Article on recent influx of young migrants

July 15th, 2014

The recent large influx of young migrants from Guatemala has been the subject of heated debate among adoptive parents on one of the adoption chat boards to which I belong. Someone posted a link to this article by Saul Elbein in The New Republic, “Guatemalans Aren’t Just Fleeing Gangs: The media misses what life there is really like.” The article is one of the best I’ve read anywhere. The piece encapsulates sentiments many of us have heard said by Guatemalans, from all strata of society.

Thanks for reading.

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Book about Guatemala’s armed conflict, “Escaping the Fire”

July 13th, 2014

Related to the Washington Post article about the documentary When the Mountains Tremble, posted on July 7: I recently read a memoir titled Escaping the Fire that I recommend to anyone interested in Guatemala’s armed conflict. It’s a testimonial by an Ixil Evangelical pastor, Tomas Guzaro, as written by an American who has lived with her family for many years in Guatemala’s Ixil region, Terri McComb. David Stoll contributed the book’s Afterward.

The book is fascinating for two reasons: First, because it describes Tomas Guzaro’s evolution from Mayan priest, to leader in the Catholic faith, to Evangelical pastor. (Evangelical churches are everywhere in Guatemala, particularly in areas affected by the armed conflict). And second, because in excruciating detail, Tomas Guzaro recounts the experience of his town of Salquil being caught in the crossfire between the Guatemalan army and leftist guerrillas, and how and why that caused Guzaro to lead 200 fellow Mayas from Salquil to the relative safety of army territory. Here’s the link on Amazon.

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“My Mother, the Rockette”

July 11th, 2014

A few months ago, a friend told me about a phenomenon founded by Ann Img called Listen To Your Mother, in which writers submit essays about any and all facets of motherhood or mothering, and read the pieces aloud on stages in 32 cities across the country. The official description is “A national series of orginal live readings shared locally on stages and globally via social media.”

I submitted an essay about my mom, “My Mother, the Rockette,” and was thrilled when the producers in my region, Kim Thompson Steel and Kirsten Nicholson Patel, chose me to read it for the May 2014 performance at the Brava Theater in San Francisco. The evening’s show, including my reading, is posted on on the Listen To Your Mother YouTube channel.

I urge you to check out the Listen To Your Mother website for information about next year’s auditions. The experience was challenging, positive, and fun from start to finish. Try out if you can! Or look for a live performance. Hope you enjoy!

My Mother, the Rockette on YouTube.

Image credit: Damian Steel

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No samba tonight

July 8th, 2014

We’re weeping for Brazil here. Olivia now is a fan after watching the World Cup in Guatemala, where in the most remote hamlet, tienda, restaurant, or cafe, Guatemalans cheered: “Brasil! Brasil!” Every transistor radio, every TV set, tuned, round the clock, three games a day. FIFA! Futbol! Absolute soccer madness, contagious.

In the photo above, taken during our most recent trip to Guatemala, crowds cluster outside a coffee house in Antigua with a large-screen TV: they’re non-paying customers content to watch the contest from afar.

Can somebody say “Gooooooaaaalllllll!”? We’re converted.

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Filmmaker to amend “When the Mountains Tremble”

July 7th, 2014

I’m probably not the only person who watched and was very affected by Pamela Yates’ 1983 documentary, “When the Mountains Tremble.” Narrated by Rigoberta Menchu, the film contains graphic scenes of violence and terror as it was inflicted by the Guatemalan military on the people of Guatemala.

This article in the Washington Post describes how filmmaker Yates plans to amend the film to show that a scene showing survivors of a massacre in the town of Batzul, which the film attributes to the military, was actually committed by guerrillas disguised as soldiers.

From the article: “Long viewed as one-sided repression by the brutal governments of the time, the 1960-96 civil war that claimed about 200,000 lives now is being recognized as more complex….

David Stoll, an anthropology professor at Middlebury College who has worked extensively in Guatemala, said that Yates’ original depiction of the Batzul massacre could be attributed to the ‘fog of war.’”

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Guatemala! June 2014

July 6th, 2014

This past June, Olivia, my sister, and I spent three weeks in Guatemala. The first week and a half, we traveled around Lake Atitlan and its environs, and the second week and a  half, we rented a house in Antigua with five other people. And every single day, we ran into, chatted or dined with, members of many adoptive families who were also visiting the beautiful country of their beloved children’s birth. Families from California, Iowa, Ohio, New Mexico, Indiana, New York, Minnesota, New Mexico, Massachusetts, and other states across the map. (Canada, too!)

All of us were there to keep our children connected to their first home, and very often, first families. We shared our histories and stories, our challenges and our hopes. I’m always proud to be a mother through adoption, but never so much as when I share the experience with other adoptive moms, dads, and kids in that extraordinary place: Guatemala.

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The case of Encarnacion Bail Romero ends

July 2nd, 2014

The Supreme Court has refused to hear the case filed by Guatemalan national Encarnacion Bail Romero, regarding the adoption of her biological son by Seth and Melinda Moser, ending a custody battle that has raged for nearly seven years. Reports CBS News from Carthage, Missouri:

CARTHAGE, Mo. — The U.S. Supreme Court has refused to hear a Carthage, Missouri adoption case.

This appears to be the end of a long case that began when an undocumented woman from Guatemala petitioned to regain her parental rights… The custody battle for Melinda Moser and her family is believed to be over according to attorneys in the case.

Moser is the adoptive mother of 7-year old Jamison Moser and for nearly seven years she’s fought to keep custody.

All the while, Jamison’s biological mother tried to use the courts to regain custody of her son.

A relieved Moser recalls the experiences. “Kind of like people probably that suffer with a terminal illness, you never know which day will be your last. “

Jamison’s biological mother,  Encarnacion Romero, had been arrested during an immigration raid and was later convicted of identity theft.

After leaving federal prison in 2009, Romero filed to overturn the adoption case and won.

The Mosers appealed to the Missouri Supreme Court, that reversed the lower court’s decision.

What’s to be said regarding news like this? As adoptive mother, I cried when I read the decision, identifying strongly with the struggle endured by Melinda and Seth Moser. But that doesn’t mean I can’t imagine the pain and loss felt by  Encarnacion Bail Romero. I do.

Nothing about adoption is simple. Especially this time.

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Annual gathering

May 29th, 2014

Memorial Day weekend we hosted our annual barbeque/pot luck for adoptive families with children born in Guatemala. This is our third year hosting this particular party, and in addition to our 65 or so regular guests, several new families attended. How many people, I don’t know. Many! A lot!

People eating on the back decks, chatting in the living room, jumping on the trampoline. In the sun, in the shade, upstairs, downstairs. As we adults visited and caught up, we were thrilled to watch our children run together in packs. The way they “know” each other, recognize each other in a deep way. Even the new kids were absorbed right in. “You’re from Guatemala and you’re adopted? Immediate membership!” This annual party is one of the best days of our year.

Adoption has changed our lives in ways we never anticipated. Am I “grateful”? You bet.

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“You’re Not My Real Mother”

May 20th, 2014

I’ve been away for a while–mentally if not physically–but now I’m back. Tina Traster, author the new memoir Rescuing Julia Twice, which I read and admired and should write about, eventually, has penned an essay on the NY Times Motherlode blog, “You’re Not My Real Mother.”

I hope you read Tina’s essay, and the many comments it elicited, including this one, written by me:

Dear Tina,

I appreciate your honesty in sharing your story and reaction. As an adoptive mom to two tweens born in Guatemala, with a large circle of friends who are adoptive moms, I can assure you that your daughter’s statement is normal, on-track developmentally, and–based on my conversations with my adoptive mom friends–inevitable.

We searched for and found both our kids’ birth mothers. Seeing my children with their other moms helps me remember they have a history that started before me, and another family who shares their blood. Maybe it’s that realization that helps me take the “You’re not my real mother!” comment, if not in stride, then with deep empathy. All our kids have suffered loss.

I think your daughter’s comment is beautiful. It shows she trusts you enough to know you’re not going anywhere. That you are her mother forever.

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The Happiness Project continued

April 30th, 2014

A while back, I wrote about Gretchen Rubin’s book, “The Happiness Project.” As I recounted here, Gretchen’s first few chapters motivated me to clear psychological space in my life by de-cluttering and organizing the physical space around me—i.e., our home.

The task was harder than it appeared because since the year 2002, my life has felt a little out of control. My husband and I got married, and a few months later, the roller coaster ride began: The paper chase of adopting our daughter, my moving to Antigua to expedite the process, our daughter adjusting to living with us in California, adopting our son, my starting to write about our experiences, my husband authoring two text books and traveling for his job, our searching for and finding our children’s birth moms. Navigating schools, going to Heritage Camp, trying to learn Spanish, maintaining family connections in Guatemala. Plus all the ancillary activities associated with rearing two wonderful children with their own individual needs.

The next thing I knew, a decade had passed, and our rooms in the basement–including my office—were filled with so much stuff you couldn’t take a step without tripping over a suitcase, mound of papers, or woven basket or textile.

Enough!

With Gretchen’s book in hand, I vowed to tackle the  de-cluttering task, one pile at a time. Months followed in which I schlepped bags of outgrown clothes, shoes, and toys to the Salvation Army and Goodwill; carried cartons of books to our local library; and hauled down duffel bags of gently used items to orphanages in Guatemala. At last I could close my closet. The surface of my desk reappeared.

But one area remained untouched. The photographs. Envelopes and folders and bins of them. Could I make order of that chaos?

Then a friend on Facebook suggested I begin with today—the most recent event—and organize those photos first. Work backwards, she said. Start with now.

This was excellent advice, and I recommend it to anyone daunted by their own surplus of pictures. Using a web-based program, I assembled photo books of our trips to North Carolina and Virginia and Boston and Maine, and will begin another of our family sojourn this month to New York City.

Side note: Thankfully, I’ve consistently created albums of visits with our kids’ birth families. Each year we return to Guatemala, I present photos from our previous year’s visit to our Guatemalan family, a lovely way to reconnect and document our history together.

But before I let myself off the hook completely, I must admit to a major shortcoming: School pictures. During the years our kids have been in school, I have framed not a single image. Not the impossibly cute pix from preschool, or the portraits with impish smiles revealing missing teeth.

So last weekend, when my husband was away on a business trip, and the kids slept late, I rooted through the photos and excavated the distinctive school picture packages. Triumphantly, I returned upstairs, spread my loot on the dining room table, and woke up the kids.

“Here’s today’s project,” I said. “We organize these pictures.”

“Where did you get these?” they exclaimed. “I can’t believe how young we look!”

And that, friends, was our weekend. After breakfast, we drove to Ikea, where we purchased two cases of simple and inexpensive black wooden frames. Following a hearty lunch, we embarked on an afternoon session of matting and framing. By nightfall, the portraits sat in a long row on our dining room table, and we stood and admired the changes in Olivia and Mateo. How beautiful and handsome they have become. How strong and healthy.

Gretchen Rubin was right. I do feel happier.

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