Archive for October, 2009


I really was okay when I wrote that last post. Just needed to vent. We all have  days like that I know. Thanks to those who commented or emailed to commiserate and send encouragement.

The all important paper did not arrive and it’s got one more day (tomorrow) before I set yet another arbitrary and hopeful goal for getting it. I did email the woman at the USCIS (immigration) office but I don’t expect to hear back any time soon since it took her two weeks to email our social worker. Maybe she’ll eventually read it and send our letter. Maybe for Thanksgiving. Or Christmas. Or before the world ends in 2012. (Kidding.)

While praying yesterday, I was able to ever-so-briefly shift into a better perspective about it. Perspectives are hard to change sometimes. I work with my coaching clients on this all the time… and it’s hard to do.

I did get in to see my acupuncturist today in DC. Ahhh, I always feel better after one of those treatments. It balances things out. And I stocked up on the herbal formulations I find so helpful. Our kitchen shelves always look like a weird kind of pharmacy.

Tomorrow is Halloween and I’ve given such little thought to it. That’s what happens when you don’t have kids… holidays or celebrations can get swept under the rug. Usually we buy treats, then I dig into my costume trunk and find something wacky to wear so I can I sit on our front steps and freak the kids out. I don’t really freak them out, though, because I don’t dress scary. I think they just wonder who the weird lady is in the wig drinking wine and handing out candy.

One of my pet peeves: Kids with no costume who expect candy. I mean, c’mon people! One year I wanted the costume-less to suffer, but then my husband suggested I relent to protect our house later from eggs and other Baltimore weapons. Probably a good idea.

I’m off to make BiBimBop. (I hope that’s how you spell it.) It’s a Korean dish that’s healthy and yummy and I finally have the ingredients for it.


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One of those days

I’m in a bit of a funk today. Our I-797-C still hasn’t come. I wait for the mail each day. I’m so disappointed that the end of October is almost here and we’re still not on the waiting list because of that piece of paper.

There are other annoying things that have chiseled away at my normally cheerful mood. I know we have choices about our attitudes, but sometimes you just got to vent. And I can’t help myself…

I broke down recently and bought a nice pair of jeans.  We don’t have a lot of extra money to spend on clothes right now, but I justified the purchase. The only thing was, they were too long. And I can’t hem a pair of pants to save my life so I brought them to a neighborhood seamstress — a lady I’ve used before who’s always done good work.

The jeans ended up being too short after she hemmed them, which was frustrating because she’s expensive. So I brought them back and asked her to let them out a bit. When I picked them up (after paying a lot, again), they were basically ruined. It’s hard to explain what she did, but they look really weird… like, there are three hems. Wearable, but no longer the lovely pants I had. Maybe it was a language barrier, but she thinks they’re fine and I left really bummed.

After that, I went to get my shoes at the new cobbler down the street. They’re the shoes I wore at our wedding. I love them, but have little use for off-white satin heels, so I thought dying them would be a great way to reuse them. I  discussed it all with Mr. Cobbler:

Me: I’d like to have black or dark navy.

Mr.C: I suggest navy.

Me: Is it a dark navy?

Mr.C: Yes, it’s a really dark navy. Almost black.

Me: Okay, let’s go for the navy!

And then I picked them up and they were teal.

Then there’s the doctor’s appointment I had early this morning… I’ve been looking for a new doctor of Chinese medicine to see for acupuncture and herbs since I can never get in to see my guy in DC anymore. I heard about this new fellow –from China, trained there, very experienced. I think he even teaches medicine at one of the universities here.

I was worried, however, about how well I’d be able to communicate my rather complex health issues. He didn’t smile, and I wasn’t sure he was always listening. He asked me a few questions, some related to what and when I eat. I eat very healthy — lots of veggies, salads, soups, organic meats, fish, etc. I told him I’m not always so good about breakfast, but when I have it , it’s usually something like yogurt, home made granola, oatmeal, stuff like that. About five minutes later…

Dr. L: One advice I have for you is to eat better breakfast — too much sugar! need real food! not boxed food! processed food bad!

Me: Oh, yes, I don’t eat processed stuff….

Dr. L: You say granola, that’s cereal! that’s boxed food! that’s like a baby eats, all sugar!!

Me: No, it’s just home-made granola, it doesn’t have…

Dr. L: You need freshly made!! no more processed food! no preservatives! all that stuff bad!!

Me: Yes, I know, I don’t eat processed food, I…

Dr. L: You say you eat cereal!! comes in boxes! cereal is what babies eat!! And no soups! too much liquid! you need protein! need to chew, not like baby!!

Me: I eat eggs. How about eggs?

Dr. L: Egg is fine.

It didn’t end there, but you get the drift of how things were going. This guy works miracles for folks, but I left there feeling stressed out and not so sure I want to go back.

I’m also feeling blah because I haven’t exercised in two months — partly because for most of it I was either sick or in pain.  I also haven’t accomplished much on my book. And I’ve got some big health-related decisions to make. It’s so easy to let these things get under my skin. But if I sit myself down for a little talk, I recognize it’s a privilege to have this kind of stuff to complain about. It really is, and I know it.

I’m not sure if I feel better for having dumped all this into cyberspace, but either way, there it is. On a brighter note, I made the creamiest polenta ever yesterday for lunch. With sauteed onion and swiss chard and a fried egg. Wish I had taken a picture. But hey, there was an egg on it!!

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A few posts ago, I reflected on the concept of race and how it’s a social construct that has changed over time. We grow so used to labels, we accept them as fact and forget to examine what they mean. I want to mention again that I know how sensitive this topic is, and I’m using this personal blog as a place to process some thoughts about tough issues related to adoption.

I didn’t grow up with the term “African American,” because I didn’t grow up in the United States. In Canada, people of African descent are identified according to their country or culture of origin — like “Ethiopian-Canadian” — or generally labeled “Black.” (For all I know, there may now be an officially accepted racial category of “Brown,” since some groups — like Ethiopians — identify themselves that way. I recall one story from a mom here in the States who adopted an older Ethiopian boy and while filling out forms at school he was confused because he couldn’t find “Brown” on the list of racial types — so he checked “Other.”)

Canada has an entirely different history than the U.S. so I’ve long considered the label “African American” (AA) to be primarily a cultural category — although not completely separate from race, of course. There are many ways to use the word “culture” and when I say “cultural” category, I mean it here in terms of socially transmitted behavior patterns, beliefs, artistic expressions, institutions, and other things generally shared by a group of people over time. There is also a shared history here… We can’t pretend that slavery and segregation in this country — and the struggles against them — haven’t played a key role in how the AA identity has developed. I know it’s about far more than that, but let’s acknowledge that painful past.

When we began pursuing Ethiopian adoption, it never occurred to me that we would be raising “African American” children.  Not because there’s anything wrong with that, but because it’s not part of our cultural identity, nor is it related to our children’s. We have every intention of keeping their birth culture alive — we want them to be proud of their heritage; the history, traditions, land, and people from which they come.

But here’s the thing: Our children will be considered and treated as “African American” as long as they live in this country. And that means certain things, depending on who you’re talking to. This is where it gets tricky, and where I find myself bristling a bit. Just because our children have darker skin, must they be forced to adopt an identity solely based on their appearance? And if so, why?

Some people take offense to this question because they think I’m trying to separate our children from other people of color in this country… in some elitist kind of way. But if they listened from a different perspective, maybe they’d see that in no way is this about making anyone better or less than, but about the need to be authentic — and the knee-jerk reaction I have when someone tells me who my kids have to be solely based on their appearance.

No doubt, our children will benefit from identifying with people who look like them. This is a real need. Some personalities are especially driven to belong, to fit in, to not be an odd ball. (I was that kind of kid.) We will certainly pay attention to where we live and who we interact with to ensure our kids’ needs are met. At the same time, I wasn’t raised to fit in with the crowd or take conventional routes — and neither was my husband — and we don’t plan on raising our own kids that way. They will struggle, and we will all struggle as a family, and that’s part of life… to learn and grow and to gain a strong sense of who we are in God as we make our way through this world.

A lot of this is lived in the context of our environments. There is home, there is also school, and maybe church, and a host of other places. A lot of racial identity issues seem to come up for kids in school though.  I can’t help but wonder how home schooling may affect this. Yes, at the moment, we plan to home school — for reasons I’ll post about later. And before you start feeling all sorry for our kids and thinking we’re wackos, I assure you I know all the arguments for and against home schooling. My point at the moment is that if we’re not plugged into the conventional “systems” or institutions, and if our children are spending regular time outside this country, these contexts will also affect how their identity forms. I don’t know exactly how, but it surely will.

Perhaps the most important thing about all this is something my friend Therese has said… that it always comes down to what the kids need, and you do what it takes to help them develop a strong sense of self. Sometimes that means doing things you never thought you’d do. And you can’t really prepare for that.  It will be interesting to some day look back on what I think now and see what’s changed. I bet they’ll be a few surprises.

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Cool stuff

To afford the high costs of adoption, many families get creative — they have yard sales and bake sales, their churches hold fundraisers, they sell coffee and home made crafts and other great things.

One of my blog friends, Harmony — another adoptive mom-to-be with our agency — is selling some fun stuff to raise money for her adoption — greetings cards, a tote bag, t-shirts. In fact, her family designed the logo — an outline of Ethiopia with creative words about adoption and their future little girl. If you’re so inclined, check them out, or mention it on your own blog. (As I see it, we’re all here to help each other.)

Full disclosure: I was thinking about ordering the greeting cards because I think they’re cool, and then I went to Harmony’s blog and discovered that if I was one of the first three people to mention her fundraiser, she’d send a package of the cards for free. Well, I wasn’t going to pass that one up!

And by the way, the mail came and no I-797-C. Again.

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Still waiting

Seriously, I’m prepared for the long wait we’re going to have before getting a referral for our children. But I have to admit, I’m getting impatient for our I-797-C. Every day I watch for the mail, and every day it’s not there. It’s now been over two months. (As a reminder, the 797 is a form we must have from immigration stating that we’re allowed to bring two orphans into the USA. We had to apply for this and be fingerprinted and then immigration had to receive our approved home study. Our dossier can not be completed until it comes… and we can not be placed on our agency’s waiting list without it.)

It’s frustrating to see people on our agency yahoo forum, who finished their paperwork after us, get their immigration letters. I’m happy for them, of course, but I’m like, where’s our damn letter??  In other states, it often comes in under a month. But the Baltimore office in Maryland has a new person, and things have significantly slowed down. Sigh.

Early last week, our social worker told me the woman at immigration had finally emailed her back and said our letter was going in the mail “‘shortly.” I had hopes we might get it on Friday or Saturday or even Monday. Now it’s almost Thursday and nothing.

It feels like a long time ago that we finished all the onerous paperwork yet we’re still not even on the waiting list — all because Baltimore’s immigration office is so slow.

I know, I know… the timing is out of my hands, God’s in control, blah, blah, blah. I do believe that, I still just need to vent a bit sometimes.

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Here’s a neat little story…

I heard about the film A Walk to Beautiful some time ago, but didn’t quite know what it was about. I knew it was a moving story that takes place in Ethiopia, involves some women, and has beautiful cinematography. Beyond that, I didn’t know much. I filed it away in the back of my mind as a movie we needed to rent some day.

Then my husband bought me The Hospital By the River, the book I mentioned a couple weeks ago. It’s a story written by Dr. Catherine Hamlin about the remarkable mission she and her husband undertook in Ethiopia to heal women suffering from obstetric fistula, a terrible injury many women in poor countries experience in childbirth.

After I read the book, I discovered that A Walk to Beautiful was actually based on this book. Which made me very eager to see it.

Then my brother John called and said he had a friend named Allison who was very excited to hear we were adopting from Ethiopia because she’d fallen in love with the country while co-producing a film over there. And guess what that film just happens to be?

So we finally connected by phone the other night — Allison and I — and she shared a bit of her experience making the film — including meeting with Dr. Hamlin — and of her love for Ethiopia. She felt so drawn there, so moved by what she encountered, she started a non-governmental organization (NGO) called Healing Hands of Joy. Its purpose is to help women re-integrate into their communities and lead meaningful lives after being treated for obstetric fistula. Their plan is impressive and I encourage you to read up on their goals and mission. There may be a fundraiser in 2010 in the Washington, DC area, and I’ll let you know when it happens.

I love when people are inspired by something and take action.  And I love when connections form like this. Allison offered to be of any help she could, including putting us in touch with people in Ethiopia when we go.  Who knows, maybe she’ll even be there, which would be cool. Not that we’ll have much time to think about anything but meeting our kids. But I would love to visit the Hamlin hospital.

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I’ve been wanting to explore the topic of race and transracial adoption. The problem is, it’s such a land mine. You can’t write more than a few words without offending somebody.

Nevertheless, this is my blog, my little place to process thoughts and ideas as I prepare to be the mom of Ethiopian children. That said, I apologize in advance if anything I write offends you. I consider myself a learner here, and your own thoughts and feedback are always welcome.

So what is race, exactly? I’ve been thinking a lot about the question, talking and emailing with others, reading up on it. I must admit, it’s simply not something I ever thought much about… a subject best left alone… too messy. Frankly, it would be easier not to bother. But I can’t do that because I love my kids already, and because my little family is going to become a walking reminder of the topic of race.

The answer to what is race? can be approached in different ways. There is, first of all, how our society views it, talks about it, relates to it. There’s also the understanding of race as a concept and construct.

Generally, there are two ways people seem to fundamentally define race… as a biological construct, and as a social construct. Although many today still assume a biological component to race, no evidence has ever been found for this. Racial divisions are not reflected in genetic differences. In fact, more genetic variation exists within the groups typically labeled “black “and “white” than between the groups.

This is not to say there are no differences between people… a quick look around will tell us that. And there are a few small geographical groups that share some genetic frequencies (like the Basques). But skin tone, facial features, hair, and body type are gradations, not fixed types. This concept of “race” did not arise from science nor has it been validated by science. Anyone who wants to argue a biological basis for racial categories has to find some evidence — and it’s just not there.

So we’re left with the fact that race is a social and historical concept. And, in fact, some who’ve lived on other continents  can speak to the fact that even today, the understanding of race and labeling of racial categories is different from one region of the world to the next. Our concept of race has changed over the years, and reflects geo-political forces and events throughout history.

It strikes me that to see race as a completely salient social construct is a huge paradigm shift. Most of us were raised thinking in terms of “white, black, Hispanic, Asian,” etc. Even the idea that there are three major races — Negroid, Caucasoid, and Mongoloid — is rooted in the Middle Ages, when the world was only made up of Europe, Africa, and the Near East.

Imagine what is was like to assume the earth was flat and to look out at the world and think, “yup, it looks flat,” and then to find out, no... it’s not flat at all, it’s actually round! Huge paradigm shift there. It would have jumbled the brain. I suspect changing our views  about race is a similar. We look out at the world and see people according to racial categories, but these categories are not fixed, they’ve been imposed.

Of course, we’re still products of our culture and our times, which we have to live in. Just because I look out and see people differently than I used to, doesn’t mean they’re looking back at me the same way. My family is still going to live in a society that sees race and makes assumptions about those categories. That’s where it gets tricky. And that’s what I’ll write about in my next segment.

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