Archive for June, 2011

NY Times article about how Facebook is transforming birth family searches

Wednesday, June 29th, 2011

Anyone who has read my book or blog knows that I am advocate for open adoption. In my opinion, children deserve to know their biological roots and connections; birth mothers deserve to know where their children are in the world, and how they are doing. I know not everyone agrees with me about this: In the course of traveling the country to promote Mamalita, I’ve spoken with or heard about dozens of adoptees, birth parents, and adoptive parents who feel reunion is not right for them. I respect that.

Regardless of how you feel about birth family searches, however, they are happening, and like so many things, the way they are happening has been transformed by the Internet. Read all about it in this article by Lisa Belkin in the New York Times, “I Found My Mom Through Facebook.” Here are a few  sample paragraphs: (more…)


Latin American Heritage Camp

Monday, June 27th, 2011

I’m sitting in Chicago’s O’Hare Airport, en route to Iowa for my reading at Prairie Lights books on Tuesday, June 28 at 7  p.m.

Tim and the kids have returned to California after our family participated in our fourth annual Latin American Heritage Camp. As Olivia said, I wish it didn’t have to end.  

Because I’m about to board the plane to Cedar Rapids,  I’ll copy here what I posted about the camp on my Mamalita Facebook page

I realized this week why I believe in Heritage Camp. It’s not so much the “heritage” as it is the shared adoption experience. To hear the high school students speak about the meaningful, unique, essential friendships they formed as preschoolers –and continue as teens–convinces me that this experience is vital. I hope for the same, for our children.

Got to go catch my flight. To be continued…


A summer day at Winter Park

Thursday, June 23rd, 2011

That’s Winter Park, Colorado, a few miles down the road from Latin American Heritage Camp, where we are headed for our fourth year of family camp for adoptive families.

The “assay station” made a big impression. Panning for gold makes more sense after you’ve screened for your own gems. Olivia and Mateo also conquered the Alpine slide, bungee jump, zip line, miniature golf, rock wall, and the maze. Last night, the best night’s sleep ever.

In the photo above, Olivia has scaled the climbing wall, and is ringing the bell to signify her victory. Not seen in the frame is me, on a bench, white-knuckling the camera and holding my breath.


Buffalo Bill Museum & Grave in Colorado

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2011

We landed in Denver, Colorado, a day after an unusual storm dumped a few inches of snow on the state. Living as we do in California, we don’t get such dramatic weather. So a few inches didn’t bother us.

Enroute to our first destination, Winter Park, we swerved off the highway when I saw a sign announcing the Buffalo Bill Museum & Grave in Golden.  At the turn of the twentieth century, William Frederick “Buffalo Bill” Cody (1846-1917), founder of  Wild West Shows and Medal of Honor winner, was the most recognizable celebrity on earth.

After paying our respects, we checked out the model teepee, where Mateo couldn’t resist playing the role of Buffalo Bill. Olivia was most fascinated by a poster that showed the names and locations of dozens of Indian tribes that once inhabited the American West. For a while anyway, those long-ago days seemed a little less distant.

At breakfast this morning at a cafe in Winter Park, Mateo said “I don’t want to eat any more pancakes. I want to go outside and do cartwheels.”

That sums up today.  Outside, doing cartwheels.  Time to rest up for tomorrow.~


Summer Vacation

Monday, June 20th, 2011

No lunches to make, no bus to run for, no shoes to find, no  totes to pack. The kids are sleeping late.

Yes, today is the first Monday of summer vacation.

Last night, Olivia and Mateo rode bikes and scooters until dark while Tim and I shot hoops–as in basketball. When’s the last time we did that?

This week, we head for Colorado and Heritage Camp, where Mamalita is the book club selection–available on Kindle and Nook for easy downloading–and then I go to the fabulous Prairie Lights Bookstore in Iowa City to read on Tuesday, June 28 at 7 p.m. My friend, Gretchen B. Wright, will meet me there–Gretchen and I met at a writing workshop at Lake Atitlan, Guatemala–as will other friends through adoption.

But first, a few photos. The playground at Mateo’s school, alive with students and teachers dancing to the Slumdog Millionaire anthem, Jai Ho. Olivia and Mateo presenting Tim with his Father’s Day gift, a miniature skateboard handmade by Mateo in a woodshop class, against a backdrop of their own design. And finally, Mateo drawing during his last day as a kindergartener.

Another year, gone.


Hera and the one who teaches grammar

Thursday, June 16th, 2011


We’re winding down the last week of school, and today, Olivia’s class presented a series of plays based on Greek myths. Above, Olivia is dressed as her role of queen of the gods, Hera. For the performance finale, each child presented her or his parent or caregiver with a yellow rose and a handwritten note. Below, with best-guess spelling intact, I’ve reprinted the text of Olivia’s note to me. I love how clear her voice sounds in this letter. I call my daughter an artist, but I may have to switch that to writer.

Dear Mom:

Thank you for all the things you have done for me and my classmates to make this year fun. Mom, you helped with writers work shop witch is so helpfull because my class learned from you correct puncuation.

I will love you forever and always.

Love, Olivia



Office of Children’s Issues delivers “Letter of understanding” to CNA

Wednesday, June 15th, 2011

This notice from the U.S. State Department represents a positive step forward for the waiting families of the Guatemala900  and those of us who care about them.

Notice: Guatemala listserv update June 13, 2011

Letter of understanding delivered

The Office of Children’s Issues announces that it has delivered a letter of understanding to the CNA [Consejo Nacional de Adopciones, the office that processes adoptions in Guatemala] that confirms the U.S. Government’s role in the CNA’s proposed framework for processing its transition cases to conclusion. We await the CNA’s response and will provide updates as they become available.

On June 2, 2011, the State Department posted a summary of the April 14, 2011 meeting in Washington, DC that included representatives of both countries who are involved in resolving the pending cases. You can read that notice here.


17th Annual San Diego Book Awards names “Mamalita” Best Memoir

Monday, June 13th, 2011


The 17th Annual San Diego Book Awards named Mamalita “Best Memoir” in a ceremony on Saturday, June 12, 2011. Yay!

My sister, Adrienne, and her friend, Claudia, attended the event with me, and when the evening’s host announced my name, my sister screamed. (We O’Dwyers are an enthusiastic bunch.) My entire family is thrilled. In fact, as I write this, my mother is showing off my lovely trophy to her ”Needlework” volunteer group at Pomerado Hospital in Rancho Bernardo. Adrienne and my parents and everyone else in my family shared the Mamalita journey with me–not only the experience, but also the five years I spent afterward, writing about it.  How gratifying to share with them this recognition.

Thank you, everyone!


This week

Friday, June 10th, 2011

My husband has been in China on business for the past week; his trips always serve as a good reminder of how much he does around here.


Because Mateo had never walked across the Golden Gate Bridge, he and I did that. On a sunny day, the view takes your breath way, but even when clouds fill the sky, the jaunt is fun. Noisy though! Very. (more…)


The Dance Teacher

Tuesday, June 7th, 2011

On Saturday evening, when Olivia performed in her ballet recital wearing a baroque, gold lame-encrusted tutu and pink ballet slippers, I wished my 82-year-old mother were there to see it. Mom lives with my dad in San Diego now, but during my childhood, she owned a dance studio in the seaside town where I grew up at the Jersey shore. Every little girl I knew studied dance with my mom. To this day, when I meet friends from New Jersey, the first thing they ask is “How’s your mother?”

Before she was married, my mother danced professionally as a Rockette–five shows a day, fifty weeks a year, for five years, on the Great Stage of the Radio City Music Hall. At 17, she left her small-town life in Virginia, took the train to New York City, and high-kicked her way into that glorious chorus line of 36 long-legged girls. As Mom tells the story, if she hadn’t met my father and fallen in love, she’d be time-stepping at the Music Hall still.

Instead, she moved to the suburbs to raise five children. When her youngest daughter, my sister, started kindergarten, Mom dusted off her tap shoes and opened her neighborhood school. There, Mom created a place where dancers could learn the elements of tap, jazz, and ballet, along with an appreciation for music and movement. As one of my mother’s most dedicated students, I’m grateful she also taught this: a belief that our bodies should be allowed to fill space. That, and a lifelong commitment to good posture.

All over the United States at this time of year, girls (and some lucky boys) are pulling on their tights and rubbing their ballet slippers in resin; bobby-pinning their ponytails into buns and brightening their faces with blush and lipstick. For a few magical moments, our children whirl and prance across a stage, transformed into sprites and fairies, while in the wings, their dedicated teachers stand, counting measures and mouthing choreography.

To my talented and beloved Mother and dance teachers everywhere: I bow to you today, with grace and gratitude.