Archive for April, 2011

Mamalita Book Tour

Friday, April 29th, 2011

With everything else going on around here–school, family, life–I almost forgot that I have a few upcoming stops on my Mamalita Book Tour.  I’ll be reading at the great Northern California independent bookstore, Copperfield’s, twice. Once, on Sunday, May 22 at 2 p.m. in Petaluma, with other contributors to the West Marin Review. And again on Sunday, June 5, alone, at 1 p.m., at the Montgomery Village location in Santa Rosa.

In late June, our family will attend Colorado Heritage Camp in the Rocky Mountains, where Mamalita is this year’s Latin American Heritage Camp book club selection. The discussion is scheduled for Friday evening, June 24.

After that, I fly to Iowa to read at the legendary Prairie Lights Books on Tuesday, June 28, at 7 p.m. (Yes, that Prairie Lights Books. Yowza!) My dear friend, Gretchen B. Wright, another adoptive mom and writer, lives in Iowa and will be hosting me.  You can read Gretchen’s gorgeous essay about her now-grown son, “Look at Him Now” in the May 2011 issue of  Adoptive Families magazine. It’s one of the best pieces written about adoption that I’ve ever read, anywhere.

On Tuesday, July 5 at 6:30 p.m., I’ll read at the Clairemont Branch of the San Diego Public Library. The San Diego Library system has been incredibly supportive of Mamalita, and I’m very grateful.

From Thursday, August 4 to Sunday, August 7, our family will attend MOGUATE, in the Ozarks of Missouri. The camp is described as “A gathering of families blessed with children from Guatemala.” The kids are thrilled and I am, too. Mamalita will be the book club selection. What a bonus!

Finally, in August, I will return to the Squaw Valley Writers’ Workshop for the Published Alumni Series. I always say that the Squaw Workshop changed my writing life—I attended in 2006 and 2007. To be included in the Published Alumni Series is an honor beyond words. The panel discussion moderated by Andrew Tonkovich will be held in the Olympic Village on Tuesday, August 9 at 3 p.m. The readings start at 5:30 p.m.

Details below. Hope to see you soon~

Sunday, May 22, 2011 at 2 p.m.
Copperfield’s Books Petaluma
140 Kentucky Street
Petaluma, CA 94952

Reading with other contributors to the West Marin Review.

Sunday, June 5, 2011 at 1 p.m.
Copperfield’s Books Montgomery Village
2316 Montgomery Drive
Santa Rosa 95404

Friday, June 24, 2011
Colorado Heritage Camp
Latin American Heritage Camp
book club selection
Snow Mountain Ranch, Fraser, Colorado

Tuesday, June 28, 2011 at 7 p.m.
Prairie Lights Books
15 South Dubuque Street
Iowa City, IA 52240

Tuesday, July 5, 2011 at 6:30 p.m.
Clairemont Branch Library-San Diego Public Library
2920 Burgener Boulevard
San Diego, CA 92110

Thursday, August 4 through Sunday, August 7, 2011
In the Ozark Mountains, Missouri

Tuesday, August 9, 2011 at 3 p.m. and 5:30 p.m.
Community of Writers at Squaw Valley
Published Alumni Readings
Olympic Valley, CA 96146
Reading with fellow Squaw Workshop alumni. Panel discussion moderated by Andrew Tonkovich at 3 p.m.


A film about Guatemala by Greg Brosnan

Monday, April 25th, 2011

In the film Right to Life Guatemala, part of a series called Birthrights, filmmaker Greg Brosnan takes on the subject of illegal abortion in Guatemala.  The film’s description:

“Today, illegal abortions are the leading cause of death among young women in Latin America. Whether they are performed in major cities or in the isolated countryside, these ‘back room’ abortions are leaving thousands of young women dead each year.

Guatemala has the highest fertility rate among women and yet it remains the poorest country in the region where women can ill afford large families. Unwanted pregnancies, coupled with the forces of tradition and politics, leave few options for these families.

Through the work of an activist and the medical team she leads, this film explores the questions of family planning, which many see as the right to life.”

I learned about the film through the Guatemala Solidarity Network, a UK-based network of individuals. Greg Brosnan also made the film In the Shadow of the Raid, which documents the impact of an immigration raid on a slaughterhouse in Postville, Iowa.

Any discussion of intercountry adoption from Guatemala should begin with a look at the role of women in Guatemala. In my opinion, adoption should be viewed as one reproductive choice.



Wednesday, April 20th, 2011

An under-reported outcome of adopting from another country is the loyalty many families feel for the birth-country of their children, and the actions that result. I’m not talking about connections with birth and foster families, visits to former orphanages, and annual heritage trips, although each of those things is wonderful and to be recommended.

I’m talking about the financial contributions adoptive parents make to organizations that support families, children, and education. In Guatemala alone, there are dozens if not hundreds of such organizations that receive thousands of dollars in donations from families with children born in Guatemala. Mayan Families, Common Hope, Behrhorst, Orphan Resources International, Roots and Wings International, Guatemala Aid Fund, and Mission Guatemala are but a few of the many groups which do good work and receive funds from folks in the United States, including a large number of adoptive families. Pictured above are Dwight Poage, co-founder of Mayan Families, and a few members of his staff.

This dedication to birth country is by no means limited to families with children from Guatemala. Many Americans with children born around the world help when and where they can. Today, I ran across an article about a fundraiser in Knoxville, Tennessee for two organizations that raise money for orphans in Africa and elsewhere, Show Hope and Blood: Water Mission. In this online post, KnoxNews reports on international help efforts:

Blood:Water Mission, founded by the Christian band Jars of Clay, seeks to empower communities in Africa to work together against the two primary causes of children being orphaned: devastation caused by HIV and AIDS and sickness and death caused by contaminated water.

In January, board members of Kalu Grace Foundation and other Knoxvillians traveled to northern Kenya to witness the products that Blood:Water Mission has been able to implement with last year’s Hope in the Dark donations.

A water tank has been installed in the desert region of Marsabit, Kenya, giving 66 percent of the population who were without clean water access. Knoxvillians’ donations also helped fund the Tumaini (“hope”) Clinic in Marsabit so that people in the district infected with HIV and AIDS no longer have to travel 10 or more hours to the nearest treatment facility. Since the opening of the clinic, the community has access to integrated prevention and support programs as well.


Other donations raised at Hope in the Dark will again fund grants through Show Hope. Show Hope, founded by Christian recording artist Steven Curtis Chapman and his wife, Mary Beth, aims to mobilize individuals and communities to care for orphans by providing grants to families adopting children from among 40 countries. Last year’s donations provided Show Hope grants to adoptive families throughout Knoxville and the U.S. who are now in the process of bringing home children from African countries.

No one person can change the world. But many adoptive families do what they can to help one small part of it.



Semana Santa in Antigua

Tuesday, April 19th, 2011

One of these years, I hope to spend Semana Santa, also known as Holy Week, the days leading up to Easter Sunday, in Antigua. Everyone says it’s fabulous. Well, that’s not exactly true. A friend from Guatemala who grew up in Antigua says it’s his least favorite holiday–”Too many tourists”–and a woman I met in Boston on my book tour said her pocket was picked–not once, but three different times.

Nevertheless, I’d still like to go. Last summer at Latin American Heritage Camp in Colorado, Cynthia Rothwell gave a fascinating presentation on Holy Week as it’s celebrated throughout Guatemala. Participants like me were able to create our own miniature alfombras, or carpets, using stencils and piles of sawdust that had been dyed, and which Cynthia carried in her checked luggage, all the way from Guatemala. The hardest part was “erasing” the rug after creating it. Imagine how the Guatemalan artists feel when their hours of handiwork are finally trampled by a thousand passing feet.

Holy Week in Antigua Guatemala, posted by “chezi” on TravelBlog in 2009, gives a wonderful overview of the tradition. In the April 2011 edition of Guatemala’s English language Revue Magazine, Antigua historian Elizabeth Bell offers her helpful tips for getting the most of the carpet-viewing experience. My two favorite Elizabeth tips:

  • Processions usually take about 12 hours. Depending on the time of day or night, I locate a good corner and get on the right-hand side of the Christ figure. The sculpture is best appreciated when He looks at you. All Christ figures (except in the children’s procession from the cathedral) look to the right-hand side. Corners are great so I can see the carriers (men called cucuruchos and women called cargadoras) change turns with precision. It usually takes a full hour to see the entire procession go by and then, instead of trying the beat the crowds, I can easily walk away from the procession. 
  • Do not take anything of value to velaciones or processions. Pickpockets work the crowds seamlessly. No passports. No credit cards. I usually put a camera around my neck and pack a few quetzales and then go back to my home or hotel afterward when I decide to go out again for a meal.
  • Finally, for gorgeous procession photos check out the website AntiguaDailyPhoto. The site is a great resource for stunning visuals any time of year, but especially during Semana Santa. Looking at the photos I vow once again: Next year in Antigua during Holy Week. Definitely.


    San Diego, Part 5. Home.

    Monday, April 18th, 2011

    Spring break is over and we’re back home, and as usual, I’m having a hard time adjusting to reality. Not that my daily life is so bad–believe me, I know how lucky I am–but even the best reality is just that. Real.

    I downloaded a few final Sea World photos–yes, we returned for a third (fourth?) visit–and became instantly nostalgic. Not only for those blissful and carefree days, but also for what they represent. Mateo and Olivia at six and eight, young enough to be enchanted by the umpteenth showing of Pets Rule, happy to pose in front of the skeleton teeth of a great white shark, and delighted at the prospect of digging into a sticky sweet cloud of blue cotton candy. These days won’t last forever. 

    The drive home was an adventure. Ten hours in the minivan, listening to Shakira and Taylor Swift, and singing along with Sol y Canto, interspersed with movies shown on the portable DVD player. Tim, the kids, and I know every rest stop, vending machine, and greasy spoon. We anticipate the Grapevine, the Rainbow Bridge, and the red-and-white mints inside the ceramic boot next to the cash register at the diner in Buttonwillow. In our case, the journey matters as much as the arrival.

    Tomorrow, I’ll get back to the world of blogging about adoption. That’s the plan, anyway.


    San Diego, Part 4. Water world

    Friday, April 15th, 2011

    Yesterday morning, while Olivia and Tim stayed home to struggle with my daughter’s math enrichment homework–a long story for another day–Mateo and I took a walk on the beach. At that hour, on a Thursday in April, the flat stretch was almost deserted. I strolled while Mateo skipped ahead, stopping every few feet to examine the thousands of rocks and shells that had washed up on shore. Neither of us could remember ever seeing so many.

    On the way home, we spied two sweethearts kissing in the shallow water. In the sand, one had drawn a heart with an arrow through it, proclaiming his love. Mateo asked me to walk ahead, then wrote his own proclamation, shown below. If I could have, I would have cast his drawing in bronze. As an alternative, this picture.

    Afterward, the kids decided they wanted to go swimming, so we headed for a public pool. If you ever wonder why a large number of athletes who compete on the national level live in San Diego, here’s why: Local municipalities and their residents dedicate substantial funds to athletic facilities, like this public pool, open to non-residents willing to pay a day rate. Wonderful. Tim and I took turns watching the kids and alternated swimming laps. Everyone got a work-out.

    After an afternoon playing in the sun, pizza sounded good. Thus ended another beautiful day in San Diego. 


    Spring Break in San Diego, Part 3

    Thursday, April 14th, 2011


    Our kids have never been to Disneyland or Disney World, so for them, Sea World is the ultimate in fantastic. For as long as possible, I plan to keep it that way. Not because I have anything against Disney, but because for me, Sea World is big enough to navigate, thank you very much. We have spent the past two days there, and will go back again. What can I say? Olivia and Mateo love it.  For anyone who is planning a trip, two words: Season pass and free parking. Invest in both of those things, and you may break even.

    Remember to wear a hat. Even when it’s overcast, the San Diego sun is strong. Bring lots of water. And raise the white sugar flag, because cotton candy is just part of the deal. (I’m sorry.)

    Our favorite show is Pets Rule, which is exactly what you imagine it might be. Running around and banging on things is also fun.

    Mateo on percussion.

    The new spectacular, Blue Horizons, features singing, diving, dolphins, and trapeze artists. This show has it all, even birds.

    Our family reflected in a fun house mirror.

    On to Day 3!


    Spring Break in San Diego, part 2

    Tuesday, April 12th, 2011

    Is there a more kid-friendly city in the United States than San Diego? Everywhere you look there’s something for children to do, and a lot of it costs nothing. Yesterday, while my husband gave a lecture to medical residents at Balboa Naval Hospital–before he joined the staff of the University of California, Tim served in the Army–the kids and I checked out the spectacular playground in Balboa Park. The day was warm, the sky was blue. Because we’re in San Diego! That’s one reason why we love this place!

    San Diego is home to a large Latino community; shown below are mural details from the facade of Balboa Park’s Centro Cultural de la Raza. The Centro’s mission is “to create, preserve, promote and educate about Chicano, Mexicano, Indigenous and Latino art and culture.” The kids had too much energy to go inside, but they liked looking at the giant coyote, ram, and oversized ear of corn. And nothing like seeing cactus up close to realize that yes, those thorns are really pointy.


    Last night, I met with my sister’s book club–thanks, sis!–and this evening we’ll have dinner with my parents and brother. But right now, we’re off for more adventures outside. Ta-ta for now~


    Adoption in USA Today

    Sunday, April 10th, 2011

    We’re in San Diego for Spring Break, with plans later to go to the beach and fly our kite. Right now, the kids are still asleep and Tim’s on a bike ride. I’ll take advantage of the time to post a link to this article from USA Today, Adoption changes spur growth in multiracial families. About 130,000 children are adopted in the US every year–that’s a huge number!–with most adoptions occurring from the foster care system:

    With 130,000 children adopted each year in the USA, researchers find growing numbers involve kids whose race is different from their parents’.

    The latest data show that about 40% of adoptions in America involve such families; among children from other countries adopted by American parents, 84% are transracial or transethnic, says Adam Pertman, executive director of the nonprofit Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute, a research, policy and education organization.

    The most common type of adoption in the United States is from foster care, comprising 68% of adoptions, compared with 17% for infants adopted domestically and 15% from international adoption, Pertman said.

    The article concludes by addressing the issue of transracial parenting, an issue with which many readers of this blog are familiar.

    Research by Gina Samuels, an associate professor in the School of Social Service Administration at the University of Chicago, has focused on identity development among transracial adoptees. Samuels, a multiracial adoptee who has worked in child welfare, has found that the goal of being “colorblind” that white parents often espouse may not be the best approach for white parents to take with their kids of other races.

     ”Colorblindness actually creates discordance,” she says, because parents set their child up to believe that race doesn’t matter — until the kids find that often race is an issue in the real world and they haven’t been prepared for it.

    As the adoptive mother of two children born in Guatemala, it didn’t take me long to figure out that many people “see” my children differently from the way they see me. My awareness has been raised. But I can always use a reminder to remain sensitive to my children and their experiences as they interface with the world.


    Friday before Spring Break

    Friday, April 8th, 2011

    Today’s the Friday before Spring Break begins, which means this morning the kids got out of bed a little more enthusiastically than usual. There’s nothing like the prospect of no school to make an early wake-up call more bearable.

    For the next few days, I hope to sleep in late, too, although for me “late” means 7 a.m. That’s probably a function of age, or perhaps it’s just a sign that, yes, I am indeed turning into my mother. And Mom, if you’re reading this, there’s no one else I would rather turn into. Really~ xoxoxo

    But before I pick up Mateo from kindergarten and vacation officially begins, I’m posting links to a few interesting articles. This story from NPR’s All Things Considered, Fewer Russian Adoptions Since Mom Sent Son Back, follows up last year’s story of Torry Hansen, the nurse from Tennessee who

     ”put the international adoption world into an uproar when she sent her newly adopted 7-year-old back to Moscow on a one-way trip. Fearful of her son, Torry Hansen said she put him on a plane because he threatened to burn down the house and had psychological issues.”

    I think the international adoption world’s reaction to the article indicates how atypical Hansen’s behavior was. Clearly she had reached a point where she could no longer cope. My hope is that Hansen’s action may lead to increased counseling and assistance for adoptive parents– before, during, and especially after the adoption process. The February 2011 Good Housekeeping article by Melissa Fay Greene on the effects of long-term foster or institutional care on relinquished or abandoned children is a step in the right direction. For anyone specifically interested in adoption from Russia, the NPR article includes links to past NPR coverage of the subject.

    Also interesting is this article by Kara Andrade in the spring/summer edition of ReVista: Harvard Review of Latin America, Citizen Media: Mobile Democracy, about the ways cell phone use is transforming Guatemala. Cell phone use has allowed us to maintain contact with our daughter’s birth family in a remote area of the country, one small example of the way access to a “larger world” –a nearby village, the capital city, or the United States–is expanding the experiences of many Guatemalans.

    Finally, People magazine reports that Mariska Hargitay and her husband have adopted a baby girl, Amaya Josephine, born in the United States. Wonderful news!

    Spring Break is off to a great start.