Last dance

April 2nd, 2020

Hi Friends:

When I started this blog in February 2010, I never imagined I’d still be at it ten years later. But I’m nothing if not dogged, so here I am.

Today is my last post on this web location.  Starting now, you can find my blog tab attached to my new website, jessicaodwyer.com.

Thanks for reading! See you there.

xoxo

 

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Week 2

March 23rd, 2020

I’ve been calling our situation here “homeschooling,” but “remote learning” is more accurate. Because at this point my kids are 17 and 15. Their work and study habits have been in place for a long time. If we don’t backslide too much, I’ll count that as a victory.

Of the the many jobs I’ve held over my lifetime, one of the most educational was teaching at a public high school in San Diego. My first full-time year, I taught American and British literature to 165 students in 9th and 12th grades. And let me tell you, I was overwhelmed.

There was so much information to transmit, and I didn’t feel experienced or capable enough to transmit it. Yes, I had a degree in English and had earned a California teaching credential. But what did I, a rank amateur, know about controlling classrooms filled with energetic, headstrong teenagers? Absolutely nothing.

Then one day, another teacher said something I never forgot: “If order is maintained, learning will occur.”

That’s the plan for this week.

Maintain a degree of order—what that looks like for us: get out of bed, eat breakfast, log in to classwork–and learning will occur. Not all learning, but some. Enough.

We’ll see how it goes.

Upside # 1: What’s great about order is that you get to break free of it. Once the job is done, of course. Here we are in the kitchen dancing to Jai Ho with Charlie.

Upside # 2: Charlie.

Stay safe, everyone. Xo

 

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Day 5

March 20th, 2020

Day 5 of homeschooling and sheltering in place.

First, we thought 2 weeks seemed impossible. (“Whaaaat?” we said. “How will we manage????”) Now, with no definite end in sight, 2 weeks is a nanosecond. We’re looking at a marathon, not sprint. A new normal.

“School” remains a work in progress. Assignments? Learning? At this point, I’m happy to see our kids standing vertically and changed out of pajamas. Don’t get me wrong: the school has been great; the teachers are on it. But in the interest of maintaining peace in our household, I’m taking the George Costanza approach: Serenity now.

Upside # 1: Tim is now working remotely and able to walk our dog, Charlie, with me. Charlie’s thrilled and so am I. Many of our neighbors are out walking, too. We keep our distances, chatting from six feet away, and comparing notes. Our daily goal is two walks with a total of 10,000 steps.

Upside # 2: Our Meyer lemon tree is the gift that keeps giving. Today I made lemon bars, from the best recipe ever. Omg, delicious. I’ve pasted the link here. Stay safe, everyone. Xoxo

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Adoption memoir by Anna Maria DiDio

March 19th, 2020

It’s hard to think about anything right now except staying safe and keeping loved ones close. But if you’re looking to distract yourself by reading, I suggest Love at the Border: An Adoption Memoir from Mexico, by adoptive mother Anna Maria DiDio.

When DiDio asked me to read her memoir a few weeks ago, I was happy to oblige. Adoption is my obsession, and I always learn from other people’s stories.

A quick summary: DiDio and her husband were parents to an eight-year-old biological daughter when they adopted seven-year-old Priscilla from an orphanage in Mexico. (To my knowledge, few children are adopted from Mexico today; this story began in the early 2000s.) Priscilla had spent her entire life in the orphanage before the DiDio family brought her to Pennsylvania. Challenges ensued. As DiDio observes about herself as an adoptive parent: “[H]ow much did I really know about Mexico and her experience?” (72). The answer, of course, for DiDio and every adoptive parent in the beginning, is “very little.” We learn as we go, with no preparation.

DiDio’s voice as a writer is candid. I finished her memoir with deep empathy toward Priscilla. DiDio makes clear that Priscilla never asked to be relinquished by her biological mother or separated from her orphanage caregivers–her only family for seven years. Priscilla never asked to be adopted. Throughout the book, Priscilla struggles while adjusting to the new life she never chose for herself. DiDio notes on page 217: “I think [Priscilla] wanted to love us, but still felt disloyal to Mexico.”

The narrative fascinated me, and two things stood out:

First, the added complexity of blending a family with biological and adopted children. This may not add complexity for every family, but it added complexity for the DiDios.

Second, the emotional impact of learning a new language. Priscilla resisted learning English and often asked her parents why they adopted her if they didn’t speak Spanish. The reason this stood out for me is because my kids have visceral, mostly negative responses to learning and speaking Spanish. The language seems weighted with meaning. In some ways, Spanish seems to symbolize something they have lost, or else symbolizes a skill they are expected (by the world) to have mastered. In any case, for children adopted across borders, language represents more than simply saying words.

Love at the Border is a thought-provoking addition to the canon of adoption memoirs. Nancy Verrier, author of The Primal Wound, writes in the book’s introduction,

“This is an honest account…of how important it is for the parents to try to understand the experience from the baby/child’s point of view…. These children, whether from a different country or not, are apt to be very different from the parents and it is important for the parents to notice, make room, and celebrate those differences” (v).

Verrier’s observations are true, and worth remembering.

 

 

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Corona

March 18th, 2020

I found this photo of me at our rented house in Antigua last summer. The world is so different now. Everything from before seems quaint and naive. My daily excursions to the artisan market. My crazy affection for handmade plastic baskets. Our carefree visits to restaurants and museums. Today, we’re grateful to breathe fresh air.

From March 16:

Day 1 of homeschooling and sheltering in place. Day 1 of many days to come. The school district said 2 weeks, but we’re anticipating much more time than that.

Upside # 1: We’ve discovered Downton Abbey. Which everyone in the world has watched, except us. Omg, every night, the joy!
Upside # 2: We’re all healthy, so far. That’s a big one, and we’ll take it.

From March 17:

Day 2 of homeschooling and sheltering in place. Our planned schedule of kids waking up at 8 and starting “school” by 9 are, shall we say, subject to change. Especially since it’s noon and one of our teenagers has only now gotten out of bed. Reminding myself: Flexibility in all things will be key.

How do we even try to keep life normal for our children? When they only want to see their friends and socialize. The latest news report is that schools will remain closed until the Fall. We’re not even through the first week.

What choice do we have, what control?

This will be an adventure.

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Momostenango

March 3rd, 2020

Recently, I returned from a 9-day visit to a region in Guatemala I’d never been: Momostenango in the department of Totonicapán, in the western highlands of Guatemala. Wow. WOW. Momos is about 25 miles north of Quetzaltenango, the largest close city, and a short drive from San Francisco El Alto, generally regarded as the country’s most authentic market.

We were a small group of 5, plus our leader, Liza Fourre, and spiritual guide, Juana X. This is my second trip with Liza, who founded and runs “Art Workshops of Guatemala.” My first trip was a weaving tour to artisans in Nebaj and the Ixil area. The focus this time was on the Maya New Year on January 25, known as Wajshika B’atz, and observed traditionally in Momos.

I don’t have any photos of the New Year observances themselves. The ceremonies are sacred, and I wasn’t able to take pictures. But I have photos of the rest of the trip. Many. I’m posting only a few here.

Once again, we visited artisans. I bought two blankets from the weaver sitting at the loom, and have been sleeping under one of them. Soundest sleep of my life!

Momos is known for its unique rock formations called “riscos.” A friendly passerby snapped our pic.

The other photos are of the market at San Francisco El Alto. I’d heard it was amazing, and it was. The animals alone. But what’s most interesting is the construction. Everywhere! Big cement buildings going up on every inch of land, a marked contrast to still-standing adobe homes. ❤️

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My debut novel

March 2nd, 2020

 

Seven years is a long time to dedicate to writing a novel. But when you’re as obsessed with a subject as I am–Guatemala, adoption, the complexity of family–seven years passes like a blur. You put down words on a page, and then more words. Words become phrases, sentences, paragraphs. Until one day, seven years and a million rewrites later, you have a book.

Which, in my case, will be published by Apprentice House Press of Loyola University Maryland, in October 2020.

Yes, my debut novel has found a home! The title is Mother Mother. Here’s a short description:

A California woman searches for her son’s Guatemalan birth mother and discovers his adoption was based on a lie. In this tale told from two perspectives, both mothers grapple with power and race, deception and love as they reckon with their life choices.

I’m still can’t believe this is happening. After so many years!

If you’re reading this, thank you. It’s been a long road.  xo

 

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Antigua bus depot

January 13th, 2020

Behind the tourist market in Antigua, Guatemala is the bus depot. If you haven’t already seen these mobile works of art, check them out next time you’re in town. The designs are glorious.

While you’re at it, slip in to the municipal Mercado, where the locals shop for flowers, shoes, candles, baskets, meats, chicken, beans and rice, electronics, ceramics, clothes, kitchenware. There’s always something to see.

Missing my happy place. xoxo

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New Year 2020

January 5th, 2020

Happy New Year, friends! This year, I’m going to try hard to follow my own advice, which is “Parent the child you have.” I don’t know where I first heard these words, but as soon as I did, I knew they were gold. Or gold for me.

The idea to parent the child I have has been allowing me to step back, take a breath, and pause before speaking or acting. To not impose on someone else my preconceived idea of the “way things should be.”

One of the greatest mysteries and most intense joys of adoption has been discovering who my children are. Who they must be. Who they will be.

My children are not me. They are some of me, sometimes. But mostly, they are themselves. I love and try to guide them. I catch them when they fall. I witness their unfolding. ❤️

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“What’s the buzz?”

December 18th, 2019

I love how music brings you right back to a place. We drove down to San Jose to see the 50th anniversary tour of Jesus Christ Superstar and I was at St. Mary’s school in West Deal, NJ, in Mr. Gironda’s music class listening to the album, over and over, the first “rock opera.”

That score, those lyrics. Mr. Gironda’s grand production. Everybody in town was in it. Everybody singing “What’s the buzz?”

Sitting in San Jose, I remembered every note, every word. Such an alive, vibrant production. My kids were transfixed, and I, transported. Love when that happens. xoxo

 

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