forever friends

June 16th, 2018

Olivia and Mateo are in Boston with my wonderful sister Deanna and her family while I’m in Los Angeles for my fourth MFA residency at Antioch. Here they are with forever friends–in 2012, and today. I love our GuatAdopt community. xoxo

 

 

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Fuego and Pacaya

June 4th, 2018

The footage of Volcano Fuego erupting is mind-boggling. The latest reports state at least 25 dead and hundreds injured. Aurora International Airport is closed, and for miles beyond the lava flow, ash blankets roads, trees, and houses. Our family in Guatemala is safe, thankfully, but so many are not.

Guatemala is home to some thirty volcanoes. As I’ve previously posted, Mateo and I have climbed Pacaya several times; the photos here are from our trip in October 2015. Pacaya is known as “safe” to climb, unlike the mighty and active Fuego, whose name means fire.

Guatemala always is in our thoughts, now especially.

 

 

 

 

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Annual gathering of GuateAdopt families

May 30th, 2018

Here I am at the front door in my huipil from Coban, Guatemala, as our first guests arrive for our annual party for adoptive families with children from Guatemala. Our community is what makes this party amazing. About one hundred people attend: Kids everywhere, while parents share stories, fellowship, and food.

I’m always happy when I read about other folks/organizations around the country also hosting gatherings. It’s very special to watch our kids grow up together while we grow as parents. We love our community!

photo by Susan Hurst.

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St. Louis families in reunion

May 22nd, 2018

I’m posting here a fascinating and important TV clip about families in St. Louis who are connecting with birth family in Guatemala via DNA testing and social media. The desire to know who you are, your roots, your blood–that feels hard-wired to me. And with social media, the internet, and DNA test kits so available, everything is possible. Sending best wishes to the beautiful families profiled here. xoxo

PS: IMHO, the Fox News commentary about Guatemala is a little one-dimensional. This may be because I visit the country often and view it through a more faceted lens. But overall, I applaud this segment for calling attention to the fact that many adoptive families are in reunion. In my own family, my kids feel lots of emotions around knowing their birth mothers, but one of the strongest is relief. Relief to know their mothers’ stories–the reasons why they made the decisions they made–and relief to know they are loved. I believe the same is true for their mothers in Guatemala. They no longer wonder and worry. They know their children are safe and loved.

Note: We hired trusted searchers to find our children’s mothers. The searchers are culturally sensitive and aware, able to help us navigate.

Reunion is a complicated responsibility. There’s not a day I regret having taken the first step.

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Interview on birth country connection

May 9th, 2018

A week or so ago I posted about Sliding Into Home, the new YA novel by my friend and fellow Guatmama Nina Vincent. One of the themes in Nina’s book is connection to birth country. Nina interviewed me on the subject, posted today on her blog. Thanks, Nina!

Here’s an excerpt:

NV  I know that you have made it a point to have your children learn Spanish. Can you talk a little bit about why you felt that was important?

JO’D  The first year we went to Latin American Heritage Camp in Colorado, we attended a panel discussion led by young adults who’d been adopted from Central and South America. The audience was filled with adoptive parents and the question was asked, “What’s your advice for us? What’s one thing you’d like us to know?” And to a panelist, each of these young adults said, “Teach your children Spanish. Even if your kids rebel and resist. Keep trying.”

Language is power. It’s the way we connect with one another. You’ve heard the expression: “We speak the same language.” When we go to Guatemala, it’s great to be able to communicate directly with people. Speaking another person’s language often leads to deeper understanding of that person.

What’s interesting is the way my kids’ attitude toward Spanish has evolved. When they were younger, they studied the language because they didn’t have a choice. They took Spanish in school; they studied for a month every summer in Guatemala; and for five years, Olivia attended a two-week Spanish immersion camp in Minnesota (Concordia).

All that learning was directed by us, their parents.

But as teenagers, they’re out in the world as independent operators. Because of the way they look, strangers start speaking to them in Spanish. Kids at school who are bilingual speak to them in Spanish. My kids want to speak Spanish if only because everyone assumes they do. To become fluent is their goal now, not mine.

And let’s face it, being able to speak another language is totally cool.

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To finish and to begin

May 4th, 2018

One day this March when I was in Guatemala, four of us hiked up a mountain near Antigua. The hike is a favorite of my friend, Wende, an American who has lived and worked in Guatemala for decades; she and her husband, Jeff, raised their three children there.

It was Wende’s idea to read a poem after the hike, and she chose one by Irish poet John O’Donohue, For a New Beginning. We each took a stanza and the poem unfolded that way, in our different voices.

I was lucky to read the first verse:

“In out-of-the-way places of the heart,
Where your thoughts never think to wander,
This beginning has been quietly forming,
Waiting until you were ready to emerge.”

As soon as I said these words aloud, I knew they were intended for me. Eighteen months ago, I began an MFA program in creative writing, fulfilling a dream that, yes, had been quietly forming since I graduated from college. After my mother died, I decided not to wait any longer. Enough stalling. I was ready to emerge.

Before the trip, Wende had asked us each to choose a single word to guide and inform our actions through the year. One friend chose “Explore,” another “Create,” and a third, “Trust.” My word was “Finish.”

Finish the MFA.

Finish the Critical Paper required for the MFA.

Finish the Final Manuscript that is my MFA thesis.

Finish. Finish. Finish.

Tonight, I’m reflecting on my word because May 25 is the end of this Project Period and I’m hurtling toward that deadline. My Critical Paper is done (!!!!) and in Format Review. My reviewer has sent it back to me three times for revision: the citations must conform to MLA format, a requirement far more onerous (to me) than researching and writing the thing. What’s left now is to finish the manuscript. Or, more accurately, finish my millionth rewrite of the manuscript.

I wish the same for you, in whatever is your challenge. To finish. And first, to begin.

For a New Beginning

By John O’Donohue

In out-of-the-way places of the heart,
Where your thoughts never think to wander,
This beginning has been quietly forming,
Waiting until you were ready to emerge.

For a long time it has watched your desire,
Feeling the emptiness growing inside you,
Noticing how you willed yourself on,
Still unable to leave what you had outgrown.

It watched you play with the seduction of safety
And the gray promises that sameness whispered,
Heard the waves of turmoil rise and relent,
Wondered would you always live like this.

Then the delight, when your courage kindled,
And out you stepped onto new ground,
Your eyes young again with energy and dream,
A path of plenitude opening before you.

Though your destination is not yet clear
You can trust the promise of this opening;
Unfurl yourself into the grace of beginning
That is at one with your life’s desire.

Awaken your spirit to adventure;
Hold nothing back, learn to find ease in risk;
Soon you will be home in a new rhythm,
For your soul senses the world that awaits you.

 

 

 

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Sliding Into Home by Nina Vincent

April 28th, 2018

My dear friend and fellow Guatmama, Nina Vincent, has published her first book! Sliding Into Home features protagonist Felipe “Flip” Simpson, born in Guatemala and adopted to a white family in California. From the Amazon listing:

“Thirteen-year-old Flip Simpson’s ideal life just began to crumble. His adoptive parents are splitting up. He’s moving from the only home he’s ever known. He has to leave before his baseball team finishes the playoffs. And his little sister is his only companion. Flip folds under the weight of so much loss until he meets Ricki, an indigenous classmate who loves baseball and gives Flip a sense of pride in his Mayan roots and Zorba, an eccentric houseboat dweller who is a cross between The Cat in the Hat and Willy Wonka.”

The novel is suitable for middle-grade readers; I’ve bought a copy for my high-school daughter, as well. Sliding Into Home is cause for celebration: Kids love to see themselves reflected in books. Congratulations, Nina!

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Certificate of Citizenship, again

April 24th, 2018

RE: Camp Hill district judge calls immigration on two couples getting married

Friends have posted this elsewhere, but I’m also posting because it’s so very important. A young man, Alexander Curtis Parker, was born in Guatemala and adopted by an American family at 8 months old. Now 21, Parker showed up at a Pennsylvania courthouse with his fiancé, to go before a judge to get married. The judge asked Parker for proof of citizenship. (Presumably because Parker’s skin is brown and he looks like someone born in Guatemala.) Parker explained he’s a Permanent Resident with a green card that’s in process of being renewed. Technically, though, at that moment, Parker was “undocumented” with his green-card status in process.

ICE was called. Parker was fingerprinted. On his wedding day. The miracle of the story is that ICE backed-off. Read the article for details.

Friends: Don’t let this happen to your Guatemalan-born child or children! If you do nothing else today, make sure you possess a Certificate of Citizenship for your kids. A Certificate of Citizenship never expires and is the only absolute proof of citizenship.

Thank you. The end.

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Road trip to Arizona

April 13th, 2018

Over Spring Break, we drove 1,000+ miles through the state of Arizona: Phoenix, Sedona, Slide Rock, Grand Canyon, Four Corners, Riverbend, the Navajo sacred lands of Monument Valley and Canyon de Chelly, Painted Desert, Petrified Forest, and the Big Crater somewhere outside Flagstaff. It was the first time we’d been to most of those places, and let me tell you, the landscapes are breathtaking. Arizona is gorgeous!

Every day was magnificent, but the kids especially loved our Jeep tour through Canyon de Chelly with our Navajo guide, Oscar Bia. Olivia said she liked visiting Arizona because it’s so different from California. “It’s like going to another country,” she said. “Except everyone speaks English.”

 

 

 

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Antigua in Spring

March 21st, 2018

We returned home from Guatemala more than a week ago and already it feels like a dream. Before heading to the capital, we spent one night in Antigua, and a procession from the church in Jocotenango passed by our hotel. Members of our group made a pine needle carpet covered with flowers: the purple-clad pilgrims walk around it, leaving it to the carriers of the “anda” or platform to walk through and over, disrupting the design. (I’ve been told this symbolizes the transience of life on earth.) Finally, musicians. An essential part of the solemn processions, here posing to smile for me.

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