“Guatemala” by Pete Sears

November 19th, 2015

This 1990 video titled “Guatemala” by Pete Sears shows the country’s beauty and simplicity. But the footage also includes disturbing, graphic scenes from Guatemala’s violent past.  The images are riveting and haunting. The video was first shared by Sharon Smart-Pogue of Mayan Families.





Adoption Awareness Month

November 12th, 2015

November is Adoption Awareness Month, so lots of article on the subject are being published now. My thoughts on the one linked below: Yes. All true, for many. Some true, for all. Every child has his or her own journey and own truth. Every child is different.

I disagree with author Lisa Leontiades, however, when she calls her list “Hard Truths About Adoption Adoptive Parents Don’t Want to Hear.” To the contrary: We DO want to hear. That’s how we learn. Tell us, please. We’re listening.



McFarland USA

November 6th, 2015

McFarland USA. Disney movie, out last February. But you know me, I’m a year behind in everything, and the kids and I finally watched the movie last night.

I love a good story about anyone who overcomes a challenge, especially when that challenge involves an athletic contest set to a rousing musical score. Briefly, McFarland USA is about a group of middle-school boys in California’s Central Valley, sons of migrant workers from Mexico, who are coached to cross-country greatness by Jim White, played by Kevin Costner.

Olivia, Mateo, and I loved McFarland USA. Afterward, as I sat drying my tears, I asked “What was the movie’s message?” and Mateo said, “There were so many.” (Very true!) But they settled on two: “Work hard.” and “Don’t give up.”

That’s takeaway enough for me, and worth sharing.

We got the DVD from the library, and I’m sure it’s available elsewhere, as well. See it, if you haven’t already. Inspiring.



Kayaking Grandma

November 4th, 2015

I’ve been following the progress of Dr. Deb Walters, aka the “Kayaking Grandmother,” since July 2014, when she paddled off from her home in Maine and headed to Guatemala. Her intention is to raise awareness for “Safe Passage,” the organization founded by another Maine resident, the late Hanley Denning. (As you probably know, Safe Passage is the NGO that provides school support for children whose families survive by scavenging in Guatemala City’s garbage dump.)

On November 7, Dr. Deb Walters will be recognized by the United Nations as one of six “Rotary Global Women of Action.” She is the only person from North America to be so honored. In announcing the award, Rotary International President K.R. Ravindran noted Walters embodies the Rotary motto of “Service Above Self.” Walters, a former president of Safe Passage, said she feels “humbled.”

The Kayaking Grandmother currently is in Florida, with a little less than 1,000 miles less to paddle. Congratulations and Buen Viaje!



Maximon Monday

October 28th, 2015

One of my favorites shops in Antigua, Guatemala is Casa de Artes on Fourth Avenida Sur, around the corner from the Hotel Antigua and down the street from the small house where Olivia and I lived in 2003 while we waited for her adoption to become final. The goods sold by Casa de Artes are extremely beautiful and mostly out of my price range, but every trip I visit anyway, to gaze on their museum-quality textiles, masks, jewelry, and pottery, and learn something new from the knowledgeable and helpful women who work there, The ladies remember Olivia from when she was a baby, and always comment on how tall she has grown and how healthy she is. They remark on her developing Spanish skills and express delight that she returns often to visit. They know Olivia’s birth family is from the Highlands, and honor her heritage by bringing out to show what I call the “good stuff”–the rare, antique huipiles and cortes hidden away from light and dust in cabinets, made by talented artisans long ago in remote areas.

That’s a lengthy introduction to the real purpose of this post, which is to share an email I received today from Casa de Artes, informing me that October 28 is Maximon Day, which Casa de Artes is celebrating by spotlighting their Maximon sculptures and candles. I’ve written about Maximon before, but because the folks at Casa de Artes explain the man and his significance much better than I ever can, I’ll let their words speak for themselves. The photos are terrific, but you have to click on the link to see them. Apologies for the extra step! ~


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Giant kites again

October 25th, 2015

In 2013, we went to Guatemala to see the giant kites flown in honor of Day of the Dead. I’m thinking of that trip now, amid the hubbub of Halloween planning here, and remembering the thrill of seeing those masterpieces of color and design and message, cut paper glued on bamboo, sent aloft to the sky. Here’s a video I posted before, but which bears re-watching. People ask what it is about Guatemala that captivates and obsesses me, and I say: “This. This!”



Film “La Jaula De Oro”

October 22nd, 2015

Another adoptive mom posted about La Jaula De Oro (The Golden Cage), a movie about three Guatemalan teens attempting to get to the US. My friend–who has traveled widely through Central America–called the film “totally authentic; you really are in Guatemala, Chiapas, the desert.” My friend also noted the film “doesn’t pull any punches about what happens on that trip,” so I’m guessing it’s not suitable for young children. (I haven’t see the movie myself.) La Jaula De Oro won awards at Cannes in 2013 and is available on HBO until the end of the year.



Pacaya 2015

October 8th, 2015

Mateo and I climbed Volcano Pacaya in February 2013 and I remember the trip as rigorous and hard. Something I was proud to have done, which I never needed to do again. Until this past July, when Mateo and I rented a house in Antigua with 10 other people–four adoptive families from the Bay Area, friends all–who really, really wanted to climb Pacaya this trip back. In fact, climbing Pacaya was the Number One item on their wish list of Things to Do in Guatemala. Pacaya was a must. We couldn’t leave without climbing it!

Good sport that he is, Mateo agreed, and talked me into accompanying him. I’m so glad he did. This time we hired a guide on-site–a family of guides, actually: a young mother and her son, and her mother, the boy’s Abuela (see photo above), and various helpers–who led us up a gentler path than the one we traversed in 2013. The family of guides came equipped with horses, two of which members of our party chose to ride. The rest of us soldiered forth, walking sticks in hand, until we reached the summit. Marshmallows were roasted, and piles of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches consumed. Before we headed down, fistfuls of sweet vanilla cookies were scarfed, rightfully earned.

The day was misty and overcast,  the gray sky threatening rain. We finished before the deluge, victorious.



Teen Pregnancy in Guatemala

September 30th, 2015

Sometimes it feels as though all the news I read from and about Guatemala is … Sobering. Thought-provoking. Haunting. Anyway, this article by Alicia Menendez, Why Are 10-Year-Olds Having Babies in Guatemala?,  addresses the issue of teen pregnancy–actually, younger than teen in many cases–which is higher in Guatemala than in nearly every other country in the world, due largely to cultural mores as well as discrimination against the indigenous in rural areas. Watch both videos to have your eyes opened to the daily reality lived by thousands of young mothers.



Connecting with birth family from China

September 27th, 2015

I’m a little late posting this excellent first-person account in the Washington Post by Ricki Mudd, adopted from China at nearly 5 years old and re-united with her birth family there. The article is interesting all around, but what spoke to me most was her relationship with her birth brother, Wu Chao. Ricki’s family sponsored Wu Chao so he could attend community college in the US, and he’s now living with Ricki’s (American) family. The siblings’ relationship continues to unfold, and Ricki ends the piece with “Chinese policy may have had room for only one of us. But our lives will be forever intertwined.”
Ricki’s article includes clips from a documentary made about her story. It’s very moving to see that little 5 year old girl, leaving to join her new family–afraid, unsure, and sobbing. As an adoptive mother, I was reminded of our family’s early days. Yes, we love our children. Yes, we support them emotionally in every way we know how. But still. Each of them experienced loss before we met them, and an upheaval that was life-altering and deep.