April 30, 2008

Rainy Days and Wednesdays

When my husband is feeling down, he goes looking to talk it out with someone. The listener doesn't really even need to say much in response; somehow the act of putting it into words makes him feel a little better.

When I am feeling down, I hide. Because if I talk to people then they might figure out I'm sad and then...well, I don't really know what would happen, but they'd probably want me to talk about my feelings or something and clearly that's worth hiding from. Right?

I'm going to get back to the river parable, but I've been a little depressed lately and need a few days to clear my head.

I think in part it's being at the mid-point of my family leave from my job. I'm missing those social connections and the satisfaction of the work itself. I wouldn't trade this time with Firefly for that, but she's not the most stimulating companion. At the same time, I'm sad it's halfway finished.

I think in part it's that we're ten weeks post-Firefly's placement and this is a backlash from the emotional intensity of that time.

I think in part it's the weather. I actually don't mind the long stretches of grey we have here in the winter. But this year's absurdly slow transition to spring--we get a day or two of sparkly sun, then get slapped with another storm--has me in the doldrums.

All in all, things are fine. The circumstances of our life are good and everyone is healthy. But I felt that I left things hanging and the emails are stacking up unanswered, so I wanted to explain my absence.

April 24, 2008

Parable of the River

This is the first time this has happened to me: I had a rather long post written out and it disappeared into the internet ether. In the tradition of all lost work, it was a sparkling bit of brilliance which would have rocked your world, made you rich and mopped your floors. True story.

So instead I will share the parable that inspired it. Tomorrow (hopefully) I'll recreate how it helped me sort out some thoughts about Firefly's adoption. I heard it from someone who heard it from someone who read a version of it in a piece by Brian McLaren.
There once was a wide, rushing river with steep banks. Sometimes there would be people floating down the river who were unable to get out on their own. The folks who lived by the river noticed the people floating by and one day decided to form a human chain to pull them from the water. For every person they pulled out, two others floated down and so they rescued them, too. Eventually more river-dwelling folks came down to the water to help, setting up shelters and bringing food and dry clothing.

All the while more and more people kept floating by in the river. Those on the banks rescued those they could reach and mourned those they couldn't. But in all that time no one ever thought to go upstream to find out why those people were falling into the river in the first place.

That is the difference between compassion and justice.

April 22, 2008

A Word of Advice

Now and then at home, DO take off your top clothing layers and pop your baby into a soft wrap for some skin-on-skin snuggly time. It promotes attachment and general well-being, not to mention the feel of all that warm baby smushed up against you is to die for.


DON'T forget you're actually still topless under that wrap and walk out to get the mail. Particularly if your kindly but staid older neighbor is out in his front yard.

April 21, 2008

It's Like "The Secret" for Open Adoption

You remember how Lisa V cosmically conjured a visit with her son's first dad just by thinking about him?

Looks like I did it, too. Not a visit. My mental powers apparently are not as strong as Lisa's yet. But get this:

Ms B was riding a bus Friday afternoon when Firefly's birth dad climbed on board. (!) She told me her first thought was, "Oh, crap." It's been months and months since she last had contact with him.

They had a whole conversation about Firefly. She said he asked a lot of questions about her. She showed him pictures on her cell phone. He told Ms B that Firefly has her cheeks.

She said, "Her adoptive parents really want you in their lives."

He responded, "I know."

I asked Ms B what it was like for her to see him again and have that conversation. She said that it was weird, but she did it because Firefly deserves to know him. I am so impressed with her right now. Had I been in her shoes I don't know that I would have been a big enough person to initiate with him like that.

It's not like all is well now; I don't feel like T and I are any closer to being in touch with him. But it wasn't nothing.

April 20, 2008

Six Random Things

Ariella has tagged me! I'm to list six random things about me and tag four people.

Six things, not all about me I suppose, but about my life at this moment:
  1. Most everyone calls Firefly by her nickname, Firey. Except Puppy. He calls her by her full name, only he puts the emphasis in the wrong place and pronounces it FIrefly. And sometimes he calls her Baby Firefly and becomes too cute for words.

  2. Puppy is proud of being a big brother. Very very proud. Which is nice. He wants to be around Firefly all the time and do nice things for her. In the morning he says to me, "Can I get up now, Mama? I want a waffle for breakfast. Where is Firefly?" But I think his pride may just lead to her death. There are really so many ways it could happen each day. Him picking her up. Hugging her with his entire body. Covering her with a pile of baby toys. Doing a jumping dance of joy around her while she's on the floor. Offering her things to eat. I went to the bathroom the other day and when I returned she had a pillow on top of her face; I think he was trying to put it under her head and when it didn't work out he left it there. We can't leave them alone together. To those of you thinking about spacing between children: be ye warned.

  3. It freaking snowed here today. SNOWED. We hardly get snow here at all, much less in mid-April. Puppy ran to get his itty-bitty snow shovel, then put on his sandals. He's as confused as the rest of us.

  4. Puppy gave Firefly her first-ever hairdo today. Did I document it? Oh, yes, I did.

  5. I can't stand yogurt.

  6. I digging this necklace right now. Most "mother's jewelery" gives me the mental hives, but this one is understated and totally my style.
I'm tagging some folks we haven't heard from in a couple weeks (Angela, D), a newer blogger but well-known commenter (Cynthia), and Thanksgivingmom just because I'm feeling the love for her tonight.

April 17, 2008

The Missing Player

I haven't said anything about Firefly's first dad in awhile. Truthfully, I've not known how to comfortably approach it here. I am sorting through conflicting thoughts and feelings about him. It is hard to know what is appropriate to share.

After his chance pizza place meeting with the agency social worker, he did go into the office to meet with her before Firefly was born. It was...less than positive. He had already made clear that he felt no obligation toward Ms B, and as of now he apparently feels no obligation toward his daughter either. Nobody has heard from him since.

T and I have never spoken with him. We've never even seen a picture of him. We know his name and his age and some sketchy medical history. My amateur sleuthing hasn't turned up any online presence for him, so I can't peek at his life through Myspace or Facebook. He is a complete mystery to me. Yet he is one-half of my daughter's genetic heritage.

This is uncharted territory for our family. Puppy's first dad, R, has been around from the beginning. It's easy to include him in what we say to Puppy: "K and R made you, they took care of you, they decided we would be parents to you. You have his smile, his hair, his eyes." R underscores it all through his continued presence in Puppy's life. I feel like Firefly's story thus far has a glaringly missing player. What do you say about a man who chooses to ignore her? What do I say about a man about whom I know next to nothing?

One day before Firefly's birth I sat down with Ms B and laid how T and I had approached our relationship with Puppy's first parents. Our priority has always been maintaining healthy relationships for Puppy. So our separate relationships with K and R are our business and their relationship with each other is their business--we don't take sides when there is friction between them and Puppy doesn't get put in the middle of anything. I told Ms B that we knew Firefly's dad hadn't done right by her. That we didn't want her to think that us wanting a relationship with him meant we condoned that or didn't care about it. Yet none of that changed the fact that Firefly still deserved to know him. The only thing we would expect from her would be to not to stand in the way if he ever started up a relationship with us.

It's not that cut and dried, of course. It's not like we can truly separate everyone into their own corners of our life. Ms B is the one who is becoming our friend, who vulnerably opened up her life to us--and who received us likewise. She's shown her commitment to this budding open adoption in myriad ways. Her opinions matter to us, including her opinions on Firefly's dad. Thinking about the way he treated her makes me angry. I think about what a slap in the face it could feel like to Ms B were we to welcome him when he has taken the opposite course as her in virtually every way.

Despite all that, my driving desire is to know him. I want to see his face and know what of my daughter's is there. I want to hear his voice, know his personality, learn his stories. I want her to grow up knowing the entirety of who she comes from, not just one-half. I hope she can know that even if he wasn't closely involved in her adoption that he acknowledges it--and acknowledges her.

I've seen a change in Ms B even in just the few weeks Firefly has been here. In the beginning she was almost determined to not see any of Firefly's first dad in her appearance and was skeptical about what value he could add to her life. But the last time we were visiting with her she pointed out several of his features in an appreciative way. And she made some comments about hoping that he reaches out and contacts us. I don't think it is because all is forgiven. Perhaps she's taking to heart the fact that Firefly needs to know we respect all of her biological roots, not just the half that comes from her first mom.

We know he has received some basic information about openness and has been told that his daughter's adoptive parents want an open adoption with him. Whether he heard that, or what it meant to him, I don't know. We know he's expressed anger over everything. I imagine that there might also be sadness, frustration, shame or fear. Part of me understands that and just wants the chance to introduce him to his incredible daughter. To tell him that in our minds he is family, because Firefly is our family and he is her family. Part of me want to stamp my foot and ask him how he could be so self-centered and immature.

I find this not-knowing unsettling. My personality type likes clarity and finishing points. I'm not good at not knowing where things stand. I'm searching for ways to live comfortably with the ambiguity, to not fix him into a stereotype in my mind. We've only just started this story, there is still much left to come. I'm definitely not ready to write him off yet.

This is a moment when advice is welcome.

April 15, 2008

Pay It Forward Book Giveaway Winner

I've pulled a number out of the virtual hat and the winner of the Pay It Forward book giveaway is commenter #12...Shawn & Lisa (who we all know is really Lisa). Congratulations! Send me an email with your mailing address and Alias Grace will be on its way to you.

April 13, 2008

Where Did My Week Go?

I don't really understand how this is possible, but I seem to have less bloggy time now that I am home on leave than when I was working. Okay, so maybe I know exactly how that is possible, but I'd rather not think about what it reveals about my work habits. Ahem.

Coming very soon, I promise: some thoughts about Firefly's first dad and a reader request.

In the meantime:
  • Some belated Easter cuteness is up at the not-so-secret blog (including a picture of Baby Me).

  • One day left to enter to win a copy of Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood. (The nice thing about entering a drawing on a tiny blog like mine is that your odds are always good!)

April 08, 2008

For T

When I walked into that blue house on the corner of 10th and Yale twelve years ago, I had no idea my life had just changed. I can still remember the first time I saw you standing by that ratty couch with the comic pages in your hand.

Lately it seems that one of us always has a child in our arms or some task calling us away. Thank you for believing with me that it won't always be this way and remaining the most gracious person I know. I find so much rest in you. Could there be a higher compliment at this stage in our lives?

Happy seventh anniversary, T. I still don't know how I got so lucky.

April 07, 2008


I sort of share an alma mater with Barack Obama, in that I graduated from the small college where he started his degree before transferring to Columbia. There was a decade between his departure and my arrival, but I feel a wee bit of connection all the same. (Still torn about how to cast my vote in May, though.) Two of my co-workers were students there when Obama was, and one remembers him from the year they lived in the same dorm. It is the fewest degrees of separation I've yet come from someone so close to the presidency. (T shook President Clinton's hand once during a Boy's State photo-op, but I don't know if that counts.)

By the time I enrolled, both the student body and the school's mission had shifted somewhat. The college was in the middle of a broad and often divisive effort to take up issues of race, ethnicity and culture in everything from admissions to faculty to student life to curriculum. To tweak a currently popular phrase, we were constantly in the middle of a campus-wide conversation on race. For a sheltered white girl from the Pacific Northwest, it was an eye-opening experience. I sometimes wonder what Obama would have thought of that version of our school, how it might have altered his experience there. But in any case it has been fun for me to see favorite former politics professors quoted in news stories and to imagine Obama sitting in the classrooms in which I spent so many hours, hearing the same lectures on community and American society and political theory. I picture him walking through the oak trees in the quad, eating under the beamed ceilings in the (now-demolished) dining hall and participating in typically clichéd late-night conversations in the dorm hallways. It makes him seem quite human in my mind.

Perhaps it's just my advancing age or becoming a parent, but I've been thinking lately about how powerful individuals were once school kids and college students. Their identities emerge over time and were I to come across them earlier in their lives I would likely never dream they would later have such influence. I lack the imagination to see greatness coming out of places--or people--which are familiar to me.

Perhaps it is that same lack of imagination, but I don't have big, specific aspirations for my kids. I think dreams belong to them to determine. But there is something heartening about feeling that the possible paths for their lives are still broad when mine seem to narrow with each passing year. And somehow knowing that a woman or a biracial man may soon hold the presidency makes my daughter's seem that much more expansive.

April 02, 2008

I Feel So Validated

You're welcome!

(Would you believe I was the number one search result for this on Google?)

April 01, 2008

Pay It Forward Book Giveaway

Way back in January I was the lucky winner of the monthly Pay It Forward book giveaway at A Wrung Sponge. In keeping with the spirit of the game, now it's my turn to send a book to one of you!

When I looked at my bookshelves to find something to offer up, my eye fell on the historical novel Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood (author of The Handmaid's Tale). Alias Grace uses as a starting point a true story from 1843 of a young Canadian housemaid convicted of murdering her employer and his mistress. Through the voices of several characters, Atwood reveals Grace's history and the ambiguous events leading up to the murders. The book is driven by one question throughout: did Grace really commit the murders? It's been quite awhile since I read it, but if my memory serves it is a rich, detailed novel well-suited for late-night reading.

Here's how the Pay It Forward book exchange is played:
  1. All you have to do to enter the giveaway is leave a comment on this post. I'll draw a name on April 15.
  2. If you're the lucky winner and you have your own blog I ask that you, in turn, host a drawing to give a book away for free to one of your readers. It can be something new you purchase for the occasion or a used favorite off of your shelves. If you're a non-blogger who has won the book, please consider donating a book to your local library or shelter after you're done with it.
The Pay It Forward Book Exchange is designed to encourage people to read, to share good books, to possibly get you out of your reading comfort zone, and to get fun stuff in the mail instead of just bills. So just leave a comment by April 15 if you'd like to be part of this drawing!
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