October 2010


Here is another post from my Ethiopian blog. Actually, it was my last post there. It was emotional then and I don’t feel up to changing the wording now, for this blog. I would love it if you take a few minutes and read it. If you have some free time to read click here.

It’s as vivid now as it was then.

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  What I learned from our first adoption…

I have learned that the world is a very big place. And I am a very small piece of it.

I have learned that doing anything to improve the world, no matter how small, is huge.

I have learned that love comes in many packages; it is not for me to decide, but for my heart to accept.

I have learned how little I know, how little control I have, and how everything can be put into perspective. It’s a choice I make.

I have learned that I cannot be taught patience, but that patience will be applied to me as needed, I do not have control.

The smile of a child is one of the greatest gifts that we can receive.

No matter how long you live, in the end, you have lived exactly long enough.

Family means love; biology doesn’t have the final say.

Loss prepares us and gives us strength. I don’t like it, but that’s the way it is.

Letting other people help is a sign of strength and wisdom, not weakness.

The power of the statement “ask and ye shall receive” is as powerful as “if you do not ask, you will not receive”

Opportunities are only opportunities if you seize them.

Don’t judge, educate.

Fear is just an excuse. (I can catch a Hershey bar out the window at 70 mph).

Friendship is not measured by the quantity, it is measured by the quality.

Never under estimate the power of ice cream.

*excerpt from my Ethiopia adoption blog.

A sad day two years ago.

Goodnight Moon

I am not sure if this post requires a Kleenex warning or not. I can tell you, I have finished off a box of Kleenex and moved on to a roll of toilet paper.

Our adoption journey has a parallel story or maybe a predecessory journey that has helped me prepare for our Adoption Journey in the most amazing and, well… serendipitous way.

“Serendipity. Look for something, find something else, and realize that what you’ve found is more suited to your needs than what you thought you were looking for.” – Lawrence Block

As the story goes, I wanted a baby. It was last November when it all started. We had just begun considering the adoption process, and we didn’t have any idea how long it would all take. But my maternal instincts were so strong. I was desperately in need of a baby.

Only weeks, maybe days, after DaddyT and I first discussed adoption, we were approaching Christmas and my mom talked about how her friend had some puppies that would make great Christmas gifts. The idea was for other people, not for me. My mom hadn’t intended for me to take this suggestion personally. But before we ended our phone conversation, I wanted a puppy.

I wanted a puppy, the puppy should be little and cute, and should be mine. I didn’t know how instrumental she would be in distracting me from the wait in our adoption.

In just a day or two, my mom managed to get me pictures of this little puppy, a girl, (so tiny) that would be mine. I immediately drew the conclusion that as difficult as the wait would be for a puppy, whose picture I held in my hand; how much more difficult would the wait be for a child when I held that picture in my hand.

I printed out the pictures and carried them with me and decided on a name. Before we knew what our new child’s name would be we called him Baby Kashi… I thought about naming the puppy Kashi, but the name had been assigned it’s purpose and she would need another. I stuck with the food pattern and she would be named Luna. (Kashi bars and Luna bars, my favorite standby food for triathlons, trips to Africa, and your basic “make it through the morning snack”).

Luna’s picture in hand, I waited for her to arrive. The wait seemed long and I was so excited. I frequently noted my excitement and wondered how I would ever make it through the wait for a child if I was barely making it through the wait for this bundle of puppy.

At last she arrived. And she loved me. She followed me and was always near by. She was sneaky and loved to steal things and hide them under a chair or table. Before company would visit I knew to remove the random pieces of papers, toys, socks, underwear and other items she had stolen and moved into hiding. Though I never minded. I loved her and the cuteness was worth the inconvenience.

She really belonged to both my daughter and me. Only responding to us in our plea to have her come so we might take her out or settle her in for the night. I was proud when she didn’t go to other people. She knew she was my dog and she would come to me no matter what.

Last night serendipity set in. We lost Luna, her short life and even shorter time with us had come to an end. She came in to help me through the wait. She prepared me for the experience and then as quickly as she stole my heart it was broken.

In the moment of loss I realized just how this little dog had prepared me for so much. Prepared me for the wait. Knowing what it would be like to look at a picture and to fall in love before meeting. And that the bond could be immediate and binding with only one glance.

She prepared me for the tornado that can come in a small package. She always created more drama and had more needs than the big dog, Meadow, and some days even more than the children combined.

She was cautious, she looked to me to make it ok, she always stayed near by, I never wondered where she was, always with me, sometimes so near I couldn’t see her.

I loved this little dog. I loved her, and I was proud of her. Proud that she was cute and wild, but most of all that she loved me. Sassy, she was so sassy. She knew how to get attention. Every morning she would come to me for petting and love before she could do anything else, so adorable. Most mornings I would stop everything to hold her for several minutes, or until Trent asked if I planned to go to work.

Our new son was afraid of her at first, but they interacted. She was somehow different now that he had arrived. A little grown up and a little more demanding. It seemed that there would be either a battle of the hierarchy or a passing of the torch. Just the night before, our new son and Luna had called a truce and he kissed her… from fear of her to kissing her in just days. And that was it. It seemed she approved and there wouldn’t be a battle of the hierarchy, just acceptance, and later we would see a passing of the torch.

We have lost our little Luna, the 6 pound puppy who could create a tornado or take down the big dog as needed, make DaddyT fall in love with her (the little rat that she was)… and overcome her own fears to allow another human to find a moment of peace and accomplishment in allowing them to pet her.

So much of this seems to prepare us for our 3 year old tornado, who seems to come to me for comfort. My new little boy, awaking this morning as I type, coming for his love, and ensuring he got his hug and planted a big kiss on Mommy.

I loved Luna. Loved. I just wanted a puppy, I just wanted to be a mommy. I couldn’t bear the wait to my new son alone. I needed a partner, though not often silent in voice, always right there to comfort my anxiety or fears or bring a smile in the times of worry and impatience. She was sent as a gift with a purpose. She offered more than I ever could have asked or dreamed and then she was gone. As timely as she arrived, she left. Not without making her parting peace with the little boy who stole my heart from her.

My new little boy leans to kiss her on the nose, as afraid as he was of the little dog, a kiss. I witnessed the kiss and I did know everything would be ok. I wish she didn’t have to leave us, I wish she could have stayed, but as an angel comes to comfort and then leaves you when you are strong, so did little Luna.

Goodnight Moon.

I wrote the blog post about a week after we brought ComedyBoy home.

Honoring Adda

I have edited this several times since posting… I just can’t get the words right… but I have received feedback that Kleenex may be required during the reading of this post.

Our trip to Hosanna. Many of you have asked about this. The purpose of the trip was to meet ComedyBoy’s birth mother. The information and content of the meeting is very private, and mostly there are not words to describe what we encountered. I want to offer some thoughts that are appropriate to share with our friends and family as well as an overview here in the blog for our children to have a basic understanding of the content of this meeting.

The details of this child’s life before he came to be with us are private and belong only to him. We are the keepers of this information until he is ready to accept it. And we will honor the privacy that is due him and his life before we knew him.

Our trip to Hosanna started very early in the morning. The nannies came to the guest house to care for the children for the day while we were traveling (this is not normal procedure, but due to the holidays there were many changes and exceptions in our schedule). It was hard to leave him  knowing where I was going and that I would see his birth mother.

The trip to Hosanna took about three and a half hours by bus. The first thirty to forty-five minutes we were still leaving the city, Addis. After that it was all country side. Beautiful mountains and amazing plant life. Considering the severe drought affecting this area, it is so green and beautiful. I have traveled in the states before, seen the leaves changing color on the east cost, and not been so impressed. We live in a beautiful place in the Midwest. We get to see the leave change color, and watch the sun rise over our own mini-oceans. We swim in clean and beautiful rivers. We know the hot summers and enjoy the opportunity to experience snow at Christmas. We complain at times, but deep down we live here because we love it, there is something that draws us here. We don’t have mountains, but we do have rolling hills, we don’t have deserts, but we play in the sand dunes. I wasn’t prepared for the sights I was about to experience.

In Ethiopia, the sky is beautiful and the light reflects off the land differently than here at home. With the altitude, you see the foliage in a shade of green that we do not experience here. It is deep and intense and provides more beauty than even our green spring. Or, that is what the eyes of my eyes saw.

The conflicting story. The bigger surprise that was in store for me was the state of the people, which was initially masked by the beauty of the land. So many people, walking, walking. So many children working and seemingly young and alone, with no sign of a caretaker for protection. I can only comment from my Western eyes what this must be like for the people, how difficult life must be, but only compared to the ease and abundance we know in the United States. For them it may be different, many of them appear quite happy. I wonder if they wake to see the sun rise and note its beauty the same as I, half a world a way. I have to assume these people do not long for Nintendo, microwaves and baseball. They seek out the true and basic needs in life: food, shelter, clothing, and I must add spirituality. The children smile and many of the people wave to us and shout out any American words they may have learned. Only they know their state of happiness and content, it is not for me to guess or assume.

I thought that the US media had to drive hundreds of miles, through difficult terrain and search far and wide for these people who live in mud huts and have little or no food. People without shoes and who gather together in large communities to survive. No, it is the way of life. There it is, ever present and as far as the eye can see. I can’t say “just like on TV” because it is not. The experience of the presence of these people and this state cannot be covered accurately by any journalist and most certainly not by me. Again, I can only assume through my Western eyes that these people, provided food, shelter, clothing and freedom of religion, are not only happy, but very proud of the lives they live. It is only my eyes that can judge and “feel sorry”.

Our visit seemed intrusive in many ways. I longed to take a picture of the man whose feet clearly told a story of his life. But he seemed so proud and it seemed wrong for me to take his pride to turn it into my souvenir. There were many moments like this. Many times I wanted to capture a picture, but that there was no way the picture would do justice to the moment that was frozen. It is not about a moment… it is about a culture, a life time, a story.

Prior to leaving for Ethiopia many adoptive parents shared concerns of what to eat, where to go to the bathroom and how to avoid getting ill. After seeing this country, those thoughts are embarrassing. I am embarrassed that I don’t know better about our world and the planet that we humans share. Even more embarrassing is the fact that some of us prefer that we don’t share. With an attitude of, “I know what’s mine… those people and their government should figure it out for themselves.” I know longer can claim the ignorance that once might have allowed those thoughts to be acceptable.

We made one stop to view the home of an Ethiopian family. A small hut, which many of us have one room in our home that would surpass this entire dwelling in size. Children came from no where. Appearing and looking for food and candy, stickers, anything we might offer. I quickly realized that survival of the fittest was at work, and I looked for the young or the more needy to try to get something directly to them. Any one of these children could have been me or my own children, had we not been born into such blessing and abundance. Human life is an amazing thing!

In Hosanna we did meet our son’s birth mother. I will tell you that there are no words to accurately describe this encounter. And only those who were there and who witnessed this can ever understand. The fragility and resiliency of human life meet and you are there as a witness and only the experience itself can resonate to make its own sound and create its own meaning.

We were the last of nine families called to meet with our birth mother. In the room, three chairs, one for each DaddyT and her and me. Two interpreters one for her language one for ours and the two interpreters to share a common language to pass the words that would be spoken.

It was quickly evident that my attempt to prepare for culture and this meeting was not accounted for in the questions we would ask. The many hours spent preparing would be set aside to settle into the moment and collect what we could. My brain, my thinking brain, taking snapshot after snapshot of this beautiful woman. Each expression, each move, a new imprint to store forever, for so I could share this with my son someday.

I would say it is clear that Worqenesh (his birth mother) had a plan for this child, a plan that was inspired by God. Worqenesh means “precious gold” not as in gold the metal, but gold the quality of being a precious gift. We told her she was indeed precious gold to us. She gave him his name, for she knew there was a way for him, a plan. The name, to her, meant “believed” as she believed there was a way for him.

In addition to other information, we exchanged information about our religion and asked her about the holidays she would like him to celebrate. She is Christian and would like him to celebrate the Ethiopian Easter, Ethiopian Christmas and Meskal (the celebration of the finding of the cross Jesus was crucified on).

She continued saying that it was important for this child to know God and to know Jesus. But that it is not enough for him just to know, he must teach others. Regardless of any one’s beliefs or even the future beliefs of my children, one can understand the importance of this statement to this woman. She wanted good things for him, and education and a family that loved him as their own… but she wanted him to do good for the world and to teach others about good. Again, there are no words that can explain the surge that exploded in my body as I heard these words translated to us. I could not possibly be worthy to carry out this request.

There is so much more to say about this meting. So much more that I experienced and felt, and remember, and have as vivid images in my mind. I can tell you he has his mothers eyes, in the most amazing way. I will never forget her. Her eyes, her skin, her hair, and the way we held each other and did not want to let go, not for our own needs but for the wishes of this little soul that we both have the honor and privilege of sharing in.

She asked that in our home we call her Adda. This means mommy in our son’s first language which he shared with his mother.

I love you Adda, thank you for allowing us the honor of being part of this special life!

I found a writer’s prompt that I just couldn’t pass up. The prompt suggests writing in a way that reflects what my neighbors might be saying about me. You know, the one’s who look through their kitchen window, or drive by. I actually think about this a lot, because I am confident my neighbors are forced to wonder, “What are those people doing now?”

I have a few scenarios I have thought of, I will list them out separately and use the dialogue I picture my neighbors having with each other about our home.

(disclaimer, I don’t come up with this stuff based on what I think my neighbors think , but what I would think if I was looking at our house from the outside and not know the details of what’s going on).

Scenario #1

Friend of neighbor: Hey it looks like your neighbors are having a birthday party.

Neighbor: Nope, they just have that many kids.

 Scenario #2

Husband: How many kids do those people have now?

Wife: I lost count.

Scenario #3

Neighbor 1: What is that smell?

Neighbor 2: I don’t know, but I think it’s coming from the house of those people.

Neighbor 1 – The house with all the kids, and vans?  Oh right, the dad apparently tans animal hides, I think it’s the smell of dead animal.

Scenario #4

Friend of neighbor:  Hey when I was pulling in, I noticed all the vans in your neighbor’s driveway. Do they own a transportation business?

Neighbor: No, they just have a lot of kids.

Scenario #5

Wife: Wow, it sure is a beautiful night. Look at the sunset. I can see it across the whole neighborhood  – she scans the area, and stops when she reaches the far east of the view. In a less than happy voice  – well, I can almost see the whole neighborhood. Will you come look at this?

Husband: What? seeing where his wife is looking. Now what are they up to? The wife waves him to the window. What?  What on earth? Why, do they have a tipi in their front yard?

Wife: They are probably going to start living in it. We’ve seen stranger things from them.

Scenario#6

Boy: What is that noise? Mom, something is wrong, there are loud noises outside.

Mom: Mmm, yeah I already checked it out.

Boy: What is it? Mom gives him a look he recognizes. Oh, is it the neighbors?

Mom: Yes, and apparently they are holding some ritual ceremony involving large West African drums. Don’t go out there.

I am writing this to journal a situation and reflect on it for myself. I know we all have blind spots, I know I have many, and I love all my friends who bring them to my attention. I think it is important to share observed weaknesses and blind spots, it’s the trait of true friendship. However, a true friend knows how to deliver that message while still showing love and allowing dignity to remain in tact.

This post is not to point out someone else’s blind-spot, it’s me thinking through the issues and complexity of a situation I find myself  in. I feel like I am viewed as the “bad guy” or somehow I am in the wrong for knowing things I never wanted to know. When is it my job to bring the “truth” to light, and when do I just stay out of it? AND in this situation, sharing the details of the situation would put me in a position to judge who is right and who is wrong. AND to add to the complexities, the situation spans several cultural boarders and personality types.

I have an analogy.

An American civilian is learning the details of a war. He is proud of his soldiers, if they win the battle or not. As he learns the methods that are being used in this war, he is saddened. Those sharing the information are only sharing the horrible behaviors of the opponent in the war. The opponent comes from a culture where once someone dies you must remove a portion of the clothing. But the civilian does not understand that culture, so he is shocked to think that the opponent is not only killing the Americans, but then going to rob a dead man. The civilian becomes angry at the opponent, believing this behavior is unacceptable. He complains to other countries who are not involved in the war. He brings attention to these behaviors of the opponent. Those he complains to know that the American soldiers are also doing some things that are against the culture of the opponent. Maybe the opponent is even offended that the Americans will kill one of their solders and NOT remove a portion of the clothing. They feel the Americans have taken things to a new level of disrespect by not following the simple cultural ritual of removing a portion of the dead man’s clothing.

In this case my fellow American Civilian is asking me to be equally upset by these actions. But what I know is that these American solders are doing more than just not following the opponents culture, they are also participating in acts considered deviant by American standards. These soldiers are using unapproved methods of torture on the opponents.

My dilemma:

  • If I agree with the fellow civilian I am judging the opponent soldier of horrible behaviours, that are in-fact part of the norm of their culture. They are not going out of their way to do unnecessary acts against the dignity of the American soldiers, they are only following what is actually respectful in their own culture.
  • If I do not agree, then I look unpatriotic.
  • If I disagree, or if I share the details of the torture methods used by the Americans, then I am putting the American soldiers at risk. The information may become public. Maybe that’s okay, to bring the truth to light… but there is still one missing detail, the opponent is exercising many, many unapproved torture methods, they are participating in supporting activities that are detrimental to our existence. I KNOW this information first-hand. So, if I bring the issue to the media, these American soldiers will lose even more power to secure America. WHO AM I to decide what is right or wrong in this war. Who am I to take a soldier from battle because I don’t like the methods being used. By taking those soldiers out I am putting many, many more Americans at risk!

In the end I believe I am doing the best for everyone by staying quiet about it. In this case I happen to know the civilian’s son is leading some of these “unethical” practices. I want to tell him, I want to show the civilian he should stop judging me for being unpatriotic, because what he can’t see is that I am being very patriotic, I am realizing the importance of the work his son is doing to protect America. Not only am I not taking it to the media, I am not destroying this father’s dignity by telling him the “wrong” his son is doing. And why… why would I do this? Because I am a descendant of the opponent country, yet a true American who believes that sometimes “rule” can’t apply across certain cultures or situation. I cannot and will not be a judge. And because the civilian is my brother and I don’t want to bring shame or sadness to him about his son. The final result, my brother hates me because he believes I am unpatriotic, he believes I am offending him and his son.

Is it best for me to tell my brother the truth to pull myself from his shaming talk? Or, is it best for me to keep quiet for the benefit of all of America and my brother’s dignity?

“Two kinds of persons know Him: those who have a humble heart, and who love lowliness, whatever kind of intellect they may have, high or low; and those who have sufficient understanding to see the truth, whatever opposition they may have to it.” – Blaise Pascal

I too am opposed to the methods being used in this war, but I see the truth. And so I must humble myself to be hated by my brother because I love him that much, and I realize being shamed by my brother is small in comparison to the totality of damage if I speak the truth.

 What I wish:

I wish that my brother would step back for a moment and realize I am a good person, and that I have supported him over the years and that I wouldn’t “ignore this issue” (in his eyes) unless I had good reason. And I wish that if or when the truth comes out about all of this, that my brother won’t hate me for keeping these secrets. I want him to realize I was trying to protect him, his son, and my people of the opponent country. I was only trying to do the right thing for many people, but that the choices were not black and white.

It’s true that my brother may have done it differently. It’s also true that he may have advised me differently, had he known the facts. But I am not in a position to tell my brother the story, so please don’t judge me for not judging others. Please assume I am still the good person you thought I was and please don’t hate the opponent, my people, because they come from another culture where their way of waging a war is different than the American way.

“The greatest humiliation in life, is to work hard on something from which you expect great appreciation, and then fail to get it” – Edgar Watson Howe

“Humility is the only certain defense against humiliation” – unknown