Saturday, December 15, 2012


I wrote this post back in 2010 after a friend of mine took his own life and I was really struggling with why things like that happen.

In light of what happened in CT yesterday, I am again struggling with why. Here's what I had to say about it almost three years ago:


As a mom of a three & a half year old, I am faced with the "why" question all the time - approximately 42 million times a day actually. And I can usually answer Riley's "why?" with some kind of halfway-sensible answer. When he "whys" me into a corner, I just tell him "because God made it that way" and he's usually satisfied.

But I'm struggling with some whys today that I just can't answer. I lost a friend this week. He was struggling with depression and had gone missing and last night I got the call to tell me that they had found him. And he's gone.  I don't have words to express the sadness and grief I feel for his mom, his girlfriend, and their families. I don't have an answer to this "why."  All I can do is pray.  In church this morning we sang,  "I called. You answered. And you came to my rescue. And I wanna be where You are."  I couldn't keep it together to sing along.  Why did my friend have to lose his battle with depression? Where was his rescue? Why is the world this way? My standard "because God made it that way" answer just doesn't seem to apply here.

I don't really have an answer why.  I never will.  But I know that God has a better plan for all of us. Some may say that this was somehow God's will, but I don't believe that. I don't believe God wants us to suffer.  I believe He can redeem the worst situation and turn it around for good but I just can't believe that God's will was for my friend to lose hope the way he did. Likewise, I don't believe it is God's will for children to be abused, to be born into disease or poverty or for women to be raped. All of that is a result of this sinful, messed up, broken world we live in.  I thank God that He is there to help us pick up the pieces, heal us, and show us a much better way. And I am praying hard for His peace for my friend's family. I pray God shows up for them in an undeniable way.

The past year I've been praying the Lord's Prayer more intentionally - focusing on what it's really saying and the most powerful part for me is "thy Kingdom come, thy will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven." Jesus tells us to pray that God's will WILL be done here... just as it IS done in heaven. And I'm trying so hard to do my part to make this world a place where what God wants to happen is what actually does happen. That's part of why we are adopting.

We're adopting because there's a child who needs a family but in all honesty, I'm adopting a child whose birth mother I wish I had been able to keep alive or who had been able to keep him.  We will always continue to work with Heart for Africa to try to change the trajectory of Swaziland so that fewer children there are orphaned. I would love to live in a world where adoption doesn't happen because there are no struggles with AIDS, infertility, poverty, or rape. The reality may be that we won't experience this until we are in heaven but I'm certainly going to work hard to get us as close as we can.

I'm not trying to make some random connection between my friend & our adoption just so I can write about it on this blog. Those are the two "why" questions I struggle with right now.  I failed my friend somehow - our society failed my friend.  Society has already failed my future child because he's going to (or already has) lost his birth mother. I grieve this and I know God grieves this.  And I don't know why it is the way it is.  But I do know there is hope. There's so much hope and I pray that everyone who is suffering today can find it.

"Hope is a good thing. Maybe the best thing. And no good thing ever dies." This was the quote on my friend's facebook page.  I think the best way to honor his memory is to hold on to hope. And I plan to do just that. This was a tough week for me between bad days, news about my friend, and news about our adoption but there is no giving up.  "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."  For me, it's more like, "I can't do anything without Christ, who strengthens me."

My prayer for my three little ones today is that they will never lose hope, no matter the struggle. That's my prayer for the world, actually. Please hold on to your hope. Please.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Christmas will be a little less sweet this year...

I meant to blog about this before Halloween.  But, you know, I have three kids. That's my excuse anyway.

I'm a Chocoholic. I mean really. I've been known to pour a handful of chocolate chips into my hand as a snack. Um, or several handfuls. If we have chocolate candy in the house it does not last long. I just love chocolate. And my oldest is the same way. We have bona-fide sweet tooths (teeth?). Let's be honest: I used M&Ms to bribe encourage my children during potty training.

But last year I learned something about chocolate: most of it is produced by slaves. CHILD slaves.  The major chocolate companies in my country (Mars, Hershey, Kraft, Nestle, to name just a few) are getting their cocoa beans from farms on the Ivory Coast and West Africa where children (children!) have to work in terrible conditions for no pay. Some have been trafficked there to work on the farms. They do not get to go to school. They live in poverty. They have bodies that are developmentally in disarray from all the hard labor they've had to do while still growing.

All that so I can have my chocolate fix. Somehow, that brings an awfully bitter taste to my beloved Kit-Kats.

Here's why I'm mad: The chocolate companies know about this. After stories about child slave-labor on cocoa plantations came out in 2000, here's what happened:

"Shortly thereafter, in 2001, Congress passed H.Amdt. 142 to P.L. 107-76, FY2002 Agriculture, Rural Development and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Appropriations, which would have provided $250,000 to the Food and Drug Administration, to be used to develop a label for chocolate products indicating that no child slave labor had been used in the growing and harvesting of cocoa in a product so labeled.  A Senate companion bill was never introduced, in part because after House passage of the bill, representatives of the cocoa industry, the International Labor Organization (ILO), several private labor rights groups, and Members of Congress, negotiated “a comprehensive, six-point problem-solving” protocol aimed at ending the “use of abusive child labor in cocoa growing.”"
(from CRS Report for Congress, July 13, 2005).

In normal person language, that means our government was going to develop a label (and a law) so that chocolate companies could let us know, clearly, that they were not using child slave labor to make their products.  Instead of agreeing and taking immediate action to stop child slavery, the chocolate companies lobbied hard. They made sure no such law was passed and came up with a voluntary agreement that they signed saying, "oh we'll work on solving the problems and try to fix it." It's been almost 11 years. And very little has changed. The date that the companies agreed to stop using "child labor" (which is really child slavery but they conveniently use different wording), keeps getting pushed back. They say it's just too hard to reach all those cocoa plantations to make a difference.  I'm sorry...chocolate is a major industry. They have the resources to reach those plantations; they are choosing not to use the necessary resources to make the changes. CNN went to do a story there and found child slave-labor farms the FIRST day they were there. Wow- must have been really hard to find them.  Grrrrr.

This means if you buy chocolate this Christmas from one of our major chocolate companies, you are supporting child slavery. I usually buy Hershey kisses or those Dove chocolate squares and pour them into everyone's stockings. I LOVE those chocolate oranges. You know, the ones that look like real oranges and you smack 'em to get them to break open into lovely orange-flavored chocolate slices. It tastes like heaven, I tell you. It's tradition every year and I look forward to seeing it in my stocking because I know Rob's going to make sure it's in there. And I totally would NOT share it with my kids. No way.

Not this year. Yes, I love chocolate. But you know what? I hate the idea of children working as slaves even more. I will gladly give up my heaven-in-the-shape-of-an-orange. Gladly. When I get to heaven, I have a feeling my orange chocolate will be there and it won't have been made by child slaves. I'm happy to wait till then.

Please consider joining me. This year, my family will get one fair-trade chocolate bar in their stocking. It's easy to see the fair-trade label on chocolate bars and you can KNOW that no children were harmed in the making of that product.  Buying organic is 2nd best. Organic farms don't use child slave labor but most of them aren't on the Ivory Coast, so it isn't helping the problem as much.

And if you are an info-seeker, here are some great resources:
CNN did an entire story on this last January through their Freedom Project:
There is a whole series you can read through including stories about specific children and reactions from chocolate companies. It's worth clicking through and reading.

This blog lists places where you can find fair-trade chocolate:
She has this guide from 2010 as well:

Here's how you can learn more about how to be more involved:

Let's have a not-so-sweet Christmas this year!  Chocolate isn't good for us anyway. It's a luxury. I will gladly pay more and only eat one chocolate bar instead of heaping on the cheaper chocolate made by child slaves. Wouldn't you? And, you know, maybe we won't gain so much holiday weight. It's a win-win, really.

I'd love it if you'd leave a comment letting me know if you're going to go fair-trade for Christmas chocolate this year! Let's see if we can make an impact! Share this info with your friends. I'm betting most folks have no idea. Americans like to say this is one of the greatest nations in the world. I don't think it's great that our major chocolate companies are using child slave labor. That is embarrassing.  Let's step up and be a part of what's right.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012


I'm sort of funny when it comes to milestones.  I always celebrated when my kids hit 9 months-old because it meant they had been "on the outside" as long as they were in.  I already know that when I turn 36 (a really reallllllly long time from now. Or 2 years. You can choose), I'll have lived in the South as long as I ever lived in New England.  I know that when I turn 48, I'll have been a Cassell as long as I was a Johnson.

Next month, Amani will have been home 15 months. He'll have been home as long as he was ever away from us.

And last night, I got to see this picture (thanks to an amazing FB group for folks who have adopted from ET through our agency):

Amani was almost nine months old when we got our referral. We've never seen any earlier pictures of him. He is seven months old in this picture!  HALFWAY to when he'd come home. So fitting for my weird obsession with halfway points.

This was such a gift! When you don't adopt at birth, you always wonder about those days before you became a family.  My heart still yearns for the baby I never got to cuddle. He never knew me in the days when he needed so much care. I never got to be his main mode of transportation before he could walk. I missed all of the middle of the night feedings and snuggles.

I have no newborn pictures. No "the first time you stood up" or "the first time you ate solid food" pictures. I don't have a picture of the first time he clapped his hands or rolled over.

But now we have this one. He's so tiny! My heart hurts because I missed out on being mama to this tiny sweet babe, but this picture brings me so much joy!

Being a part of the adoption community is amazing. It's like having more family (the good kind... ha!). The mama who sent this picture out didn't know he was mine. She just knew she had a picture of a cute kiddo whose mama would probably LOVE to see a picture. And she took the time to post it on the chance I might be out there somewhere.  Actually, another adoptive mama-friend of mine saw it and alerted me.  I'm telling you, these adoptive mamas are awesome.

And she made my day!