Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Joyful Things

Skies this blue.

Inter-species cuddling.

Glowing tulips.

Time-outs in the chicken yard.


Kissing the soft nose of a spring bunny.

Poems like this one:
b e f o r e

--- M A R K H A L L I D A Y

Before you were you,
before your bicycle appeared under the street-lamp,
before you met me at the airport in a corduroy jacket,

before you agreed to hold my five ballpoint pens
while i ran to play touch football,
before your wet hair nearly touched the piano keys

and in advance of how your raincoat was tightly cinched
when you asked about nonviolent anti-war activity
and before you said "Truffaut,"

before your voice supernaturally soft sang
"I aweary wait upon the shore,"
before you suddenly stroked my thigh in the old Volvo,

when you had not yet said "Marcus Aureliius at 11:15"
and before your white shirt on the train,
before Pachelbel and "My Creole Belle"

and before your lips were so cool under that street-lamp
and before Buddy Holly in Vermont on the sofa
and Yeats in the library lounge,

prior to your denim cutoffs on the porch,
prior to my notes and your notes
and before your name became a pulsing star,

before all this
ah safer and smoother and smaller was my heart.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

One of Those Days

I wake up this morning to an email with some difficult news about a relative who is going through some tumultuous growing pains into adulthood. I feel all kinds of emotions all at once upon reading what this person is going through: sadness, anger, protectiveness, among other things.

I then see that the garbage hadn't been taken out to the curb last night, and I hear the trucks barreling down the street. I feel too much heartache to rush my barely-awake self outside in my pajamas to do the job.

So I take a shower instead, hoping it will clear my head and improve my mood. It doesn't.

We get dressed and go to visit our African grandparents. Because of my mood, I'd just sort of thrown myself together, putting a hat over my unbrushed hair which still smells smoky from last night's bonfire at my friend's farm. We walk into the room and M, the most outspoken member of our group, greets me with a huge smile and wave.

I sit down next to him, and he says, "Lori, today you look like a man."

I could only laugh because it sort of made me want to cry. He said it was the hat. Okay then.

I move to another table to talk with T, a woman who I may have found a childcare job for. We've been trying to find her a job for a few weeks now. In our conversation, out of the blue, she says, "Why you not birthed?" (meaning: why have I not given birth to a child).

I am crouched down beside her chair as we talk, and I smile up at her and say, "I don't know why." She furrows her eyebrows, shakes her head side to side (in what I interpret as pity) and tells me, "You need to birth. All woman should birthed."

Surprised both by the turn in the conversation and the emotions rising in my chest, I manage to respond by pointing upwards and saying, "Well, it's all up to God. He gives what He wants, and I am very happy that He gave me Abe." As soon as I said the word, "God," she started nodding furiously, agreeing that children are a gift.

She patted my hand, and I went to a bathroom stall to cry.

On a day when I wake up feeling fat and greeted with sad news about someone I love, I think I prefer not being told I look like a man and that I should really get on that whole giving birth thing.

When I came back, M apologized for telling me that I look like a man today. I tell him that it is okay, and he says he never meant to say anything hurtful. This is the same man who every week bluntly tells me everything I'm doing wrong in my parenting. So I take him with a grain of salt. I let it go.

T calls me over to her. I sit down in the chair next to her, and she looks me in the eyes. She says she "is very sorry for our conversation before." I ask her why, telling her she didn't say anything wrong, that she was just expressing her belief. She says she didn't know I believed in God. She also believes that God is in charge of our lives, and she was sorry for what she said. We then sit together talking for a long time with her mother, who leaves next week to go back to Ethiopia for six months to visit family. T's mother held my hand in both of hers, stroking the top of my hand the whole time we talked.

Lunch is now over and we get up to leave. T hugs me, the first time she has done so. Her mother does as well, tightly.

Abe runs headlong into M to hug him goodbye. He doesn't give me even one parenting mandate today. He just smiles and waves, tipping his hat to me.

My heart is heavy, but I still believe in a benevolent God, just like T.

Friday, March 19, 2010

The Obama Cookie

An artistic rendering of what Abe may have been seeing in that cookie dough yesterday:
(We have very talented friends. Thanks, Uncle Rusty).

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Two-year old visionary

I have no memory of ever talking to our son about camels; however, Abe pointed at this drawer-pull and said, "Look, mom, it's a camel." It took me a minute to see it, but there it is. A camel, albeit a two-headed camel with no legs:
Later the same day, he pointed at that ball of raw peanut-butter cookie dough, the one right in the middle of the picture, and said, "Look, mom, it's Obama." I had him point to exactly where he saw Obama, and he repeatedly pointed at that raw cookie. I don't see it. Is he a visionary? Is he going to start seeing our Blessed Mother in his morning toast?
This is the age when my mind is constantly blown by the stuff that Abe says, indications that his brain is a sponge, remembering things that I don't even remember telling him. While looking at the Sunday comics, he pointed to the strip "Baby Blues" and said, "Look, my name: A...B." Then he hesitated a moment and upon finding the word "blues," said, "...and E." Another day recently he was looking at a dollar bill and said, "That's George Washington." We have no memory of ever teaching him this.

This is also the age that I feel I should be writing everything down because every day it's something new and often funny. I know I'll never remember it all. One day last week I noticed Abe unzipping his pants but leaving the top button closed. I asked him not to do that. He said, "But I need to. I want to be like Daddy." Apparently, he's heard "x, y, z, Honey" a few times around here. His dad is the absentminded professor in a lot of ways. Abe, on the other hand, regularly reminds us things we've left behind when we're out. His remembering that we forgot his jacket or cup and that "we should go back and get it" blows our minds.He's also growing attached to a few of the senior citizens in the ESL class we go to every week. This fella in the green cap is a particular favorite of Abe's. When we got there today, he scanned the room and noticed that his friend wasn't there, asking me right away where he was. He was thrilled to see him come in a few minutes later and sat right next to him as they ate lunch together.

Last thing: Abe found two raisins on the floor. He immediately named them "Eedie and Udu" (which sounds like /ee-dee/ and /oo-doo/). He carried them around for an hour, having them talk to each other. Then I vacuumed.

(Abe just woke up, saw the photo of the peanut-butter cookie and exclaimed, "I just saw Obama!")

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Two Year Anniversary

Two years ago today:

All the waiting was over.

And we began the task of raising a son.

It's the greatest job we've ever had. Our boy knows his name, "Abe. No, not Abe. Abe Rooney."

Friday, March 12, 2010

Debbie Downer Looks Up

I'm a natural born pessimist. Baby pictures of tiny me have a pained, worried expression, pinched up eyebrows on my tiny baby face. I was born a worrier, a downer, if you will.

So I find it curious that I'm such an optimist when it comes to adoption. After what we went through first time round, how could I possibly have convinced myself that this time would be easy breezy? But I did. I just figured that the hard stuff would be what comes along with adopting an older-than-infant child. The easy stuff would be the actual adoption process.

What was I thinking?

One of the first pieces of advice I give to families starting out in the adoption process is: lower your expectations and expect the worst. That way, you'll only be pleasantly surprised when things go smoother than you anticipated. First time round, I made a point of doing this. I expected court delays, I expected long waits for referral, I expected all kinds of snags, except for the one that happened to us. That one, I had no way of preparing myself for because it had never happened and, as far as a know, hasn't happened again since our case. We were blindsided (if you're new to our story, you can read what I'm referencing here and here).

And here we are again: blindsided. Who would have thought that this latest snag would have happened? Not us. Once again, we find ourselves completely caught off guard.

For the first 24 hours after the news came, I was in denial. I told myself, while chasing Abe, "It'll all work out. Too far away to think about now." I discussed the issue with other adoptive parents, but it still felt like an abstract concept until last night. I was trying to explain to a relative how this decision by the Ethiopian courts now means a lot of things for us, including the cancellation of a trip next month to the south to visit family. We now need to save every nickel and dime to pay for not just one trip to Ethiopia, but two.

In my attempt to explain everything to this family member, someone outside of the adoption world, the reality of it hit me. I started to panic. I felt a sob rising in my chest. My relative didn't get the gravity of it and just kept saying, "Oh, it'll work out. Don't worry." This upset me even more, even though I know he is probably right. It reminded me of the comments I'd get while we were going through the crapstorm that was Abe's adoption: people glibbly telling us not to worry because they were "sure" it would work out. I wanted to ask them how they knew this information because I surely didn't feel it. I felt like they were in a sense telling me, "You carry this burden. Please don't ask me to shoulder any of it for you. I'm just going to tell you that it's going to work out because I'm not willing to feel the pain you're feeling." The most helpful comments were along these lines "I am sorry you're going through this. How can I help? I'll pray. Do you want some whiskey?" Just don't tell me that it's going to work out (I already know it will. Sometimes though I feel the immediate panic of it and need an "I'm sorry this is hard" or a hug or a bowl of soup).

That was a bit of an aside. On to the topic at hand.

I was having a hard time explaining the gravity of the situation to this relative. He kept trying to convince us to come visit anyway, offering his house and extra car for us to drive around in while we're there to "keep your expenses down." I finally, to make it crystal clear, had to say, "Look. We're talking a few extra thousand dollars here to pay for all this. We have no idea where we're going to get this money."

So I had my freak-out last night. Babysitting a friend's two sweet kids helped me get my mind off of it for a while. There was a moment when her two kids, a brother and a sister, were hugging each other, the little one looking up into the face of her big brother and being given a kiss on the head; I teared up, reminded of why we're adopting again. As soon as I got Abe down to sleep later that night, the burden on my shoulders returned. I dreamed about it. I woke up thinking about it.

This morning, I realized how empty I feel faith-wise. Totally empty. So I sat down on the couch, with a cup of coffee and a tiny new testament. I opened it up to no place in particular and read that passage in Luke 11 about asking God for good things, persistently knocking on the door, because He wants to give us blessings, even more than an earthly parent ever could.

We decided to adopt based on this passage, which is a whole other story that I've yet to write about. Our shared encounter with this passage is one of the turning points in our marriage, our family, our lives, one of those moments that we knew without a doubt that this was God stepping in to our confusion and despair. I wasn't looking for it this morning. The tiny book just opened up to this page. How easily I forget God's faithfulness. So easily. I forget. God's faithfulness.

So this is what we're holding on to now. We're not going to stop knocking on the door. From this point on, I won't give in to despair (okay, I know myself too well to know that this is a platitude. I'm pretty sure I'm going to relapse here and there, as I am prone to do, but at least now I have a lifeline).

Debbie Downer is now knocking on the door and looking for the positive things this change can bring about. Things like having extra time to visit places in Ethiopia we missed the first time round or getting to meet some of the relatives of our sweet senior citizens that I teach each week or simply the chance to yet again allow God to be big. There's also the "big picture" issue of this new policy helping to decrease corruption, dishonest agencies, and adoption disruptions (adoptive parents changing their mind). If this policy brings more transparency and honesty in adoption, then I'm all for it.

From here on out, I'm flying the "Half Full" flag. Until I relapse. At which point I may need someone to bring me a bowl of soup. Or a bottle of wine. Folks, we're in for a ride. For those adoptive parents in it with us, my door is always open and our liquor cabinet is stocked. I'm not even joking.

"May all your expectations be frustrated. May all your plans be thwarted. May all your desires be withered into nothingness that you may experience the powerlessness and poverty of a child and sing and dance in the love of God who is Father, Son, and Spirit. Amen." --Brennan Manning

Thursday, March 11, 2010

This Blog is Not Dead

Currently feeling overwhelmed by the many things in flux in our life. Haven't known how to write about it. Still don't know how to write about it. Now with the latest news about the new two trips policy to Ethiopia (once to appear in court, later embassy appointment approximately two months later), feeling even more overwhelmed. It'll all work out. Somehow. But currently? Overwhelmed.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Recommended Stuff

Still pretty uninspired to write but have been reading and watching a lot of thought-provoking stuff lately. Here are a few things that have been occupying my time in the last couple of weeks.

The Lion's Whiskers and Other Ethiopian Tales by Brent Ashabranner and Russell Davis. One day a couple of weeks ago, I did a search through our library system for "Ethiopia" and then placed several things on hold that I'd found. Our library system then sends those items directly to my local branch, and I get email when I can come pick them up. I love our library so much. This collection of folk tales is one of the treasures I found in this search. I mentioned it to another Ethiopia-mama last week, and she excitedly pulled out the copy of The Lion's Whiskers that she's found that same week at Goodwill. Serendipity! Very cool story. I highly recommend it. I've been applying this story to what I may encounter with our next adoption, reminding myself that the road to bonding can be a slow and tedious one, requiring huge amounts of bravery.

Chameleon Days: An American Boyhood in Ethiopia by Tim Bascom. This is another library find. I've only read the first two chapters but am completely sucked in already. I'm saving this one for the seven-hour train ride Abe and I are taking this week to visit some family. This is the story of an American son of missionaries growing up in Ethiopia in the '60s and '70s, from the end of the reign of Haile Selassie and the commencement of the Derg's rule.

The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova. Ted's best friend sometimes loans me books that he thinks I'll enjoy, and he's usually right. This 900-page Central European vampire novel kept me interested, despite its occasional problems with logic and style. My disbelief was temporarily suspended long enough to get through it. Everyone needs an escape-novel sometimes.

Adoption Life Book by Cindy Probst. This is a workbook that guides an adoptive parent through writing down the story of the adoption from the child's perspective, not just the parents', something that is highly encouraged by adoption professionals like Patricia Cogen. Highly recommended book.

Long Way Round starring Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman. Watching this eight-part series will make you want to ride a motorcycle across Mongolia. At least it did me. Especially if I could make the trip sitting in the sidecar of a fuzzy-faced, laughing Ewan McGregor.

Making Mischief: A Maurice Sendak Appreciation by Gregory Maguire. Of course, I'm still reading about Sendak.

Shake Hands With the Devil: the Journey of Romeo Dallaire. This is the Sundance Film Festival award-winning look at U.N. General Dallaire's trip back to Rwanda ten years after the genocide of 1994. As written on the cover of the dvd, "If Dallaire is not a traditional hero, he and this film are unflinching witnesses to one of the crowning moral failures of the international community in the 20th century." Watch this film.

New York's Bravest by Mary Pope Osborne. I dare you to read this without choking up at the end. I can finally read it out loud to Abe the whole way through only if I think about math equations starting at the part when the old timer sits down to explain things to the young firefighters.

A Woman's Europe: True Stories (Travelers' Tales). This is what I read to fall asleep to at night. I would read everything in the Travelers' Tales series. Travelers' Tales: Prague is one of the most beautifully written/edited travel books I've ever read.

The Maurice Sendak Library. Another library find. We love the Nutshell Library, and this dvd has Carol King singing them all. Here's Abe's favorite: