Sunday, November 30, 2008

Gifts in the Balance

This weekend, between a bout of the nasty stomach flu that hit the boys, I wrapped, assembled and packaged gifts.

I have always sent gifts back to Missouri to our sons' first family, in particular L and their siblings. Not every single birthday has been remembered, but every Christmas certainly. Gifts signed from the boys, chosen carefully and sent so in some small way we let them know we were thinking of them.

Not once has a gift or a card or an acknowledgement been sent or spoken in return. It doesn't matter to me, but now it does matter to the boys. The boys are loudly resistant to send anything at all and Greg in particular has been vocal about it since our visit this summer.

I can imagine all sorts of reasons why gifts or a card has never been sent. Maybe the financial pressure is too much? Maybe they don't even think of it? Maybe they don't know what to send or how to send it? Are our seasonal expectations so vastly different? All possibilities I suppose, although I would love to hear your opinions.

If only they knew how little is expected. A Christmas Card would suffice. A note. A letter. An unsolicited phone call. Anything to agknowledge the value of the boys to them during the season.

I do know that the culture of our relationship is now establised. Clearly the expectation when we visited was that Greg would give and they would receive. Yet they bought a gift for me, the purse. Still nothing given was to Greg, and nothing sent home for Eric.

So this year, for the first time, I signed the gifts with love from ME. Gifts for the girls, gifts for big brother, gifts for cousin, gifts for L and her husband all from me. Eric chose to sign a card for his brother, but all other cards and gifts were ignored by the boys. They saw me buy them, wrap them and know I intend to send them, they just don't want anything to do with it.

I don't know if its the right decision to take this on, but it is also our truth. The gifts are from me to them with love and concern because I care about them. Right now, they are not from the boys. So do I think that the family will even notice the difference? No, not for a second but it still feels to me like the right thing to do.

I want and need to empower the boys to take ownership of their relationship and give them back a voice. At almost 13 and 14 I suppose it is time. I hope so anyways.

What do you think?

Thursday, November 27, 2008

19001 Reasons are all in the Details Baby

Thank You. Thank you for the comments, for the emails, for the facebook messages, for the IRL moments when someone I had no idea was reading here lets me know they are.

I cannot believe that 19000 and one hits later people still bother coming back. People from all over. People from small towns across Canada and the USA that I have never even heard of. People from countries I wasn't really sure had the Internet yet. People with a connection to adoption. People with no connection to adoption. Friends. Family. Strangers. Heck, I even have a crazy stalker or two.

Fair warning, nothing I say is really all that interesting. I am not really that funny nor do I have any great insight. Of course, my kids ARE quite extraordinary, but I am their mom and I am supposed to think that.

I ramble. I offer stories of my life and of my family. Thank you for reading. Thank you for coming back to read some more.

Back to regularly scheduled ramblings.

We are told, as parents, that our children process important life facts at every stage of development. We might explain adoption to our two year old, but explain again in greater detail when they are five, and the conversation continues when they are 9, 11, 13, 16 as their understanding and maturity continues.

Our youngest son experienced a season of great grief this spring over the loss of Baby J. Just when the rest of us were pulling ourselves together (finally!), he was crying daily over her. Missing her. Talking about her. 17 months after she had moved on, he was in the depths of horrible grief and it made little sense to me.

In a brilliant parenting moment (DUH!) I realized that the understanding of a 7 year old was very different than the understanding of a 5 year old and he needed to understand NOW why she was gone THEN. We had a conversation explaining the details of the experience again, and we realized the depth of his misunderstandings and confusion over the experience. His new maturity made the details not make sense and he needed to re-hear them in order to make sense of what he had gone through. Once he did, his grief and fear resolved (at least for now).

Last night I had a similar conversation with my oldest son. Out of the blue he asked about his biological father's incarceration. We have told him the details of it before, in fact many times we have talked about it. We have even visited him at the prison this year and Greg asked him then directly.

But again, seemingly out of the blue after not mentioning it in months, he wanted to know the reasons, the length of sentence, the long term consequences. This time I shared more details, as I know them, of why he ended up in jail this time. He wanted to know, and let me discuss with him, the original reasons why his first father chose, or fell into, a life of crime. We were able to talk about poverty, addiction, teenage pregnancy, gangs, absent fathers and how that affects children. I was thankful for the conversation we had had last summer in prison when his father looked into his eyes and encouraged Greg to make different choices.

And I am thankful I have had the courage to share with my kids, no matter what situation, the honest truth. Its not easy to explain to a child, especially a young child, that the person whose name they share and the person whom they most resemble in the world made some horrible choices that affected many other people. Its not easy to balance that with establishing a relationship based on respect and love for that very person. Its not easy to explain to a grieving child that there are some things in life even mommy can't fix.

BUT it would have been far, far worse to lie.

Honesty in age appropriate doses, even about difficult details, has been our key. I am thankful somewhere along the line, I realized that protecting my kids from the hard stuff would do them no good in the long run.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Frozen Moments

Tanner - Stopping a shot

Greg racing for a goal

Eric playing defense

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Births, Deaths, Anniversaries and Birthdays

Although all days are significant, some days are certainly more significant than others and Saturday was such a day for me.

Saturday, in the lives of each of my boys, was a good and significant day. Saturday morning my goalie child got his first "big team" shut out, which means he didn't allow the other team to score any goals on him at all. It also means I owe him twenty bucks. He was very, very proud.

9 extended family members, many of whom barely know Greg, came out to watch his game at an out of town tournament. He scored on an amazing play, was awarded player of the game (MVP), broke his stick, got a penalty and overall impressed his fans. He was very, very proud.

Eric's team struggled at home going down 3-0 early in the game before coming back and tying a team they have struggled against all year. Again, in the life of a 12 year old boy, a good and significant day.

Saturday was also my Nan's 84th birthday. I called to wish her a happy birthday from the home of my cousin, while holding my cousin's precious son I was meeting for the first time. This baby, also my Nan's 8th great-grandson.

A happy day you think? Yet we all choked back tears because Saturday was also the 9th anniversary of my aunt's death.

My aunt, the mother of the now 20 year old cousin on whose couch I sat, who was not very long ago, a terrified 11 year old little girl who cried in my arms the day I took her to the funeral home and held her as she saw her mommy laid out on a gurney and got to say goodbye.

My aunt, my Nan's precious, much loved, youngest daughter. Her friend. The daughter that called her every day. The daughter that loved the family dinners, the parties we held. The daughter that remembered her mother's birthday every year with special gifts and wonderful acts of thoughtfulness.

My aunt, grandmother to the baby I held. Grandmother to his brother, still a baby himself. Boys that will never know her laugh or the way she could sing a song at every occasion. Boys who won't know that their grandma would have spoilt them with gifts and worried endlessly about their mom.

My aunt. My friend. My fill-in mother when I needed one. Gone 9 years. My boys came home weeks before her death. She was coming to spend Christmas with us, and died a month before. She never met my boys. She never met her grandsons.

My aunt, killed; suddenly, tragically, accidentally on her mother's 75 birthday. 9 Years Ago.

It was a day of significance. And I don't understand why sometimes God, or fate or happenstance so intimately ties together days that you can never forget. We will never forget my Nan's birthday, and because of that, will never forget the day my Aunt died.

And I find my heart filling up with dread for the days ahead because in an awful twist of fate I too share my birthday with a lost "daughter". The baby girl I loved and cherished and held for a year before she was suddenly gone from our lives. The baby girl I could never forget if I ever tried. My baby girl, even if just for a time, even if just in my heart.

Because THAT baby girl and I share a birthday. And I dread it. Once again, after the rush of Christmas and the joy and the expectation comes the weight of another January. Of another birthday. A birthday shared once but now always, forever, apart. She will be 3. I will be 35. I have a lifetime of birthdays ahead to dread.

There is no more joy in my Nan's birthday because of the reminder of the horrific loss we all suffered on that awful November day 1997.

My birthday is also no longer mine. I don't want it to be mine. Instead, this year, as last, I will run away and forget.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Crazy, Busy Times

An oldie, but a cutie

This week has been the usual mess of hockey practices, school, and work.

You add to that report cards, parent teacher interviews, church leadership team meetings, having to actually TEACH (no sub could be found) my entire class, lead a evening youth class, a quick trip to the West Coast for Tanner to go to goalie school and two hockey tournaments, and well things are a little bit busier than normal and my ability to blog slides somewhere behind my ability to do laundry.

I am heading out for the weekend to watch Greg in a hockey tournament and to visit with my most precious new baby nephew and am leaving my computer access behind.

In somewhat random news this week, I was formulating a post about how to get brothers to get along when we had a great day with the kids and I forgot all about it.

Greg spontaneously told me he loved me and gave me several snuggly hugs. Our 2 hug a day mandatory touching rule seems to be paying off and that makes me happy.

Caden attended his first hockey tournament and we've decided that he is going to have a short hockey career; As in to the end of the season when we call it a day and move the highly uninterested child onto another sport. He wants to go into luge. YES LUGE. Ah, No.

I survived my first full day as a highly unaccredited teacher teaching a class of 29, 12 and 13 year old kids because my teacher was sick and no sub could be found.

I paid a deposit for Tanner to go on a trip with his class to Quebec City in May of next year. That's the other side of the country people. I think I am maturing as a mother, if I actually let him go that is. And his new lights? Rocking SAD out of our house. Happy son, happy mama!

Shel is still employed, which is saying something in this economy and in his industry. His limp is going down, but the scar is still noteworthy and he can't wait to show it off when short-wearing weather returns.

Eric and I had a huge, blow out, no holds barred fight one night this week. And we both apologized and hugged and were ok. Progress people, progress. I do love that not-so-little-boy very, very much. I sometimes wish I was a better mother and sometimes wish he was easier to parent, but mostly I am very proud of him and how far we have come.

Tonight we met with Every Single One of Greg's High School teachers. He is doing very well and apparently has a good attitude at school. Room for improvement in some of his grades, but overall for a kid going from home schooling to a school with 950 kids? He is doing VERY well. I am VERY proud. He is an amazing kid.

Tomorrow I write report cards, for the first time ever.

Tonight I drink a glass of wine. Watch Grey's Anatomy and giggle endlessly at the addiction of Facebook as I see evidence of its pull in the lives of two men I care about. One my son, one a friend. Seriously is ANYONE not on facebook anymore?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Sophie's Choice - Haiti Today

So you maybe thought I was exaggerating about my experience in Haiti?

This article is from CNN today.

(CNN) -- Some mothers choose what their children will eat. Others choose
which children will eat and which will die.

Those mothers forced to make
the grim life-or-death choices are the impoverished women Patricia Wolff,
executive director of Meds & Food for Kids, encounters during her frequent
trips to Haiti.
Wolff says Haitians are so desperate for food that
many mothers wait to name their newborns because so many infants die of
malnourishment. Other Haitian mothers keep their children alive by parceling out
food to them, but some make an excruciating choice when their food rationing
fails, she says.

"It's horrible. They have to choose among their children,"
says Wolff, whose nonprofit group was formed to fight childhood malnutrition.
"They try to keep them alive by feeding them, but sometimes they make
the decision that this one has to go."

The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. declared in his Nobel Peace
Prize acceptance speech that "I have the audacity to believe that peoples
everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies." Four decades later,
King's wish remains unfulfilled. The global food market's shelves are getting
bare, hunger activists say -- and it will get worse.

... "It's the most difficult thing I've ever done," she says.
"You realize how absolutely blessed you are by the fate of your soul coming down
the chute in the United States of America," she says. "You wonder: Why
did this happen to me and not to them?'

Monday, November 17, 2008

Christmas Wishes

Caden Remote Controlled Car A skate board

A finger skate board.
A Playmobile Set. A fish.

A cool Sweat Shirt. A PS2 (erased)

A MP3 Player. A remote controlled


Caden is 7 and I am realize he is on the brink of losing the childhood magic that is Christmas. With the loss of his last tooth (and the fact that the tooth fairy FORGOT to come, two nights in a row) he announced quite loudly that he just KNEW she was really me and could I please do a better job at pretending.

Yesterday he brought me this list and asked me to email it to Santa. The rule is (for the benefit of the older, much more cynical children in my life) that if you don't believe Santa does NOT come. Caden, however, still fully believes that Santa comes. He's also old enough now to understand, and fully believe, that Santa only brings gifts that are appropriate for your parents' tax bracket because parents have to pay the taxes on gifts and Santa would never want to create difficulties for parents. That, by the way, explains the crossed off PS2 on the list.

I have loved the magic of Christmas through the eyes of my children. An unexpected gift on Christmas Morning. The tradition of Advent readings. Christmas Eve services. And the magic that slowly disappears as puberty arrives.

My almost 14 year old's list? A cell phone (which he won't be getting) and a whole bunch of "it doesn't matter, whatevers and maybe some stuff". It just doesn't have the same ring to it as a whispered secret in Santa's ear.

Christmas Magic. If it is still at your house, treasure it. Enjoy it. Celebrate it. It will be gone in the blink of an eye.

Friday, November 14, 2008

In Honor of My Friend Cobb

4 years ago at an old adoption forum I stumbled upon a long and heart wrenching thread of a then stranger, now friend, going through a horribly difficult time of loss. Her words came back to haunt me because her story, in many ways, mirrored what our own family would go through a year or two later with Princess J.

Then just before Christmas she started a new thread annoucing that surprisingly her and her family would meet a beautiful, although very sick, little Princess. For over a year we celebrated along side Cobb and her husband the little one's triumphs and set backs. We celebrated as she grew strong enough to leave the hospital. Strong enough to grow, walk, talk and eventually even EAT.

If you can ever love a child you have never met, we all learned to love Cobb's daughter (well both in fact!).

Today, finally, Cobb finalized the adoption of two of her new daughters and I celebrate with my long lost friend!

Congratulations to ALL your family Cobb. I can't wait to see more pictures!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Emotional Thoughts - Jealousy, Fear and Anger

I've been thinking lately about jealousy. What causes it, what it triggers as a reaction and what makes it evaporate.

We see jealousy often in Adoptive relationships.

Adoptive mothers jealous of First Mothers. Jealous of the time they got to carry the baby. Jealous of the genetic link to their child. Jealous of the way they look alike or sound alike. An adoptive parent experiencing these feelings might begrudge sending those updates, or resent time spent arranging visits. Her heart might grip with fear at the thought of her baby in another mother's arms, and as such try to prevent contact. For her adult child, she might make reunion a miserable experience. This mother is scared.

First Mothers jealous of Adoptive Mothers. Jealous of the time they get to spend raising the child. Jealous of the way they know their child. Jealous of the family connections they share. A first mother struggling with these feelings might spend copious amounts of time criticizing the adoptive mother's parenting or blaming her for her own feelings of grief. This mother might feel hopeless or angry. This mother is scared.

Kept children jealous of placed children and their perceived "better life". Placed children jealous of kept children and their intimate, taken for granted, connection to their biological history. They are scared.

Biological children of adoptive parents jealous of the "special" status their adopted siblings receive. Adopted children jealous of their parents' biological children "not-adopted" status. These children are scared.

We see jealousy often in other relationships as well.

Marriages. One spouse jealous of outside friendships. A partner jealous of time spent at work. A spouse resentful of outside interests. These spouses are scared.

Friendships. Someone jealous of an old friend's new friend. Resentment at an old friend's new interests or the changing dynamic of a growing friendship. These friends are scared.

I thought about the irrationality of jealousy this week and tried to understand the many ways it drives people to act outside the realm of their normal behavior.

I've seen first hand normally sane, kind and considerate women turn into irrational, possessive maniacs at the mere mention of arranging a visit with their child's birth parent. I've seen adoptive parents pack up and move when they received an unexpected letter in the mail asking for an updated picture of a beloved child.

I've seen sane, kind and loving women upon reunion verbally attack the family that raised their child, in a futile attempt to undo the lost years and forge a relationship with a beloved child.

I've seen loving wives attack and manipulate their husbands. I've seen adoring husbands abuse and control their wives.

I've seen friendships destroyed. Jobs lost. Marriages torn. Reunions end. Open adoptions fail.

Its a logical leap that jealousy stems from fear. But fear of what?

And then I realized, its not fear that someone you love will love someone else; its the fear that they don't love you ENOUGH.

Acts of Jealousy are the attempts to stop your loved one from loving someone else, but the feeling really stems from the fear that the depth of their love for YOU isn't enough.

I have to trust that my sons love for me is deep enough to survive them loving their other mothers.

I have to realize that the boys not loving their other mothers doesn't mean they are going to love me more.

I have to trust that my husband's love for me surpasses his love of football or affection for his buddy.

I have to realize that making him not do his idiotic football pool or not talk to his best friend isn't going to make him love me more.

We have to trust that our relationships, ON THEIR OWN MERIT, are strong enough. We have to trust that we are loved enough. We have to believe that we are worthy of love.

If my sons, or my husband, or my friends choose to leave me its not because they loved something or someone else, its because the quality of OUR relationship wasn't strong enough. They could never love another soul in their lives, but it wouldn't mean they loved me any more. I have to be responsible for my own relationships. I have to believe that I am worthy of being loved. That the love I share with those I love the most is strong, enduring and timeless.

This might not make any sense (it is rather late, and I am rather tired). But to me, when thinking about crazy acts of irrational jealousy I have seen lately, it makes alot of sense.

When I act like I am worthy, I believe that I am worthy and I am loved as I am worthy.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Witness to a Memory

We took the boys to see Madagascar 2 last night and then headed over to my sister's house for dinner, stopping for pizza on the way.

As usual, all 4 boys followed us into the store to wait for our order. I think, quite possibly, I have the only 11, 12 and 13 year old boys on earth that would rather share a hard bench in Domino's Pizza or trot through a grocery store behind their mother than wait in the van and listen to their IPODs.

But I digress because the point of the story is what our family saw while we waited for our 4 large pizzas to be made.

A Veteran wearing a Legion jacket with a rack of medals on each lapel waited in line behind us. The child behind the counter, wearing a hoody and baggy jeans, looked all of 15. Baby blue eyes, blond hair and the look of a typical young person.

The child was in fact a man. A man who had just returned from a tour of duty in Afghanistan. A man who had fought for our country and had just come back from a Remembrance Day Ceremony at the local cenotaph and changed for a shift at his "night job".

And so we witnessed a conversation from a man who served our country for 32 years in the Air Force and a man, a very young man, who had just returned from war. The younger spoke to the older with respect and honor. Asking about his tours of duty. His tasks. His memories. And he shared his own desire to serve again.

And my sons listened. And heard. And I hope learned something about what service to your country really means.

And the veteran? He got a discount on his pizza.

Lest we forget.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

A Day of Remembrance

Today is Remembrance Day. A national holiday in Canada.

A day to honor the men and women who have sacrificed with their lives to protect freedom around the world.

97 Canadians have died this year in Afghanistan. Young men in whose faces I see my sons and as I watch their pictures flip by on the TV screen, I feel the pain of their mothers.

Today my family wears poppies to honor those that died in the Great Wars.

Today, I honor my Grandfather who is a veteran.

My several Great Uncles who fought, and died. My Great aunts, who supported them at home.

I pray for my American friends who have sons, nephews and brothers (or daughters, neices and sisters) currently fighting.

May one day soon this slaughter of our young people end.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Update on My Nan

We are in the middle of "Fall Break" here and enjoying the time off with the boys. My thoughts and prayers however are with one of my grandmothers, my Nan.

Nan is in a hospital where she landed last week after taking a bad fall at home. She broke her femur and it required surgery. Surgery she can't handle because she is too sick to be put under anesthetic. So they inserted a rod into her leg while she had a spinal block.

She is disoriented, upset and in lots of pain. One nurse takes away her oxygen, forgetting she needs it all the time, another gives her too much. One tries to make her walk, forgetting she hasn't been mobile in months, another wants to tie her into bed because she is agitated and scared.

She needs to get back to her caregiver's home. She needs to be safe. Even more important she needs to FEEL safe. And where she's at, and with the pain she is in, the medications she is on, she doesn't feel safe.

Please think of her. What we want for her is that her time left is pain free and stress free. Unfortunately, that's not happening right now.


Sunday, November 9, 2008

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Adoption Diary: My Asian Experience

Haiti changed my life and my perception of the world and what I wanted out of life. I had the opportunity to travel throughout my high school years and had seen interesting parts of the world. Haiti. Mexico. Hong Kong. Korea. I focused on school and worked like crazy to graduate with a 4.0, but I had long decided to take a year off after high school to give back to Haiti to repay what Haiti had given to me, instead of going straight to university.

I applied to work in a school in Haiti and was accepted. Just weeks before I was to leave for a year in a country I greatly missed and desperately wanted to return to, there was a coup d'etat. The government was overthrown, again, and the country was, again, in a state of turmoil. It was not safe for me to go and the country was essential closed down to foreigners. My trip was cancelled.

I was faced with a dilemma; too late to apply for university now and a strong desire to work in a third world country. A friend of a friend, of a friend knew someone who knew me and she was working and living in the northern regions of the Philippines and agreed to let me come and stay with her.

To say my adventure started off with a bang is quite literally true. On my flight from Seattle to Seoul our plane lost an engine. We returned to the airport after dumping our fuel over Alaska to a runway lined with ambulances and fire trucks. I ended up alone in Japan. 18, naive and incredibly unaware of any risks to myself.

Through Tokyo, Seoul and eventually on to Manila I made my way to a small village where I would spend the next four months living, quite literally, in the middle of the jungle. Snakes crawling above my heads. They were chasing the rats that were bigger than cats. Cockroaches, spiders and geckos scurrying everywhere. And that was just INSIDE my house.

For the first month I slept on a bamboo rack with my eyes tightly shut as I tried not to wonder what exactly was crawling on my blanket. Eventually cockroaches didn't gross me out and I could chop the head off a gecko with the same ease as a local.

Cultural immersion is a great way to describe the experience and I loved it. I ate a variety of foods with a smile on my face to not offend my gracious hosts. Congealed blood. Gelatin with ants. Sea Urchin. Dog. Yes, dog. And lots and lots of rice.

I worked in a church running children's programs, learning Tagalog and making friends. And slowly I began to understand the family dynamics of the families I was staying with. There were no parentless children, but many children not being raised by their biological parents. Kids absorbed into the families of aunts and uncles. Children being raised by grandparents. Maybe the parents had died. Maybe the parents were working overseas. Maybe the parents were addicts. No matter WHAT the reason, in this village there were absolutely no "orphans".

The concept of of taking an entire village to raise its children was part of the intricate make up of the culture of the Philippines.

When I left the north and returned to spend some time in Manila I saw how urbanization, extreme poverty and addiction had broken down that family structure that saved so many children in the more rural areas. Thousands of children living in and around a burning dump. Street kids selling their wares for pennies. Babies abandoned by mothers dying from AIDS.

I volunteered in an orphanage holding, changing and loving on babies. These babies were truly the unlucky ones. In a country that values its children more than anything, and where the definition of being family meant that even if your parents couldn't care for you, someone related to you would. These babies had no one.

These were babies with AIDS. Babies who were dying. Babies that were abandoned on the streets or at hospitals. Babies with no one and nothing.

Babies who, if they lived long enough, and got healthy enough would maybe, hopefully find their way from an Orphanage into a family. It was then that I learned about the restrictive policy of adoption in the Philippines. Filipino children can only be adopted by Filipino families, or families of Filipino heritage living overseas. No exceptions.

From the top of the government to those that worked with their abandoned babies they valued their culture, their heritage and their nationality enough to limit who could adopt their children. Because of the strength of their culture, and the relatively few numbers of orphans needing homes, their policy worked.

It openned my eyes to another side of International Adoption and appreciating that a culture, even if different than my own, had much to teach me.

I would return home and fall in love. Time to inform that man I was to marry how I envisioned my future family.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

SURPRISE! My parents got a divorce.

Ok, ok, no need for condolences, this news is certainly NOT a surprise to ME! Their separation happened close to 16 years ago now and they have both been remarried for quite some time to other people.

But apparently I had failed to inform my sweet child of this SHOCKING development.

He overheard a conversation this week between his older brothers and I where I casually mentioned "When my mom and dad got divorced I was ..."

The conversation trailed off because we were interrupted by the frantic wail of a concerned 7 year old. "Your parents got DIVORCED?!?!?"

"Divorce", in his mind, is simply a horrible word that means a great sadness. And although he probably couldn't tell you what it actually means, he's pretty sure it's still a BAD, BAD thing. And it happened to MOMMY'S parents.

And so I had to explain to him that in fact, YES my mom and dad (after clarifying WHICH of his many grandparents are in fact MY parents) got divorced a long time ago. And yes, that meant that PAPA and GRANDMA actually used to LIVE together. WITH ME. Apparently that was ALSO shocking news, because where was NANA, if Papa lived with Grandma??

A lengthy conversation occurred.

You know, with the first three those important conversations happened because I remembered I was supposed to have them. We did it as a group.

Adoption was easy, as they all remembered the occasion, at least for long enough to talk about it with a certain understanding of the steps that occurred.

Sex education was part of our home schooling. I think that conveniently occurred during son #4's nap time.

Family dynamics? I remember back when I had time to look through family albums explaining who was related, who was married in, and who was family 'by choice'.

But you know, with the fourth? The one that causes you to forget to brush your hair until you are walking into the front door of church? Or the one that you continually forget the diaper bag for because you were too busy making sure the 3 preschoolers were actually IN their car seats? Or how about the one you accidentally left at home when you were bundling the other 3 plus the two foster babies in for an emergency run across town and you could SWEAR that your heard your husband say he was taking him out for the evening?

Well THAT one! That poor, much loved but sometimes overlooked fourth child? I have apparently forgotten to inform him, at times, of important life matters.

Like the fact he thought until he was 5 that when he grew up he would be black like his big brother Greg. Oooops! Did I forget to tell you how come half our family is black and half our family is white?

Or the fact that when he was 4 he ended up sobbing on our "Family Day Anniversary" that he didn't have birth parents and wasn't adopted too. Ooops? Did I forget to tell you I gave birth to you?

Ok, so all is not lost. Caden DOES know the proper names for body parts, and the child is reading, writing and doing math. He certainly is hugged alot. He's a bit spoiled (ok, alot) but apparently fairly clueless on our family makeup.

One of these days, when I have some free time, and he doesn't quite seem like so much of my baby, we are going to have to have some conversations.

I think I will start the first one with, "God made boys and girls different for a reason ..."

But he's my BABY. My innocent. I wish I could keep him that way forever.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Walking in the Promised Land

Today I weep with joy and honor those who fought this battle for equality with their lives. We are living history my friends. TODAY IS A DAY OF SIGNIFICANCE

"I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.

Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.

But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languished in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. And so we've come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.

In a sense we've come to our nation's capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the "unalienable Rights" of "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note, insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked "insufficient funds."

But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. And so, we've come to cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice.

We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of Now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God's children.

It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro's legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. And those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. And there will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.

But there is something that I must say to my people, who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice: In the process of gaining our rightful place, we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again, we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.

The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. And they have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom.

We cannot walk alone.

And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead.

We cannot turn back.

There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, "When will you be satisfied?" We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the negro's basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their self-hood and robbed of their dignity by a sign stating: "For Whites Only." We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until "justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream."¹

I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. And some of you have come from areas where your quest -- quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive. Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed.

Let us not wallow in the valley of despair, I say to you today, my friends.

And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed:

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal."

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of "interposition" and "nullification" -- one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; "and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together."²

This is our hope, and this is the faith that I go back to the South with.

With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith, we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

And this will be the day -- this will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with new meaning:

My country 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing.
Land where my fathers died, land of the Pilgrim's pride,
From every mountainside, let freedom ring!

And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true.
And so let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire.

Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York.
Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania.
Let freedom ring from the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado.
Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California.

But not only that:

Let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia.
Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee.
Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi.

From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

And when this happens, when we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual:

Free at last! Free at last!
Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!³" Dr. King

Thank You Dr. King, and every man, woman and child who did their part to change the world. To fight racism. To advocate for my sons. I thank you with all my heart.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Why Obama Matters To Me

Race matters to me. Simply, it has to because it matters to my children and it matters to the world my children live in.

Many years ago when my sons were quite little we made a move that shocked many. We left the church we had been comfortably attending for another. The move precipitated by my son looking around the almost exclusively white church one Sunday morning and whispering none too quietly, "Mommy why don't any brown people love Jesus?" The implication being that HE was definitely not white, and what was HE doing there?

We heard of a church with a black pastor. For that reason, and that reason only, we moved to his church. At that moment I didn't care WHAT he was preaching, what denomination the church was or whether or not anything about it would appeal to me. The pastor was the right color for my sons and what our sons needed to see reflected on Sunday mornings. It was where we needed to be because it was best for our sons. Thankfully, it was also best for us and that church became our home. Our pastor became our family. Just this morning his wife and I fondly dreamed ahead of a joint marriage between any of their 3 daughters and any of our 4 sons.

Boys talking politics at church with friends.

Its not exactly breaking news if you know me in real life or follow my blog that I am an Obama fan.

I have been accused of being a "Stupid Foreigner" and told to mind my own business. I've been accused of falling for the Obama "machine" or being blinded by the media. I have been accused of being not Christian "enough" if I support him. I've been accused of being racist.

I usually reply that I am married to an American citizen. I am mother of two more. Sister-in-law to 4 Americans, Aunt to 6. Friend of many.

My husband's job (and as such the roof over my head) is DIRECTLY tied to the American economy as are many, many jobs in our community. The world is tied to America, even if we hate to admit it.

I have researched the issues and agree with his positions on many, if not most of them. I strongly support his policies. (ok, also VERY strongly disagree with the Republican position on many too, especially the racist hate mongering coming out of many of their offices, if not directly from the leadership themselves, and need I mention the war? the economy? international relations?).

I have read his book. I liked it, thoroughly.

I like the man. I like his ideas. I find him inspiring, interesting and pretty darn cute too.

And the reality is, he is black. To say that's not an issue for me would be a lie. Barack Obama is a BLACK man who has every chance to WIN the Presidency of the United States of America and that simple fact thrills me to my very toes.

Ahead of all else, I am a mother. I am a mother to my sons. Ahead of the church I attend, ahead of the friends I have, ahead of the job I keep, ahead of anything and everything - I am a mother to my sons. And two of those sons happen to be black.

I want my sons to have a President that reflects their face. Their story. I want to be able to look my sons in the eye and say YOU CAN BE ANYTHING. A-N-Y-T-H-I-N-G you set your mind to be. Doctor, lawyer, pastor, Prime Minister OR President. You can BE anything.

I want him for every African American senior, and the whites that stood beside them, that faced segregation every day of their childhoods. For those that had to only DREAM of being able to attend the same schools, eat at the same restaurants, given the same chances as their white peers. A black President, in THEIR life time? Unimaginable.

For those that were spit on, hated, hit and feared because of the color of their skin.

For those that heard Dr. Martin Luther King's speech the day it was given and grabbed onto that hope that one day men, men like MY SONS, would be judged for the content of their hearts not the color of their skin.

I imagine what this election means to those who had to put their lives on the line so that I could one day be a mother to my children. So that our family would be accepted by society. So that my children could imagine a future full of hope and prosperity, and see others like themselves living that dream.

I gleefully imagine the shock in every racist heart when they face the reality that the MAJORITY of blacks, whites AND hispanics support Obama for President. I relish the idea that their fear, hatred and ignorance is being challenged.

I support Obama because he represents an unthinkable and an unimaginable dream even a generation ago.

I support Obama because he has given me hope for my sons. That their world will not be full of hatred and racism based on fear of differences rather than the ties of sameness that bind us.

I support Obama.

I'd vote if I could. I can't but many of YOU can. Go. Vote.

Yes we can.