Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Things I can't let go of.

During my first year in Slovakia, a good friend told me that he learned pretty quickly the English phrase, "to hurt one's feelings" thanks to my having rather thin skin. He'd never heard this phrase before meeting me and quickly integrated into his English lexicon: Oh sorry, I didn't mean to hurt your feelings (in my defense, while this guy is a super-special wonderful life-long friend I can always count on, tact is just not his thing--he was always quick to tell me if I was eating too many jam-filled buchty, adding padding to my, erm, booty, and he just loved laughing at my frequent mistakes in Slovak, sometimes not telling me what I'd said that was so funny--all this from someone who would describe bryndza as "cheese made from ships" instead of sheeps' cheese and who left out that very-essential letter P when talking about our favorite rapper Coolio).

So while I appreciated all the nice responses to my post about "Choosing not to be offended," I felt sort of guilty reading them. I'm not so good at being able to let things go, like water off a duck's back, the way my mom always told me to do when I was the fifth grade nearsighted fat kid always picked last for games of kickball. I and my best friend Catherine, the other fat kid in my class, would let our teammates ahead of us in the line to kick so that we could exercise our intellect with invigorating discussions about who our favorite Goonie was or how we would have spent the money had we been Brewster in Brewster's Millions, at least until the teacher caught us not playing and made us take a turn.

Pathetic, I know.

So while I was able to see past the phrase "real mom" to the overall good intentions with the lady at the coffeeshop in Mississippi, I'm not always able to do so.

Case in point: This summer at a wedding, a close friend of one of our relatives whose house I'd been to about a year ago, approached us to chat and congratulate us on the adoption. This woman is very sweet and encouraging. During the conversation, she made the frequent (and oh, so annoying) comment, "Just you watch, as soon as you adopt, you guys are going to have your own baby. It always happens that way!"

I cringed. I tried to bite my tongue, I really did. I couldn't hold myself back though. As sweet as this lady is, fewer things get under my skin more than hearing someone tell me this. Before I knew what was happening, I was stammering something out about how this is actually a myth, that Barbara Katz Rothman in her book Weaving a Family actually cites several studies disproving this idea that there's a correlation between adoption and later pregnancy and that hearing this makes adoptive parents feel pressure to conceive and that the world thinks their child who was adopted is somehow less than their own or even a means to an end (a biological child).

I should have just smiled and said, "You never know what God has in store." But I didn't. I lashed out and immediately felt guilty, so guilty that I went back to her twice to apologize. She was very gracious and understanding and hadn't deserved to be given a barrage of facts about adoption research while at a wedding reception. I was wrong.

But really, so was she. Because many of us out there know someone who adopted and then conceived a child, this does not mean that this is the normal course of events for families. And pointing out to adoptive parents these cases where it has happened communicates the message that we're all just waiting for our biological child to come along for our families to be "complete." Though people who say this don't mean it to be, it is hurtful and I wish they would stop saying it.

I came across this blog this weekend and cheered loudly the post in which the author wrote:

Don't assume adoption is a second choice.
The reasons people choose to adopt are as varied and unique as the people themselves. While it is true that many choose adoption because of infertility, it is also true that many choose adoption for a myriad of other reasons as well. Many people choose to adopt not because they are out of other options, but rather because they believe that adoption is the best choice for them.
Don't tell us we're sure to have "our own" now.
She is our own. Those parents who choose adoption because of infertility do not secretly harbor lifelong yearnings for a biological child. Having "our own" is now irrelevant; the child we have is the one we want and it is inconceivable that we could love or want any child more. Like all parents, we have the best.

There were a lot of things this woman is so right on about, and I was really happy to have heard from someone else who has the same peeve. I strongly encourage you to read this entire post. She's much more articulate than I could ever be and doesn't even once rabbit-trail off to her memories of elementary school woes.

Second thing I can't let go of: When people at my church use language publicly that excludes adoptees. Sunday morning before the baby dedications, one of the pastors of our church said something about how wonderful it is when "a woman gets pregnant and has as child," as if this is the only way a family is formed. I couldn't help thinking about any older children in the room who may have been adopted and for the parents of those children who probably had to have yet another conversation to clarify misuse of language on the way home.

Church, of all places, should be a place for the grace of inclusion. Because I'm not upset about it, now or even then when it happened, we want to mention it to this pastor, who is a really great guy and who I'm sure had just never thought of it before. I have to remember that adoption is not on everyone's radar as much as it is on ours. But if I can tweak their radars, with grace, I'm happy to do it, especially for the sake our child who I so want to grow up in an atmosphere of total acceptance from as many people as possible in our lives. I know this acceptance won't always happen on the playground, but I know for sure that it needs to at church.

Third and final thing I find hard to let go of: Could the corporate big-whigs of Target please adjust the budget so that we have fewer segway-riding security guards and more signs pointing customers to the tiny, dimly lit corner where they've, to make room for all the holiday crap, shoved all the cleaning supplies (or as one worker called it, "uh, you mean, stuff with chemicals?")? Grrrr...

Thursday, October 25, 2007


I think it may have been the several nights of bad sleep mixed with the abrupt change in weather, but I'm sick--so sick that I came home a day early from Jackson. The sleep deprivation and snotty nose turned me into a beast I didn't want to subject anyone else to those last 24 hours (well, besides Ted, of course). I came home and slept 10 hours and feel slightly better. All I have to offer blog-wise is this video, which isn't so bad really considering the state of things:

Thanks, cuteoverload.com for the gossipy cats. And thanks to the writers of last week's Office episode for making me cry today (anyone know what part I'm referring to?). And thanks, tivo for enabling me to watch all the shows I miss. I love you, technology. I'm off now to drink Nyquil.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Choosing Not to be Offended

In A Love Like No Other, there was one essay I particularly liked written by an adoptive mother who is hyper-sensitive about the language people use to talk about adoption. (I'm sorry I can't refer you to her name--my copy of the book is currently in Portland and I'm writing this from Granny's house). I laughed out loud throughout the whole thing at her unabashed chip-on-the-shoulder and her compulsion to educate the masses about proper adoption-related language. I feel the same way a lot of the time, cringing at terms like "own kids" for biological.

So this morning while picking up a cup of coffee, I was chatting away with the owner of the store and the subject of blogs came up and then the subject of our adoption. She was super sweet and interested, and I gave her the address of our blog. I'd been taking photos in the shop (with her permission) and while she was making a cafe au lait for me to take home to Granny, she was asking me questions about the adoption. When I told her I still haven't done much to get the baby's room ready, she laughed and said, "Oh well, you're just like a bunch of real mothers who wait until the last minute to get things ready."

She was so sweet and meant nothing by it at all. In other circumstances, I think I may have gotten my feelings hurt or cringed at the word 'real', but somehow I realized that it's just a case of a very sweet person saying something that she would never imagine being potentially hurtful. It's the classic case of her not having walked a mile in my shoes, so she doesn't know what's sensitive and what's not. She doesn't have the adoption-paperwork/waiting-made blisters on her feet. But I'm sure she has some other kinds of sensitive blisters, made from her own kind of hardship in her own life that I don't know about.

So I chose not to be offended. I chose to let it go because of the bigger picture. What's so funny to me though is that her coworker had been coming in and out of the room, listening and commenting here and there (she wouldn't let me take her picture, even though she's actually my favorite barista). When she overheard her coworker use the word, "real mom," she mumbled, "Real mom as opposed to what other kind of mom? So what is she going to be? Not a real mom?"

Can I hear an amen?

The whole thing was funny to me in the quiet way she mumbled it, most likely just for my benefit, not even looking at me when she said it. I appreciated her quiet support, and I found it almost ironic that one of the few times I actually wasn't overly-sensitive about the way people throw around willy-nilly the word "real," I got support from the sidelines.

It was a nice exchange all round. The first lady was so nice and supportive, and I know she meant nothing by her use of "real mom." Sometimes it's worth it not to be offended. It's easier to let it go with a smile, knowing the person meant no harm. The complicating factor will be when our child(ren) are old enough to hear and understand these terms, which I'm sure will cause some questions. And if I can hold on to this feeling of just shrugging it off, it'll be easier to gently explain the occasional misuse of language by well-meaning people. Grace, grace, grace: my goal is to offer grace.

Lord, help me.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Firing Dormant Neurons

I couldn't help it. On the plane ride out here, Johnny and June kept singing to me, "I'm going to Jackson..." It was an unexpected trip, to attend the "home-going" to heaven of a very good man who's most likely right now doing a two-step with his love Ruth and roaming flat fields that look a lot like Kansas.

It's always such a lovely thing to come here and soak up my uncle's story-telling; the conceptual, often absurdist humor of my friends; the velveeta-laden casseroles and butterbeans. Today for lunch, I had a pimento-cheese sandwich and "Tipah-County Caviar" a.k.a. black-eyed pea salad. I bought my own copy of The White Trash Cookbook and Deep South Staples: How to surivive in a southern kitchen without a can of cream of mushroom soup written by Robert St. John, chef of my favorite Hattiesburg restaurant, Crescent City. If you come to my house, I'll made you some buttermilk chicken and hoppin' john.

Here's what my lunch looked like today: Last night, my sister, neices and I drove to rent a movie and to two grocery stores where we kept running into people we knew, including my sister's high school boyfriend (who is now married with kids) who talked to me in the greeting card aisle about his love for Slavic culture (they lived in Russia for years). Then we ran into my sister's neighbor's brother who had two big dogs in the back of his pick-up and told me in the seafood aisle all about how much better key west shrimp is to "that stuff they import from China with all them chemicals and sh*t."

And I've heard the best maceroni-n-cheese recipes and tried to keep my manners and talked one at a time at the dinner-table and sat in Krispy Kreme donuts with one of my oldest friends wearing the paper hats and singing "Digging up Bones" by Randy Travis as we talked so long about years past that he said, "It's like all these dormant neurons in my brain are being fired off!"

I've remembered how much it means to have people in the church bring by food made in their own kitchens with their own loving hands brought over after a funeral for the family to eat on. This stuff you can never get as good in a restaurant. There were home-grown butterbeans and home-grown corn, home-made rolls, and all kinds of casseroles. And I also made sure not to eat that last piece of ham on the pretty glass tray, no matter how good it looked: in the South, you don't eat the last of anything. You leave it in case somebody else wants it. So usually it gets discreetly eaten by the person doing the dishes a couple of hours later.

This is what it looked like as we were getting ready to eat (and don't think it's just that everybody was full--these ham rolls were an apetizer and most of us were really hungry):

Sometimes it's good to have some dormant neurons fired off, to remember our manners, to take things slow, to shut up and listen to each other, to sing some Randy Travis, to practice saying, "Oh, I'm sorry, you go on ahead," to tell stories, to save that last piece of ham for somebody else, and to hug each other and gently say goodbye when a loved one goes on Home.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Tagged Again

Jana, one of my favorite bloggers, tagged me a few days ago. Without further ado:

Jobs I've had:
*Preschool assistant director (less than a year)
*ESOL teacher (six years)
*Coffee-server at Jody's in Hattiesburg, MS (one year)

Places I've lived:
*Jackson, Pearl, and Hattiesburg, Mississippi
*Euless, Texas
*Los Angeles, California
*Kosice, Slovakia

Places I'd rather be right now:
*Having Ted show me his stomping grounds in New York, and then meeting this guy and following him around for a day while he takes pictures in the subway.
*Having a ruby and tots at Kennedy School
*Talking to my sister while sitting in her driveway, drinking in the humidity
*Smelling the lavender in Hvar, Croatia, minus all the rich tourists that have taken over the place in the last few years.
*Sitting in a dark movie theater watching The Bourne Supremacy or Feast of Love.
(These were actually sort of hard for me to think of--I am kind of sick of travel and am really digging fall in Portland)

Food I love:
*The mix of these flavors: cilantro, coconut, peanut, red pepper
*Fresh pasta swimming in olive oil and basil with pecorino and pine nuts
*Cajun/Creole--gumbo, crawfish bisque, beignets, etc.
*Grits--salt, pepper, butter, egg, maybe cheese
*Key lime pie
*Bryndzove pirohy so slaninou
*Tater tots and Ruby ale from Kennedy School
*Ice cream with crunchy bits
*Home-grown beefsteak tomatoes with salt, pepper, and fresh mozzarella
*Fried okra
*Sweet potato casserole
*Granny's beef brisket and cofffeecake
*Guiness beef stew from McDermott's Pub
I must now stop thinking about food...

TV Shows I Love:
*Little House on the Prairie
*The Office (both UK and American)
*Lost (first two seasons)
*Twin Peaks
*The Comeback (so sad it ended)

Movies I Love:
*The Royal Tenenbaums
*Lost in Translation
*Office Space
*Les Miserables
*Fiddler on the Roof
*Waking Ned Devine
*The Jungle Book
*In America
*Breakfast at Tiffany's

Books I Have Loved in the last Year:
*She Got Up Off the Couch (Haven Kimmel)
*All Over But the Shoutin' (Rick Bragg)
*Searching for God Knows What (Donald Miller)
*The Confederacy of Dunces (John Kennedy Toole)
*Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim (David Sedaris)

Who I'm Tagging:
Susan, Carey (cause really, you have nothing better to do, right?), Erin

Saturday, October 13, 2007

The Halloween House

We live around the corner from these people in Portland who decorate for most holidays. And when I say decorate, I don't mean in the way that common mortals put a few pumpkins on their porches or string lights at Christmas. These Super-heroes of the Holiday World must have a storage unit somewhere with their stash of goods for Halloween, Christmas, the Fourth of July, Valentine's Day, and St. Patrick's Day. They go so far out at Halloween that The Oregonian did a story on them last year and hundreds (probably thousands) of kids make their way by the house this time of year.

Since we live so close by, friends and relatives will sometimes stop by our place at night to go to the Halloween House all lit up and spooky. It's fun to walk over and then come home for hot chocolate. Kids love this place. The house features: a Bates Motel sign, ring of ghosts in the front yard with a pot of dry ice in the center (every night, not just Halloween night), various skeletons and skulls placed about, horror movie cardboard characters looking out from the front windows, hands reaching up out of the ground, big plastic candycorns, a bloody head in shackles, etc. It's hard to remember what all is there off the top of my head. Just believe me: it's over the top and wonderful.

Yesterday while babysitting a friend's two kids for a couple of hours, we walked over to the Halloween House so they could have a look. As we walked up, this fancy Lincoln Continental pulled up and parked next to the house and four kids poured out. All four kids proceeded to admire the decorations by running through the yard, even amidst all the goodies including the ring of ghosts (my favorite part). I was shocked.

Now granted, these were grandparents taking their kids there, so maybe it was just an issue of grandparents spoiling grandkids and not that these four kids were disrespectful brats. Of course, the three-year-old in my charge saw the goings-on and wanted to run around with them. I explained, loudly enough for the clueless grandparents to hear, that the decorations are for admiring from the sidewalk and that we were not going to trespass.

I know I probably sounded bitchy. I'm sorry. But not really.

After a few moments, the grandmother mosied over towards me and actually said, "Oh, I know I shouldn't let them run in the yard, but...oh well...it's there." Huh?! It's there? What kind of logic is that? What is wrong with people today? How is it okay for these four kids to be allowed to run around touching and stepping all over the hard work of the owners of this house? I had no idea how to respond to this woman, so I just walked away saying nothing.

In retrospect (because isn't that always how these things work?), I thought about how I wished I had told her, as nicely as possible, that I'm a neighbor and appreciate what these people do every year and that I want them to continue doing it and that if people driving by don't respect that, then the happy Halloween-lovers might get pissed and get tired of the bother.

Sigh. Am I crazy for getting so mad? Maybe it's the old-fart in me, thinking about how this kind of thing is exactly what's wrong with people today: a sloppy lack of respect of both self and others. It's easier to just let kids run wild. Actually making the effort to teach them that dignity and respect are values that honor oneself and others takes some work. It doesn't come naturally to most of us. I know it didn't for me, which is why my Momma could make me straighten up the slouch (usually during a long church service) by just pursing her lips into a tight line from the choir loft. I was not a perfect child by any means, but one thing for sure is that Momma taught us to respect other people's things (which is why I had to save up my allowance to buy my sister a new rubik's cube when I "solved" hers by taking all the stickers off and putting them in the "right" place--and they still somehow let me into the gifted program a couple of years later).

So that is my daily rant. I'm curious what else I could have said, how else I could have responded in this situation. Maybe I did the right thing by just walking off, but probably not. I could have at least rolled my eyes at her before I turned around, right?

Now this is in no way connected to the above rant, but I found it interesting anyway. These spiders look a lot like the thousands we have in our backyard now and maybe is the same kind that bit my face last weekend. If you like spiders like I do, enjoy (oh, and possibly a PG-rating as well):

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Star Wars!

I can't help myself. I hope not to overload you with videos (though I did warn the blog is currently my distraction from Waiting), but really...I've been laughing at this all day. This is the most awesome thing I've seen since Chocolate Rain. Bless her heart:

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Yaw's Top Notch Song

Please forgive the two posts in one day, both about nothing of importance.

Ted occasionally makes up songs when the situation inspires him, like yesterday as we were driving to have a genuine Yaw's Top Notch burger with Mr. Ed.

Here's a glimpse into the life our future child has to look forward to, a life with a soundtrack by Ted:

"Gonna get some burgers.
Gonna suck 'em on down.
Gonna have some french fries.
Gonna make me frown.
Cause it gives me a tummy ache, tummy ache
Makes me wanna puke it up five hours later
It's called Fast Food..."

Oh, the brilliance!

Clever Commercials from the UK

This commercial we saw in Ireland cracked me up:

Here's an ad for...well, just watch. I have no idea what the connection is with the product, but it's well done anyway and makes me happy:

This one probably makes me laugh hardest, though those of you with kids might want to screen it first.

Hope this was a fun mid-week distraction for you. Any favorite commercials of yours?

Monday, October 8, 2007

Reality sinks in for Ted

When Ted and I were doing the long-distance dating thing, I'd tell him how much I was looking forward to seeing him, expecting him to say the same and being disappointed when he didn't. It's not that he didn't want to see me; it's that Ted doesn't look forward to things. He prefers to fully live in the moment, being surprised by goodness when it comes along. Consequently, the man is rarely disappointed--having no expectations can do that for you.

I'm not this way. I really like the anticipation of something good. If Ted surprises me with something, I feel cheated out of the fun I have looking forward to whatever the gift was. So he's learned, like today, to say, "Hey, I have something for you in the back of the car" so that I can look forward to and wonder what is waiting for me (in this case, spiced pumpkin soap and a pumpkin sugar-cream set--I'm obsessed with pumpkins these days).

So with the adoption, and now specifically with being on the Waiting List, I've been trying to take on Ted's outlook. I'm trying not to think about how long we've been waiting and when we might get our referral. Consequently, this blog for the next few weeks or months might be a tool used for my distraction from the Waiting. If I hear anything, I'll post it, but until then, I may be doing a fair amount of posting about pumpkins and using the word "consequently" a lot.

(oh, and I'm doing a fair amount of reading on the subject of adoption, so I'll probably end up posting stuff about what I'm reading too)

With all this Waiting going on and trying not to think about the fact that we're Waiting, Ted's done very little imagining of what day-to-day life with a baby is going to be like. As I've written before, we haven't done anything to prepare the room. We haven't bought anything except a few tshirts. We are looking through the Baby Whisperer book, but other than that, the fact that a little creature in need of shelter, sustenance, and safety has been a pretty abstract idea for Ted.

That is, until yesterday, when Ted's big sister Alice changed all that at her birthday party. After she'd opened all her gifts, she pulled me to the side and was already crying when she reached for the bag. In her Alice way, she squeaked out that she'd gotten us something for the baby and handed me this huge bag.

I called Ted over and we pulled out two flannel blankets, hand-made by Alice. While Alice was tearily squeaking things about how happy she is for us, Ted had this deer-in-headlights look on his face and then his eyes started turning red and slowly filling with tears.

Now, Ted can be a crier, no doubt about that one, so the fact that he was crying yesterday wasn't really a surprise (I can tell during a basketball game when he's going to start crying or which movie trailers will do it for him, like the one for The Pursuit of Happyness when Will Smith tells his son not to let anyone tell him he can't do something he dreams of). The surprise for me was that Ted was crying over something baby-related. We inspected these amazing blankets and Ted told me that it was the first time the concrete fact of our 'expectingness' hit him.

And he is very proud of the fact that it took him very little time, only a few minutes really, to push it all down and walk out of the room clear-eyed and manly again. "There's no place for a grown-man crying at a birthday party!" he said as he turned to face the room filled with grown-up nephews.

Maybe it was his big sister going to the effort of making these blankets and giving them to us, knowing now that it's not just us waiting--it's our siblings waiting for a new nephew or niece, our parents waiting for a new grandchild, our siblings' kids waiting to meet their new cousin. It really is a family affair. I can't help looking forward to that moment when we introduce this new person to the family. And I really can't wait to see how that moment makes Ted cry again.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

I was tagged.

My friend Melissa "tagged" me the other day, my first one ever. It made me feel special. So, here's a few "interesting" things about me:

1. About ten years ago, I met Santa in Finland. He was scraping some off ice his windshield and let me take a photo with him.
2. My sister and I played a game as kids called "devil in the ditch." I thought it was a common game until I made a few references to it with adult friends and had them look at me like I was crazy. Also, when our rooms would get so messy that we'd lose a barbie, we'd pretend that she had been kidnapped. We'd then mail ransom notes to our house and have a big reunion party when we finally cleaned our room and "rescued" her.

3. I can explain what it means and teach you to say the following sentence, my favorite Slovak tongue twister: Strc prst skrz krk.

4. I have a cousin whose job it was on the Charlie's Angels movie to fix the acne on Cameron Diaz's face, thanks to his talent with digital tinkering. This same cousin's face is projected onto one of the pirate's heads in the new high-tech Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disneyland.

5. Despite what my mother may try to tell you, I was not a pretty baby: The cute one is my adorable big sister, hoping to get away as soon as possible from the troll on her right.

6. Maybe it's just that we're both Southern girls, but I'm genuinely concerned for Britney and hope she gets things worked out soon.

7. When I was a teacher in Slovakia, I promised every class that on the first snow day, we'd go out and make snowmen, as long as they tried to make them look like their English teachers. We only got in trouble for it once, when the groundskeeper opened the window and started yelling at my students, saying they were going to "kill the bushes" by walking in them. I found David, the tallest kid, and stood behind him during the yelling. I was only 23; that's my excuse.

8. When I was 10, I became obsessed with wearing what I liked to call "George Jefferson hats." My parents bought me a purple, corduroy one at Disneyworld, and it appears with me in most photos in that era.

9. I made this girl, a friend and former student, cry for a full ten minutes when we surprised her with tickets to see The Red Hot Chili Peppers and Snoop Dogg. We sang along to "Gin and Juice" and got to hear "Dani California" live (her name is Dani, and we saw them at the Greek Theater in California...freaky).

10. The hardest I have laughed in the last ten years has been because of the way my friend Chris says, "Pardon me, Madam, but would you like to have your scissors sharpened?" and how my friend Noby says, "Grampaw, there was a rat caught in the trap."

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

The Village

Monday was one of those days that I felt lucky to live in Oregon. We decided to go get apples and pears at the "Fruit Loop" in Hood River Vally with Ted's dad (featured with me at left). While waiting at a stoplight on our way to pick up Ed, a big black pick-up truck pulled up beside us. Our windows were cracked, and theirs were down completely. We suddenly heard those unmistakable first nine notes of "The Final Countdown" blaring from their truck. As Arrested Development fans, we looked at each other and smiled, thinking of those magic shows. We then looked over at the truck and the passenger leaned forward, made eye contact with Ted, and somberly punched the air with his fist. Without skipping a beat, Ted raised his fist in the air and shouted,"To the finish!!" right as the light turned. As we drove off, we could hear the two guys in the truck cracking up. This must be a thing they do at stoplights--great idea, guys--and they got the perfect response from Ted. It was a nice Portland moment.

If you ever do come to this area in the fall, you really must make the "Fruit Loop" drive. On the way east on the 84, you drive through the Columbia River Gorge past Multnomah Falls, which is such a gorgeous drive. Despite it being rainy in Portland and the Gorge, the skies opened up in the valley and we got to go to several farms getting fruit, apple cider, and jars of pepper jelly (I was the only one who liked the pepper jelly--I think it may be a Southern taste reminding me of my Maw-maw's house).

On the way back to Portland, it was raining pretty steadily, but off in the distance, about the size of a half-dollar in the sky, the clouds had broken and were lighting up the gorge and reflecting on the river. All around this one orb of light, the sky was a dark grey, so it was like a flashlight being shined on the river, making everything sparkly and other-worldly. I was driving at this point and was dying for a spot to pull over to get a long look. Ted kept saying that it looked like Narnia or Middle-Earth, that we should see furry hobbits or little elves scampering about.

Because there was nowhere to pull over, Ted took a few photos from the backseat. They really don't do justice to the scene, but maybe you can get a little of the idea:
Adoption-related thoughts:
We've now been waiting a week now, I guess it's been. Another family who is about on the same time-line as we are had their dossier make it to Ethiopia this week, so we're expecting that to happen soon for us too.

I've been reading a lot of adoption-related articles, books, blogs, etc. and have come to appreciate the honesty that can be found here at Melissa Faye Greene's blog. I've been talking and writing with a friend in Mississippi about sleep and attachment issues and parenting in general. She pointed out that MFG's blog has, not just good advice for adoptive parents but for parents in general. I completely agree.

I've been encouraged by her honesty, how she doesn't sugar-coat anything, talking openly about the struggles of adoption yet also showing the small victories that can be had, like in the entry titled "Parenting Skills." It really gets you thinking about the idea of it taking a village to raise a child.

I remember when Hillary Clinton came out with that book back in the '90s, a lot of people in the Christian community blasted it, saying that it undermined parental authority in the life of a child (at least that's what I remember hearing about the debate--I was in high school at the time so only half-way paid attention). The older I get though, the more I'm realizing the value in that idea, especially for 'blended' families of various backgrounds.

And really--it takes a village to make most anything work, if you think about it. The term "doing life together" is thrown around ad nauseam these days in the emergent church movement (and boy, is that a whole can of worms), but there's definite truth to it, and it speaks to something that's missing in our culture here in America. We really are cut off from each other. How many of us drive into garages with access to our kitchens, never being able to say 'hi' to our neighbors? How many of us, when we are outside, are in the backyards where we have our beloved American privacy? How many of us sometimes sit on our front porches and talk to our neighbors? How many neighbors do we actually know?

And I'm pointing all fingers at myself here, really. I like my solitude, my alone-time, the millions of chances I have to indulge my introverted nature. When I walk into church, like my friend Brekah, I prefer not to be greeted by an usher. As a fellow introvert, she's started making a point of hanging out with her kids in her front yard instead of the back, just to try to capture a little bit of community. I think it's a good idea.

Ted and I were talking the other day about that movie The Break-up. It's not the best movie out there, but there were a couple of things in it that rang true for us. One big thing was that Vince Vaughn's character didn't do any changing until his friend called him on how his self-centeredness was ruining his relationships. His girlfriend had been trying to tell him this for a long time, but he couldn't hear it from her. It took someone in his "village" to be that honest with him and make him a better person. It's just like what happened in Melissa Faye Greene's family, with the Ethiopian babysitter being the one to break through the sibling conflict. The kids couldn't hear it from Mom. It took someone in the village.

So one of the things we're trying to do around here is to strengthen the ties to our village, for the sake of our future family. We've only lived in Portland for a little over a year, so putting down stronger roots is important for us.

I really like what Mary over at the Ethiopian Adoption blog wrote recently in this post about how learning about adoption-related issues is ultimately more important than all the paperwork. Yeah, easy for me to say now that we're done with the paperwork. I know, I know. I guess it just highlighted again to me the importance of preparing ourselves for the difficulties that will come with adoption. Having a village of friends, family, and experts around who will present the hard truth couldn't be more important.

Yesterday I grabbed several books on adoption from Powell's (yet another reason I feel lucky to live in Portland), one of which was a staff recommendation, written from a Christian perspective. The tagline was something about "inspiring, heartwarming stories." I sat in the store and read one story at random, getting so mad I wanted to throw the book across the room.

It was about this couple who struggled with infertility, gave up the dream of "their own kids," and settled on a Russian adoption. They got all the way to Russia and found out that the boy they thought they were going to adopt was sent to another family, and the child they were given instead was a girl who "looked just like them." They were amazed at how blessed they were to have been given a child with blond hair, who liked just like the mom. The couple then went on to give birth to three more children after this adoption, and the author even wrote teasingly about all the families who settle on adoption and then give birth.

This is heart-warming? The goal is to have a child who looks like you? It's inspiring to perpetuate the myth that couples who adopt usually later give birth? In the fantastic book Weaving a Family: Untangling Race and Adoption, Barbara Katz Rothman cites several studies about adoptive families that disprove over and over the theory that adoption leads to a family having children by birth.

I prefer the hard facts to pseudo-inspiring fluff any day. It's why the book I ended up buying, A Love Like No Other: Stories From Adoptive Parents (edited by Pamela Kruger and Jill Smolowe), is a collection of essays by all types of people with stories about the struggles, the difficulties, the disappointments, and always the triumphs that come when we let truth and love shine brightest.

After saying all that, I sat down this weekend and read the truly inspiring story of the family at From Axum to Here and found myself in tears at the honesty and humor. Plus, their baby is unbelievably cute and the two parents write really well. I was impressed by how they seem to have gone about their trip to Addis Ababa so openly and positively, which you can read about in this especially helpful entry. I was touched deeply by the story about their road to parenthood, the meeting with their son's birth mother, their compassion and openness, and how God has brought them full circle, blessing them with this amazingly quirky, drooling, wide-eyed little wonder.

And beautifully, their little guy even looks a lot like them, though just not in the typical way.