doors, or provided her any additional resources for counseling and support. She spoke to a counselor from IAC one day, and then had zero resources the next.

Since IAC’s closing, Marianne has not heard from the birth mother again. “Did the bankruptcy of our agency delegitimize us as a prospective adoptive family in her eyes?” She asked me. “It breaks my heart to think about the fact that we may have lost a precious contact because of this.”

Like a lot of families I spoke to, Brian and Ramie joined IAC because they were an agency open to LGBT couples. They had just gone live on IAC’s website in December, and had paid between $15,000 and $16,000 in fees. They still hope to adopt, but this has completely wiped them out financially. They want to know what happened, how the agency went from being up over $2 million in public tax filings in 2014, to having just $55,000 in assets today. They also want to know why the agency was pushing a new advertising program (and begging clients for more money) just days before closing their doors.

In their official statement, IAC wrote “The climate of adoption has changed radically in recent years. Societal changes have created an environment in the United States where there are fewer potential birth parents than at any other point in IAC’s history.” This may be true (and if it is—it’s actually a good thing. Because a society that helps families who want to stay together, to stay together, is doing something right.) But even if fewer placing parents were the problem, why was IAC continuing to take on new clients as though there were no shortage at all?

It’s a question several of the families I spoke to had, including Brandi Daveiga, who had been with IAC for two years. Why did IAC continue to cash checks, all the while knowing they would only be able to serve a fraction of the clients they were taking on? Why did they never reduce their staff, if there were fewer resources to provide? Why did they continue to present the same timelines and statistics to families who recently signed on as they did to those who signed on years ago?

IAC’s statement also claims that all families and birth mothers were notified by e-mail prior to the official announcement being made, and that resources were provided to all. However, several of the families I spoke to dispute that, telling me that many clients and birth mothers were missed in those notifications. And many more families have found they have no way of getting their files back from IAC. As for resources, families were simply provided the numbers for other agencies. No one at those agencies was notified that IAC would be closing, or given a heads up to expect an influx of calls. They simply don’t have the resources to help all the families who are contacting them now.

There is some hope. The American Academy of Adoption Attorneys has pledged to assist the displaced families, writing, “This is a situation which should never have happened,” in their statement to affected families.

They’re right, of course. What happened here was criminal, and some of the families I spoke to are considering a lawsuit. But who do they sue? And what do they stand to gain if there’s already nothing left?

Three years ago, my dealings with IAC left me with a bitter taste in my mouth and the feeling that this agency wasn’t looking out for anyone’s best interest but their own. I was saddened to find out I was right, but there are lessons to be learned here.

Agencies have to bring in potential birth mothers to survive—they have to have a track record of providing babies to families who are willing to pay. The ethics of adoption as a business are murky, as it is difficult for any agency to truly have a birth parent’s best interest at heart when they need that birth parent to place in order to get paid. The situation with IAC proves it is also difficult for an agency to truly have an adoptive family’s interests in mind, when they are counting on those families to pay their bills.

Adoption should always be about finding homes for children who need them. But too often it becomes about finding babies for families willing to pay for them. I say that even as an adoptive mother myself, one who was blessed to hold my little girl the second she was born. What happened with IAC wouldn’t have been able to happen if, as a society, we hadn’t allowed adoption to become a business in the first place.

But here we are.

So what can families do to protect themselves moving forward? To start with, they can thoroughly vet any agency they might consider working with, asking questions like:

  • How many clients do you take on each year, and how many placements do you make?
  • What services do you offer to birth families, and how do you protect their interests both before and after a placement has been made?
  • Do you encourage adoptive families to pay monthly stipends to potential birth families (if the answer is “yes,” question the ethics of this agency.)
  • How stringently do you vet birth parents and adoptive families before allowing contact?
  • What measures do you take to ensure all placements through your agency are ethically handled and truly in the best interest of all involved? (If you have questions about what an ethical adoption should entail, read this.)

Several of the families I spoke to now feel especially uneasy about working with an agency again. But that hasn’t caused them to give up their adoption dreams. Some are choosing to work with adoption attorneys instead, while others are turning to foster care adoption.

Most will eventually get over the heartbreak IAC caused them. But that doesn’t make it okay. And it doesn’t absolve those at IAC who continued to solicit clients and cash checks even as they knew the end was near.

Because no matter how you feel about adoption as a whole, we can all agree… there is nothing ethical about that.

Blogging Failure

So fine, I admit it, calling this a “Week in Review” has gotten a little ridiculous, seeing as I haven’t updated this space weekly in months.

Would you believe I used to have a blog I updated daily?

A funny thing happens when you start writing professionally: You suddenly have a whole lot less time for your own blog. The good news is that when things are silent here, that usually means I’ve been busy with clients. Which has absolutely been the case these last few months, and is always something that makes me happy. But for those of you who don’t follow along on Facebook (where I am much more active, I promise): rest assured, I’m alive and well.

Here’s some of my recent work you may have missed:

In other news, the snow is melting in Alaska and summer is right around the corner. Not that I’m counting down the days or anything…

Week in Review: Birthday Girl

I don’t know how it happened, but suddenly… I have a 4 year old. And this is how we spent her birthday:

I mean, I’m not bragging, but that’s what a spa day in Alaska looks like. Just saying.

We have her birthday party tomorrow, and she could not be more excited. I also transformed her nursery into a big girl Moana room, and again, totally not bragging, but I’m pretty proud of the final result:

So, yeah… it’s been a busy week!

Actually, it’s been a busy month. Which is why I haven’t updated here in a while. But here are some of the articles I’ve had published recently:

I also have some very exciting news! As most of you know, developmental editing is a huge passion of mine. I love helping authors to take their work to that next level, and I’ve been blessed to work with some truly talented writers who have incredible ideas and passion of their own. Tiffany D. Jackson is one of those writers. Over three years ago now, I had the pleasure of working with her on a manuscript that I knew was something special, right from the start. She had submitted it to several agents at that point, but hadn’t had any takers yet. So we worked together on it, tweaking the parts that weren’t working and improving upon the parts that already were.

Not too long after our work together, she received that coveted acceptance letter from an agent that wanted to take her on. And within just months of that, she had a traditional publishing contract – the dream so many authors go into this with!

Last month, that manuscript was published. And the end product is pretty incredible:

It’s a long road from putting those first words on paper to actually being able to call yourself an author. And these days, few are lucky enough to find that success through traditional publishing. Tiffany beat those odds, and for good reason. Allegedly is an incredible read.

So pick it up! I promise, you won’t be disappointed.

And now, if you’ll excuse me… I’ve got some cupcakes to make!

Week in Review: We March

I’ve been going back and forth on whether or not to march tomorrow. The only thing holding me back, really, has been that my only option is to march with Cheeks… and I’m just not sure she’s old enough to bring to a politically charged event.

But, I’ve come to the conclusion that the march here in Alaska won’t be anywhere near as chaotic as the marches in larger cities. And even more important, this is a side of history I want my daughter to know I stood on. For her. For me. For all women. Because nothing about this:

is okay.

So, tomorrow we march. And my daughter gets her first taste of what it means to stand up for what’s right.

With the exception of what is happening to our country, the past few weeks have been crazy busy in all the best ways possible. I’ve had some really fantastic developmental editing projects, and some offers for new collaborations that have been exciting to receive.

As far as writing, this is some of my latest work:

 

Wish us luck tomorrow. It’s going to be a long 4 years…

Week in Review: The Most Wonderful Time of The Year

Have I mentioned before how much I love this time of year? The lights. The tree. The time together. And the fact that we can usually count on at least one visit into Anchorage by this kid’s extended bio family:

You see, pretty much all of my little girl’s other family live in remote Alaskan villages. We cherish the openness, but these villages don’t have roads in or out – the only way to arrange visits is by plane. And while I absolutely plan on taking Cheeks to the villages to see where she comes from when she is older, us visiting there right now isn’t really feasible. So we rely on the times when her family comes into town (either as they are traveling to or from other locations, or when they come in to stock up on supplies and—around the holidays—gifts) to make those visits happen.

And every year, around this time of year, we usually get to meet a new extension of that family.

This year we got a call a few days ago from an aunt we had never before met. She and her 14-year old-daughter (Cheeks’ cousin) were going to be traveling through town and wanted to know if they could meet her.

Let me just tell you… we loved them! This was such a fun visit, and I am especially elated because this aunt has offered to put together a book with old family photos and a family tree for Cheeks to have. Which is awesome! We’ve also already made some plans to get these cousins together again in a few weeks, when this sweet teenager has to travel through town again on her way back to school (it’s not uncommon for some of the kids in the villages up here to go to boarding schools for high school, which is exactly what she does!)

These connections mean the world to me, as I truly believe in the value of openness in adoption whenever possible. But on top of the biological connection, I also love that it is a connection to Cheeks’ heritage. It’s a window, for her, into who she is, where she comes from, and the rich cultural history that she is a part of.

So, yeah… I love this time of year. And these visits.

Work has been going great! I’m trying to get most of my month finished up now so that I can really relax and enjoy the holidays with my girl. But I’ve been pulling in some really exciting developmental editing jobs that I can’t wait to share with you all in the weeks/months to come!

In the meantime, here are some of the pieces I’ve had published over the last few weeks:

We’re in the middle of a snowstorm in Alaska that is looking as though it should last the next 4 days… so I’m looking forward to a weekend spent holed up with my girl, having a fire in the fireplace, watching the lights on our tree, and maybe bundling up for a bit of sledding!

I’m not sure if I could possibly ask for a more perfect weekend-before-Christmas weekend!

Week in Review: ‘Tis the Season

I love this time of year. Which is weird because, before motherhood, I was never much of a fan. But ever since this little girl came into my life:

20161201120613_001_1

Christmas is pretty much my favorite!

We played hooky yesterday and spent the day visiting Santa, picking out our tree, decorating, and generally just getting into the holiday spirit. It was the perfect day. But of course, now I’m playing catch-up!

I’ve got some exciting editing projects in the works right now, and with NaNoWriMo wrapping up, I’ve been getting a lot of new inquiries about developmental editing – which is usually the service people need most after speed-writing a novel. So, you know… if you’ve got a newly finished first draft on your hands, let’s talk!

I’ve also been doing some writing of my own, both on my next book, and on these articles that were recently published:

I’ve been busy, but all with work I love and am passionate about. And that’s pretty much the dream as far as I’m concerned!