January 31, 2010

Medius Aevum

Today is my birthday! I turned 35, thus joining the 35-54 year old demographic group. Next step: senior citizen-hood. This morning we took the kids out to brunch at our neighborhood diner and a walk by the river. Now I get to curl up with a cup of tea and a new book (reading in the middle of the day!) before dinner at my parents' house.

I've been remembering back to ten years ago a lot this week. Twenty-five was the closing year of a certain phase of my life in many ways. At 26 I would marry, move, return to grad school, and decide that what was looking to be a promising career just wasn't what I wanted to be doing for the rest of my working life. I was 26 when the symptoms of a chronic condition started making themselves apparent and when it began to sink in that fertility wasn't going to be a straight, easy road for me. Twenty-five belongs to my "before" in so very many respects. And although the promise of that "anything is possible" feeling which belonged to that time was so exhilarating, I like being on the other side of it, too.

If you had asked me at 25 what I thought my 35-year old self would be like, what my life would look like, I'm not sure what I would have said. I know it would have included Todd. Beyond that, who knew? But, my word, has it played out in lovely and wonderful ways. I may be one step removed from retirement in the eyes according to the great gods of demographics, but it sure feels to me like there is an enormous amount left to be played out. And maybe we'll all still be here at this blog to find out what my 45 will be like.

    January 26, 2010

    Open Adoption Roundtable #13

    The Open Adoption Roundtable is a series of occasional writing prompts about open adoption. It's designed to showcase of the diversity of thought and experience in the open adoption community. You don't need to be part of the Open Adoption Bloggers list to participate, or even be in a traditional open adoption. If you're thinking about openness in adoption, you have a place at the table.

    Publish your response during the next two weeks--linking back here so we can all find one other--and leave a link to your post in the comments. If you don't blog, you can always leave your thoughts directly in the comments.

    Note from Heather: I'm happy to turn this round over to the wonderful Andy of Today's the Day!, whose compassionate insight I've welcomed over the years. Andy knows adoption from two perspectives: she is an adoptive mom to six-year old Liam and an adoptee who reunited with her first mother in adulthood. Today she has us thinking about what to do when perspectives clash in open adoption. It's a hard topic, isn't it? I know I often hear of loved ones disagreeing about how much openness is too much (or too little). If you've experienced this in your open adoption(s), I hope you'll participate, even if you don't feel like you have any answers yet. Sometimes just knowing other people have similar experiences can be encouragement enough.


    We often hear about open adoptions where the two sides don't want the same level of openness. First mothers who don't get updates as often as they would like, or not as many visits each year. Or adoptive parents who want to include their child's first mother in his life, but she is not ready.

    But what we don't often discuss is when people on the same side of the triad can't agree on the level of openness in an adoption.
    • It could be a wife who wants a fully open adoption but the husband only wants to send letters once a year.
    • Or a first mother isn't ready for an open adoption but the first father wants to be part of the baby's life.
    • Maybe a spouse isn't supportive of their partner entering into reunion with their first mother.
    • Or a partner who came along after the adoption and isn't comfortable with your relationship with your placed child.
    • And the classic Hallmark movie of the year scenario: Your mother-in-law is convinced that the baby will be snatched away from under your nose if you have an open adoption.
    How would/do you navigate these situations? Does your current relationship impact the type of open adoption that you have? How does this affect your current relationship?


    The Responses:

    • Thanksgivingmom @ I Really Should be Working shares with us how Open Adoption affects her current relationships with people in her life who don't even know about the adoption yet.

    • Andy @ Today's the Day explores how 2 people with different life experiences can come together as a couple when discussing Open Adoption.

    • Tammy @ You Just Never Know Where Hope Might Take Ya discusses how having her and her husband on the same page with their Open Adoption has helped their extended families build relationships with their child's first family.

    • Jess @ The Problem with Hope looks at how it can be difficult to explain Open Adoption to people who have no experience with it at all.

    • Susie @ Endure for a Night talks about how placing her child for adoption" has effectively ended my relationship with that side of the family" and that her husband (who is also the child's first father) isn't always ready to look at pictures when they receive them

    • KatjaMichelle @ Therapy is Expensive shares how she navigated open adoption with her child’s first father, both while they were still together, and after they broke up. She also examines how subsequent relationships have been affected by adoption.

    • Rebeccah @ Chasing a Child is disputing the level openness with a twist… she is disputing with herself.

    • Robyn @ Adoption.com’s Domestic Infant adoption blog feels like she is hiding the fact that her son is a big brother because her family isn’t understanding of Open Adoption

    • Spyderkl @ Evil Mommy has had “less then enthusiastic {response} about sharing identifying information” from both family and social worker. Go read how she has navigated that and has an open adoption today.

    • Ginger @ Shattered Glass and her current SO, who is also the children’s bio-father, have “polar opposite” feelings about how to handle open adoption.

    • shannan @ Joe And Sha Blog writes a post about all the wonderful things that open adoption has given her, her children and the children’s first mothers. She shares these stories to help the people in her life understand that OA isn’t something to be afraid of.

    • Maura @ Adoption Journey expresses her frustration of always having to educate people that Birthmother’s are not all plotting on how to steal the baby back just because they have an open adoption.

    • A @ A+A Adopt a Baby has an amazing community of friends and family, that may not fully understand or agree with Open Adoption, but they respect A+A’s choices.

    • Meghann @ Adoption.com's Open Adoption Blog shares how she invites discussion about open adoption, even with those who disagree, to help "the person understands this life we’ve chosen a little better."
    • Anonadoptee @ The adopted Feminist was one of the children in the first legally binding open adoptions in the UK. Now as an adult, she offers invaluable wisdom and thought into how her open adoption ended up being all about the adults, and not about the children. She offers this great insight: "I guess the point of this post is make sure you know what your children want."

    January 25, 2010

    For This Season

    I'm pretty sure I've written before about the idea of relationships as potted plants. (Yep.) It's a simple image and goes something like this: Potting a plant takes a bit of thought and fussing the beginning. You need to select the right size pot, think about the soil mix, find just the right sunny spot for it. As it grows, you need to supply its basic needs: water it regularly, fertilize it every now and then, watch for signs it might be faltering. But for the most part, you need to let it be. Give it time to grow and thrive. If you're constantly pulling it out of the pot to study its roots, the plant will eventually die.

    A relationship is the same way. It needs regular care and attention, perhaps at times a little extra love or some pruning. But most of all it needs to be left in the pot to grow. Constantly uprooting it in the name of analysis can do more harm than good.

    Sometimes you just need to leave the plant in the pot.

    As I thought about the latest Open Adoption Roundtable prompt about commitments for 2010, the potted plant kept pushing its way to the front of my mind. Our relationships with the kids' four first parents are in four very different places right now. With some, we have a good basis of honesty and mutual respect. We enjoy our times together and--most importantly--the kids are developing familiar, good connections with them. With others, frankly the past year or so has brought a lot of confusion, disappointment and frustration.

    I'm an analyzer and thinker. I'm driven to understand why things happen, why people make the decisions they do, what motivates the words they say and write. That's certainly been true for me in our open adoptions. But lately my gut has been telling me to quit peering at the roots so much. That doesn't mean going passive or pulling back. We'll continue to initiate and interact, continue to value their important place in our children's lives. But, for now, there won't be much root analysis. The relationships that are flourishing will get room and time to grow; we'll trust the roots are there. With the relationships that are struggling, I'll try to accept that I may never fully understand why--and that there seems to be precious little Todd and I can do to change what's happening.  Whatever is going for them (and myriad possibilities have spun fruitlessly through my mind), it seems to be something they need to work through on their own. It's a hard thing for me to face, partly because I know I'm imperfect and worry that I'm blind to some shortcoming of my own that's causing the relationships to stumble. But the hardest thing about it, by far, is witnessing how it affects the kid(s). I want protect them from the hurt, and I can't. I can't even offer an explanation.

    Imperfect as Todd and I are, we really tried our best to give each of the relationships a good start, putting a lot of thought and energy into the pots and soil, so to speak. That's just our job as adoptive parents. Some seem to be sprouting up beautiful and strong and others are having a tougher time. But yanking out the plants again and again to examine the roots isn't going to help right now.  All we can do is continue to nurture them as best we can, and see what grows or doesn't.

    January 20, 2010

    Ack. Again, I Say, Ack

    I seem to have run smack into some sort of giant blogging wall. A wall built out of bricks made from winter-writer's-block and too-much-going-on.

    Bullet points it is, then:
    • I'm part of a small group at Big Church that meets to study justice issues. One of our most recent topics was global human trafficking and I tossed some of the current ethical challenges in international adoption into the discussion. People asked some good questions. I get used to the defensiveness that so often characterizes online discussions about adoption ethics (on all sides of the issue), but I've found that in-person conversations almost never take that tone. Has that been true for any of you?

    • I'm 98% sure we're taking the plunge into nanny-land soon. We've been fielding applicants for a couple of weeks and had one of them out for a second interview on Monday to play with the kids. Firefly and Puppy thought she was fantastic, which probably sealed the deal for her. Firefly was even fine with being left alone in a room with her within minutes of meeting her, which--as those of you who have met Firefly know--is something just short of a miracle.

      I'm not entirely sure why it seems so different to hire someone to care for our kids here at our home vs. paying someone who runs a small home daycare (our current set-up), but I feel awfully bourgeois. I am also dreading the break-up conversation with our current babysitter. I can't see any way she won't take our leaving personally, although the truth is that we just need more flexibility than she can provide. When someone is caring for your children, it's so much more than a business relationship.

    • Our open adoption blogroll got a plug in Agency #2's quarterly newsletter. We're hitting the big time, friends! (Heh.) It was a nice surprise to see it there.

    January 13, 2010

    I Love the Internet

    Reason the first:

    The other week I ended up on a food blog that was linked in a post that I was reading because it was listed as a related post at the bottom of yet another post shared by someone I follow in Google Reader. (Got all that? Social networking at its finest.) The upshot is that I was left with a recipe for snowy sugared cranberries: tart fresh cranberries tossed with tooth-achingly sweet mixture of honey, sugar, and vanilla.

    The Pupster and I made a batch last week. And then I ate them all. I am in love. They fall right in line with my penchant for Lemonheads, Sour Patch Kids, Sweetarts and other such lovelies. Only I can pretend these are healthy. They do involve fruit, after all.

    You'll have to take my word for it that they're pretty little goobers, too, all red and white. I overstirred mine a bit and they weren't as attractive as they could have been, so clearly I need to make another batch to perfect my technique.

    Reason the second:

    While I nibbled gorged on my snowy cranberries, Todd and I watched a new adoption documentary, Off and Running: An American Coming of Age Story. I was super happy when the filmakers offered to send us (among other bloggers) a screener, because I was really intrigued by what I had heard about the film and knew there was zero chance I would get to see it when it premieres in New York this month.

    The official synopsis:
    With white Jewish lesbians for parents and two adopted brothers — one mixed-race and one Korean—Brooklyn teen Avery grew up in a unique and loving household. But when her curiosity about her African-American roots grows, she decides to contact her birth mother. This choice propels Avery into her own complicated exploration of race, identity, and family that threatens to distance her from the parents she’s always known. She begins staying away from home, starts skipping school, and risks losing her shot at the college track career she had always dreamed of. But when Avery decides to pick up the pieces of her life and make sense of her identity, the results are inspiring. OFF AND RUNNING follows Avery to the brink of adulthood, exploring the strength of family bonds and the lengths people must go to become themselves.
    It is difficult to talk about it without giving too much away about how the story unfolds over the course of the film. It was a powerful film, powerful because the story was allowed to be messy, for lack of a better word. No one is perfect and no one is a villain; I was constantly alternating between cringing and sympathy, or experiencing both simultaneously. Everything is complicated: figuring out who you are in the middle of transracial adoption, navigating a fragile reunion, parenting a struggling teen, the interplay between her approach to searching and identity formation and that of her older brother's.  Sometimes personal narrative focuses in on a narrow slice of a broader topic (like adoption), gives us one pinpoint of experience; this narrative turned outward to touch on larger questions about just what responsibilities we have to ourselves and to others in adoption, especially adoption across racial and cultural lines.

    Avery, the young woman at the center of the documentary, was intimately involved in the documentary process and actually ended up with a screenwriting credit. I didn't realize that until we were watching the credits, but I think it really comes through in how present her voice is in the film.

    The film is showing for a week in New York beginning January 29, then at film festivals in Denver and San Diego in February. You can look at the film's website or follow it on Twitter to find out where else it may play. I hope it makes its way to public television or becomes available on Netflix or something so that more folks get a chance to watch it. Definitely recommended.

    ETA: It's going to air on the PBS series P.O.V. sometime this year.

    A special note for my friends at the FTC and BlogHer: I was sent a marked preview copy of the documentary that, as far as I know, has little or no retail value. I was not compensated in any other way.

    January 06, 2010

    This One is For Mama2roo, Megan and Rebecca

    So a few of my bloggy friends requested details of The Brush Incident. It more or less boils down to: I am a giant dork. With the hair-styling aptitude of a five-year old.

    I fear I exaggerated a bit. It was only in my hair for six hours. The last hour was spent trying to work the resultant knot out of my hair. But, really, I should start at the beginning, such as it is.

    It begins with dashing in to a drug store on the way out of town to replace a broken brush. Can't find an exact replacement, but one round brush is like another, yes? (No.)

    While wriggling the brush free of its little plastic holder, I notice that the back tells you not to wind the hair more than 3/4 of the way around the brush, to prevent tangling. Pffft, think I, dismissing it as the equivalent of the "Contents are HOT" warning on coffee cups. Proceed to wind up a good size section of hair all the way from ends to roots (in the front of my head, of course) while drying my hair.

    And then it was stuck. Just like that. As if encased in cement. Would. Not. Budge.

    The next six hours are a bit of a blur, mostly of me doing everything I could think of to try and set the brush free, first in the hotel room until check-out forced us out, then in the car and parking lot as we searched for manicure scissors in ridiculously tiny coastal towns, and finally on the ride home. There were furtive dashes across parking lots with my hood pulled up to (unsuccessfully) hide the brush dangling charmingly along the side of my face. An bristle-ectomy that I abruptly aborted when I freaked out over little 2-inch sections of hair that were cut off along with some bristles (ah, if only I knew what was coming). I managed to work it a few inches down my hair over all that time, just enough to keep me believing that I would somehow be able to work it all the way free.

    We had recently watched Julie & Julia* and I kept thinking that Julia Child would have laughed heartily at herself and chopped off the hair with a pair of (exquisite, French) kitchen shears. It turns out I am no Julia Child.

    To answer Mama2roo's question, I never did reach the "F it, cut it out!" stage. I don't have a ton of hair, so it's hard to hide anything, and I couldn't bear the thought of a one-inch chunk sticking out. I eventually admitted defeat and took Todd up on his offer to try and remove the brush. I closed my eyes and he did something that I don't want to know about and it was out, leaving an enormous knot behind. I worked at the knot with loads of conditioner and my fingers for what felt like forever. I got the knot out, but it turned into a little pile of long, very well conditioned strands of hair that were no longer attached to my head. And a spot on my head that is still sore.

    Then I turned into a weeping, apologetic mess for having ruined the whole day.


    * This has nothing to do with anything, but watching the movie sent me browsing through the blog that spawned the book that became the movie. I was floored by how non-anonymous her blog was. You know her name, her employer, her husband's employer, the street they live on, the business underneath their apartment. The internet was a different world in 2002.

    January 05, 2010

    Open Adoption Roundtable #12

    The Open Adoption Roundtable is a series of occasional writing prompts about open adoption. It's designed to showcase of the diversity of thought and experience in the open adoption community. You don't need to be part of the Open Adoption Bloggers list to participate, or even be in a traditional open adoption. If you're thinking about openness in adoption, you have a place at the table.

    Publish your response during the next two weeks--linking back here so we can all find one other--and leave a link to your post in the comments. If you don't blog, you can always leave your thoughts directly in the comments.

    A number of bloggers have written about their open adoption resolutions or hopes for the coming year, but Debbie gets credit for suggesting it as a roundtable topic. And a great suggestion it is! Open adoption is all about relationships, after all. Most every relationship can benefit from periodically taking a step back and thinking about emotional or practical changes we'd like to make as we care for others and ourselves.

    Call them resolutions, commitments, changes, or choices--how will you be proactive in the area of open adoption in 2010?

    The responses:

    January 03, 2010

    I Can't Believe I'm About To Tell You This

    The first day of our jaunt was really quite nice.

    The second day--oh, friends, the second day. The second day I got a brush stuck in my hair.

    For seven hours.

    There was a brush. In my hair. FOR SEVEN HOURS.

    Please, for the love of all that is holy, tell me that one of you has done something more ridiculously stupid than that. Please.

    We eventually got the brush out, although I ended up losing a chunk of my hair. Would that I could go back to the beginning, lose the hair, and get the seven hours back. Ah, well.

    If ever there were a day for a three beautiful things post, it is this.

    1. Tonight we baked a peach pie that I had frozen this summer, made of peaches we picked as a family one afternoon. It was so perfectly peachy I almost cried. Every bite was like a burst of warm sunshine.

    2. My husband still loves me, even though I ruined the second day of our vacation. I made him a three-pound monstrosity of a meatloaf tonight as part of my attempt to make amends. With two different meats! Meatloaf is his love language.

    3. The smiles and hugs from the kids when we returned home were utterly delicious.

    January 01, 2010

    Internet Free

    I'm heading out for a couple days away with the husband--just the husband!--so I won't be answering emails or comments for a bit. Enjoy your three-day weekend!
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