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Lincoln, Lily, Martin & Me

curse bubbleHave you seen Lincoln yet? I won’t get into all the gritty of my emotional reactions while watching this film, but it did make undeniably clear how the types of arguments used against ending slavery through the 13th amendment and the eventual legal equality of the races are the exact same kinds or arguments being used against gay marriage. For some that may make it easier for you to forgive those who voted against the 13th amendment, fearing the slippery slope or loss of morality in the United States, but it makes me sad that we seem not to be learning from history or even listening to ourselves.

Race is an issue. In my experience it is less of an issue than it was five years ago when it was less of an issue than it had been five years before that. We are getting better, America – thank you – but it is an issue. Some would like to believe there is a “there” we will eventually get to where race will no longer be an issue, but I’m not sure that “there” can exist – certainly not in my lifetime. As a multi racial family, perhaps we are more exposed making it more difficult to hope we will ever get “there”.

It is interesting to me that people will brazenly ask questions when a parent and child don’t “match”, but few people even blink when adults of different races are holding hands (or otherwise obviously more than just friends). I am a secure adult; talk to me about the men I choose to date. My child is developing his identity within an adopted family; why would you bring up racial identity in front of him like he is an exhibit at a museum? Why does it even matter if he is adopted or where he was born? If you aren’t curious how I met the man I am dating who is a different race than I am, then I don’t understand your curiosity about how I met my son? (Your kid came OUT of you? That must be weird and complicate your relationship.)

When people ask less than appropriate questions or when I was trying to keep myself calm while watching Lincoln, sometimes I sing Lily Allen’s F*ck You to myself. While there are many times I would like to say “F*ck You” there are many reasons I cannot. As a women and as light-skinned as I am, I could potentially get away with it, but my son is male and darker, so anger, even out of hurt, is likely to exacerbate any potential problems for him. Mijo has to learn from me that ignorance, well-intentioned or not, cannot be met with anger. Ignorance ideally needs to be answered with patient education. Unfortunately, I’m kind of a loud mouth who occasionally wants to respond with shocking things like “now I understand what they meant by once you go black you never go back *wink*“, but my son’s presence keeps me from being such a hooligan.

The thing I like most best about Lily Allen’s song is that while she is saying what she is thinking, she does so in a sing-songy way. Ignorance is ignorance. While there are people who truly do hate and see people as unequal, most people are not malicious. Let me not be the crazy Latina; let me not be the uppity white woman. If I want people be accepting and loving to my multi-racial family, I need to be lovable. That is my job, not Mijo’s job. He is a kid who gets to be a kid and act out if he needs to (to a degree). He has been through enough already. He did not choose this multi-racial family. While I think he is adorable, he does not need to be the cute face of adoption advocacy. It is my responsibility to protect my child, model appropriate responses, and reveal the best of my character to encourage people to judge families like mine not by our skin colors but by our love. But I still may be singing Lily Allen in my head….

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I Said No

I have been avoiding this blog for awhile. It’s one of the reasons the content has been, well, not about adoption. I didn’t really want to share this with anyone, but something in me thinks it needs to be blogged. I actually wrote half of it before (in the afterglow of moving my blog back to WordPress and gaining lovely new followers – hi, you). Look, I’m already distracting… This isn’t easy to admit.

I turned down a referral. For those of you not in the adoption world, a referral is a child whose basic info is given to you as a potential child to adopt. I said no to a child. It’s still hard to believe that statement could be true. When I started the adoption process, I thought I was open to so many special needs. Abuse? I have some experience with abused kids. HIV? Sure, I can dispense meds and find an awesome medical team. I hate the thought of any child being left without a family. I abhor the thought of a child being passed over for someone younger or cuter. I thought there was a child that needed me. I didn’t think I would even consider saying no.

After just a few weeks of waiting on a referral, the director of my adoption program called me to tell me about a young girl. I didn’t immediately say yes, and I wasn’t sure why. What was known about her story was enough to scare others away; wasn’t that the kind of child I had wanted? What we knew of her story I could manage. I actually had some related experience. It wasn’t that I’d gotten cold feet, but it took me about twelve hours to figure it out.

Although I hadn’t immediately said yes, I hadn’t said no either. I hadn’t said anything. The director of my adoption program told me to think about it, so I hadn’t had to say anything yet. I thought about the little girl. I thought, “she needs me; this girl should not be alone.” I thought about how her name was a variation of one of the names on my list. Wasn’t that a sign? I thought, “I can’t say no.” Then I thought about me, and realized I wasn’t really what she needed. Of the little I knew about this little girl, it struck me that she needed a lot of stability. It struck me that she needed a two parent household. Brother 2 was living with me though, so I could provide a father figure. We had determined we would figure out this beyond normal co-parenting arrangement. Something about the little I knew about her made me think that an uncle might actually be frightening. I rolled it around over and over. I felt good about saying no and felt bad that I felt good about saying no. It has never taken me so long to type out just a few words as I composed the email.

I said no because I didn’t think I was good enough for this child. I didn’t know enough (nor would we be able to) to determine if my home might actually exasperate her grief or fear. I am sure there are some who will think that it’s a convenient excuse or even rationalization to say no. It could be, but I feel solid enough in my intuition to open myself up to the trolls of the Internet. I’ve been guilty myself of thinking someone was just baby-shopping when they turned down a referral. I get that you may be judging me.

It was my first experience as a parent of not being enough. No matter how many books I read or classes I attended or professionals I consulted with, I could not prepare a home that could be all I thought that she deserved, that she needed. I could not give her a stable father. I wasn’t enough, and I could not prepare myself enough. The mom guilt would have been constant, but worse, my gut told me that she would thrive better in another home. I was afraid she would never fully feel safe here. The director of my adoption program did eventually tell me that another family – a two parent family – said yes to her almost immediately. I’m hoping I get to meet them at one of my agency’s events. I hope I get to see her thriving in the love of a two-parent family. While I will never be her mom or probably even an adult she knows well, I still think about her often and want for her to have all she could need and more than she could want. I want her to feel safe and loved and confident and happy and capable and important and so much more. I would have given her those things if I could have, but I don’t think I could have been enough on my own.

3 Blogs in 1

I started to write a couple of blogs, but never finished them. I’m not sure I have any actual point here. Maybe it is just a sign that I am thinking a lot. I’ve always been ok with not knowing the answer and not knowing what comes next. I suppose this could merely be a symptom. I am still trying to find my blogging groove, but I have seen some people post “random” updates with a bulleted list.

1. I miss my brother. I miss my quiet, thoughtful, passionate brother. Sure, I miss his cooking, but we’re all surviving on my attempts at domestication. He’s been on my mind a lot recently. Being on opposite ends of the world makes it difficult to catch up. Sure social media makes it easier, but we are both introverts. It’s actually sad how little we connect. When we do it is sweet but short.


Brother 2 has been in Asia for several months. His career ambitions have taken him around the world for several “short” stints – Asia, Europe, Africa, the Middle East. I’m so thankful that we get much quality time in between when he is actually in the States, but I’m afraid those will get less frequent as he’s climbing the career ladder. My brothers are some of the smartest men I know, so I have much faith in what he can achieve.

2. The other day we ran into some of S-man‘s friends from middle school, and we set a date to meet up for dinner next month. S-man still hangs out with friends from middle school! I have some dear friends from my college days, but we don’t catch up nearly as much as we should. Perhaps we have grown a part. I certainly don’t chat with friends from middle school or even high school. Recently, I have been making more “mommy friends” as well.

I spend my time with my new “mommy friends” and my girlfriends from my pre-mommy days; I catch up with my friends from school when I can. While there are a couple of exceptions, I mostly prefer my new friends to my old friends. I consider myself a loyal person. I have a family member that systematically eliminates people from her life, and I don’t consider myself anything like her. Yet, this concerns me a bit. What does it say about me that I prefer my new friends to my old friends?

3. I’m contemplating all the adoption bloggers I know or know of. Some are simply bloggers who happened to be touched by adoption. While they may mention adoption now and then, I am really thinking about those that talk about adoption regularly. Some of those who are in the midst of the process and mostly writing about the wait and their own experience rather than examining all the various issues involved long term. It is those that talk about all the issues involved, who try to be advocates, and who keep blogging after their kids are home that interest me right now.

It seems there are two kinds of adoption bloggers – those that are primarily about adoption and those that are primarily about blogging. While I’m not a fan of blogs in general that simply report on their activities, Mooshinindy can write about a note to the tooth fairy in a way that warms my heart. No matter what the subject matter, I most appreciate analytical, thoughtful bloggers.

I guess I’m feeling a bit bothered by those that are put forth as the best adoption bloggers, who seem to be more about blogging than adoption. I read many thoughtful adoption bloggers that read books on adoption and go to conferences and think about the impact of adoption on their kids’ daily lives. This is clearly an unfinished thought. I don’t have a point of which I am currently aware. Any insights for me?

Adoption & Advent

This morning while blog reading I was unexpectedly thrown off on a rant. I’ve been in an amazing mood, so the rant took even me by surprise. And yet…

I am tired of parents in the midst of the international adoption process bemoaning that their family isn’t together for Christmas. I could rant about how many other families aren’t together at Christmas, including the child’s birth family. I could rant that the inter-country* adoption process (if done correctly by competent professionals) is fairly predictable, thus nearly all of these families knew it was not going to be complete by Christmas. I could rant that no matter what you think about the international adoption process, a process is needed. (If you question that, Claudia’s series may help you understand). I could rant that when you choose to focus on the bad rather the good, you are bringing yourself down, but mostly I’m going to rant about the reason for the season.

Disclaimer: I don’t often discuss religion for many reasons. Mostly I find it to be exclusionary most of the time. The Beyond Normal Limits household is non-denominational Christian, but we learn about and discuss other belief systems and celebrate other holidays as well. Our friends talk about Jehovah and Allah and Jah and Buda, to name a few. I believe we are religiously literate, even fluent (a couple of us have taken seminary courses and had inter-faith relationships) family, but I’m also not sure I’m comfortable with the term religious as an adjective to describe me. God and I are cool, but Gods people are not always cool to others.**

Isn’t advent about building anticipation and hope as the world waits for a child, a tiny baby to fulfill the promise of God? I don’t think there can be a better example or life lesson to truly experience advent than if you are waiting for a child, whether by adoption or more traditional means. Advent is also about preparation in your heart and life for this child on which you wait. Advent reminds us that priorities, appointments, budgets, and more must be shifted to make, not just room, but the proper place for a child. The Christmas before my son came home, I made sure we had enough stockings and matching stocking hooks. We thought about what traditions to introduce or change. I scoured the internet for fun crafts and ideas. He was not here, but I had fun preparing to make his first Christmas with us very special.

Anticipation is waiting with joy. Disgruntled waiting or anxious waiting is not what advent is about. If you focus on ‘This isn’t how I want it’ rather than ‘This is going to be great’ , you cannot experience the full love and joy of the season. Adoption requires faith if you are going to survive the process without feeling traumatized by it. The adoption process is not about you. Parenting cannot be about you. Advent is not about you. It may not be as you’d prefer, but how helpful is it to you or anyone else to refuse to experience the joy of Christmas?

*Domestic adoption is another matter about which I’m not prepared to discuss in much depth. The time period for a domestic infant adoption is much more unpredictable. Personally, I couldn’t imagine waiting (and waiting for many) for someone to choose me. The openness of domestic adoption actually appeals to me, but not the emotional roller coaster of hoping without knowing if or when.

**I am fully expecting some ‘hate’ from that disclaimer. It will be sad to lose any of the few readers that I have. And yet, I still want to challenge you to consider how you use certain terms and make judgements about the worth of a person’s opinions based solely on church attendance or use of certain terminology…because I can speak church-language with the best of them!

Warm & Fuzzy Hibernation

sparkly, pretty, ah!

I feel the hibernation setting in, and this year – I welcome it. Domestication may be at an all time high. Introversion may be as well. But so is joy, contentment, peace… Mornings here are quiet. I am working from home more. I guilt myself less. I cook more. I’m spending more (that is ironic). But, Life is Good.

Winter in the Midwest means cold and gray and precipitation. It means dark mornings and darker evenings. It means drafty windows in a historical home, chanclas, and blankets piled everywhere. It means scarves and hats and mittens and coats and clothing claustrophobia. It means staticy hair, dry skin, and nose bleeds. It means shoveling and spinning tires and icy roads. But it means candles and covers and snuggles. It means reading and chatting and sipping from warm mugs. It means that if I leave the house you really matter to me.

This year I have a friend who is about to deliver, a friend that is half way there, and two friends that just found out they are expecting. My heart celebrates for them more than they know. I really am bad about telling people just how melty my heart gets. This year, while we may have many miles to go, we have much to celebrate. As we say goodbye to Thanksgiving, I am oh so very thankful for of so many blessings.

This contentment makes me want to hibernate to settle it and to just abide with in our joy. Some winters hibernation is about hiding or waiting it out, surviving only. Some winters hibernation can feel like claustraphobia. But this winter, I am snuggling into contentment and wondering at the lovely little world that surrounds me.

So let it snow if it will. I will turn on the Christmas lights in the morning and enjoy the sparkling beauty of the lights on the tree. I have plenty of coffee. I am comfy working in my quiet home. I look forward to spending time with just my family each evening.

The Comfort of a Quiet Night

I love our Beyond Normal Limits household very much. I love the activity, the cast of characters, and all of our silliness. I love that we are not normal, but have such a comfortable, easy way of existing together. After college, I used to say that I would not live with roommates again until I was married – ha! But there just are not any “roommate squabbles” around here, no matter what family or which friends come and go.

 

Recently the G’s (Grandparents aka my parents) have been coming and going a lot for various reasons. Brother One’s new girl (Bright Eyes) is here on a pretty regular basis. There are workmen on my second level. Still. We have had and will have weekend guests…. When S-man went to spend some time with his mother, I thought I would use my free evenings to catch up with friends, but I haven’t nearly as much as I intended, perhaps due to all the other activity.

Tonight I suddenly found myself in a clean, quiet house, watching football while little ones slept. Brother One and Bright Eyes had gone camping to end this gorgeous fall weekend. With candles lit and surrounded only by quiet in my cozy home, I could not bring myself to go to bed just yet. Monday is on the other side of slumber with things to do and likely a full inbox, but now it is 2am…

Do you ever stay up too late simply to enjoy the comfort of quiet?

Let’s Celebrate!

We are a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic family that most consider a bit non-traditional. Canada is really only tied into the family tree through one of my father’s friends who is a Canadian ex-pat. Perhaps that is why our Canada Day celebration left a bit to be desired. Brunch was great, but there wasn’t anything Canadian about our fare or our choice of celebration. It was probably just an excuse to go to brunch… because it’s brunch….

Actually, I have a good reason for recognizing Canada Day other than an excuse to go to brunch. It is not about teaching the kids a lot of trivia and historical facts, although that is probably why my father always made sure we remembered Canada Day as well as many other historical days that no one else ever remembers. It might be because I think we all need to find more reasons to celebrate more often. It is somewhat about molding global thinking and a wider world view. Mostly it is about showing respect for all cultures.

The culture of my family in to which I have thrust my child is not the only culture. He needs to know that I do not value my culture more than the culture of his birth. Simply adding in celebrations from his country of origin can be problematic also. Do you remember that girl you knew when you were younger that was obsessed with Paris? She took French class. She ordered crepes. She tried to wear a beret. The Eiffel tower decorated many of her belongings, and she swore she was moving to Paris as soon as she could. Imagine if that girl adopted a child from France (this is only an illustration). That child could feel like part of her collection or like the most important child in the world. While I want my child to feel special, she needs to learn to value others also. And what happens when that girl adopts a child from Brasil?

So we will find a (better) way to celebrate Canada Day. We will celebrate the Fourth of July, of course. Japan’s Ocean Day is coming up later this month; maybe we will go to the aquarium. We will celebrate Dias de los Muertos, Hanukah, Christmas, and Boxing Day, as well as, Children’s Sunday, St. Patrick’s Day, Cinco de Mayo, and many more. I’ll let my dad handle the Bastille Day celebration.

What less common holidays does your family celebrate? and how?

We can always use another excuse for brunch, right?

Single: The Modern Day Widow

I know this is long, but please stick with me…

In adoption, there are a lot of people quoting the verse in the Bible that states that we are called to care for the widows and the orphans. There are even some organizations like Both Hands who attempt to support both orphan care and widow care with creative fundraising events, yet their partner organization, lifesong for orphans, does not seem to recognize families that do not include both a mother and a father as adoption appropriate families. I wonder if they would consider a single woman living in a separate city from all of her family a widow?

Before I started the adoption process, I figured that fundraising would not be that difficult. I had heard story after story of families raising tens of thousands of dollars in grants, gifts, and fundraising. Surely, a single woman on a single income would be eligible for assistance. I knew there would be some grants that would not be open to me, but that just meant less applications I hoped. I didn’t grow frustrated as I crossed organization after organization off the list after reading their requirements, but I did get frustrated when the curt or belittling rejection letters and emails started rolling in. As I dug deeper, all I could find were forums stating that they had never heard a single story of a single person receiving a single dollar in grant money. Ouch.

I think I have a pretty healthy perspective on the church. I have several ministers in my family. I have taken enough Bible, Religion, and Theological courses and held enough positions in churches or church groups to fill a resume. One of my best friends as a teen was a pastor’s kid and one of my college roommates was a missionary kid. I have seen how the church has hurt people and destroyed lives because the church is made up of other people. I have also seen how the church has made powerful, positive impact on people’s lives.

Once I moved out on my own, it was difficult to find a church locally that could speak to me. The people were often sweet, but they either came on too strong (frightening this introvert with their small talk) or ignored me completely because they did not know what to say or what to do with me. Although, they did almost always say Welcome. I get it, it is often easier to talk to kids than adults, and parents generally value people and places that value their kids. My primary excuse for never finding a new church home was that I often disagreed with the exegesis or had studied it myself more than the preacher and did not feel challenged. I am sure the therapist would argue that I was never made to feel a part of any church. I wasn’t a part of the church family because I didn’t have a family.

It was in a church that I learned that people generally disappear from the church after high school, reappearing about the time they get married or start having children. It a chicken-egg problem. Do young adults not come to church because there isn’t a place for them or is there not a place for young adults in the church because they do not come? I never blamed the church in general because I did not fit, but I didn’t try to make a space for myself either. I am an introvert.

When I first moved out on my own in a city away from all immediate and extended family members, there were times that I felt alone and times that I felt that maintaining a household, albeit a small apartment, was really more than one person could do. My parents had married before they had left college; there was much that I was experiencing that they simply could not understand. That was when I first started contemplating the idea that maybe I was a Biblical widow.

In Biblical times, people married even earlier than my parents did. Women lived at home with their family until they were married. I don’t recall many stories about Old Maids in the Bible. In fact, dads like Laban made sure that the older sisters like Leah were married off, one way or another. The reason that widows were such a social concern was because Biblical women did not have the same rights as the modern day woman and could not fully care for themselves. I’m glad that I can choose my mate or whom I do not want to marry. I am glad that I can work and vote and purchase property.

Paying bills, cleaning house, working full time, caring for kids, mowing the lawn, planting a garden, and maybe a little advocacy work… it’s more than any one person can do, at least well (and I don’t like not doing things well). Now I can afford to pay someone to help with at least one of those things. My brothers are often around to help now. I’m in a much better place, but I also know that my income is above average currently. Most of my single friends agree, it’s hard work to do it ‘on your own’, simply in the organization and tasks to do (forget about all that emotional mumbo jumbo).

The rest of the world probably doesn’t interpret the Biblical widow the same way that I do. There are days that I find some irony in having a family that includes at least one widow and at least one orphan. Most of the time, now, I don’t consider myself a widow. I have help here pretty consistently. Yet, there are days when I experience discrimination unexpectedly that do make me feel like a widow all over again. While the church may not care for these modern day widows, I think that single adults, especially single parents, are a population that could use our caring and assistanceSo what single woman’s lawn are you going to rake this fall?

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