Archive for October, 2013

The Happiness Project continued

Tuesday, October 22nd, 2013

Earlier I mentioned that I read Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project, which inspired me to purge my closet, donate everything I could spare, and attempt to clear a few square inches on my desk downstairs. Encouraged by my success, I took another step forward and completed delayed maintenance projects that have been pending, literally, for years:

I called the fence company to repair the gate that hasn’t worked since the day it was built ten years ago, and now swings back and forth without sticking.

A stone wall in our back yard is studded with colorful tiles I’ve accumulated during various sojourns to Guatemala. In 2011, I bought a tile with my initial “J” woven around a jaguar, but never got around to mixing the cement needed to add it to the group. For two years, that tile has been sitting in a brown paper bag in a drawer in the kitchen. Last week, after a few failed attempts, I affixed it to the stone. Yippee!

I hired someone to repair our “drip” watering system—in our desert state of California, we water our gardens with thimbles full of H2O instead of sprinklers–which has revived the yellow flowers that are visible from our kitchen window, that I look at every time I wash dishes, or load or unload the dishwasher, or toss scraps into the compost, which is often. Yay!

Perhaps motivated by my activity, Tim and Mateo trimmed back our ever-expanding stand of bamboo (the kids use it as a fort), a job bigger than it sounds.

Tim and I took advantage of the “free” pick-up by our sanitation company (we pay for it) and emptied the load of stuff hidden under the deck. This hauling-out-from-under could be accomplished only while the kids were at school because anything they see leaving the house is the thing they suddenly must have.

Followed the advice of one of my Facebook friends, I no longer exit any room in our house without taking with me something to recycle, launder, or trash.

We’ve made great strides on the de-clutter and organizing fronts, which does in fact make me feel more in control and thus happier.

Which leads to my Gratitude List:

I’m grateful that sometimes, when I’m driving the kids around, and we’re listening to the pop music station that they love, a song by Adele suddenly will emanate from the radio. If you follow pop music, you know Adele currently is “out of the rotation,” and thus her songs get little airplay. But occasionally the DJ will take pity on listeners who miss her, and spin “Rolling in the Deep” or “Someone Like You,” and Adele’s throaty, earthy, passionate voice fills the car, and I’m grateful that such a gorgeous sound exists and I’m alive to hear it.

I’m grateful that, when asked to fill out his “All About Me” poster, in the section titled “I Wish,” Mateo wrote: “I wish I could live in the library so I could read books all the time.”

This past weekend, I flew down to San Diego to visit with my parents, who are aging and can no longer travel, and one of my sisters and my brother, who live nearby, came over for lunch. My sister brought pulled pork sandwiches and baked beans, with a homemade chocolate cake for dessert, and we ended the marvelous meal by singing ”Happy birthday” to my brother.  My entire stay with my folks felt like a great and wonderful gift, for which I am very grateful.

Finally, I’m grateful to have a friend to walk with once a week, another adoptive mom who understands me and my family and our joys and challenges. With her, I don’t need to hold back or edit or fear I will be judged. The rest of the week, that one hour of walk and conversation sustains me. Thank you, friend. Thank you. ~





Wednesday, October 16th, 2013

Today I treated myself to the 3D version of Gravity. What an experience. Even more so than the epic tension of being literally lost in space was the realization of how beautiful and fragile life is, how important it is to focus on what is right in front of us, to embrace what is good. I know this. Of course I know this! But a gripping and moving reminder never hurts. See this film if you can.

Today I also received the lovely news that one of my favorite adoption-related blogs, Creating a Family, named Mamalita to its list of Recommended “Adoption Books for Parents.” That makes me very happy! Perhaps unreasonably so, but  I don’t care admitting: I’m happy! Grateful, too. (I’d add this to my Gratitude List if I were still keeping one. Another ball I seem to have dropped, alas.)  It’s always nice for work to be recognized by an organization you admire. Thank you!

Last night I attended a reading by one of my favorite writers, Ann Hood. She read from her most recent novel, The Obituary Writer–a great read–and talked a little about her writing process, always the best part, for me, of any writer’s presentation. To try to recap here will make me only sound pretentious, I’m afraid, but one lesson I will share is that thinking about the structure of a book, before sitting down to write a word, is never wasted energy. I left the reading inspired to keep going on my own at-the-moment somewhat undefined project, to write a synopsis, to nail down the elements and “about-ness.” If you ever have a chance to listen to Ann Hood speak or read, make the effort. She’s fabulous.

This weekend I will go visit my parents. Looking forward to the trip. ~





HuffPo link from the POV of a person who is adopted

Saturday, October 12th, 2013

You’ve probably already seen this–published last January and still making the rounds, recently posted in an adoption group to which I belong (thank you!). But in case you haven’t, it’s a very good article, from the point of view of a woman who was adopted as an infant, and is now a marriage and family therapist who specializes in adoption. From the Huffington Post, by Lesli Johnson: Ten Things Adoptees Want You to Know.


Encarnacion Romero, Baby Veronica, and Claudia Paz y Paz

Friday, October 11th, 2013

I know at least one person in the world who’s not on Facebook–No, that’s not true. My husband’s not on Facebook and neither is my mom, so there are at least three–and who reads my blog to find links to articles of what’s happening in the adoption world, or one small sliver of it, anyway. So for her, I’m posting these. Two concern high profile adoption cases that recently have been resolved: Baby Veronica and that of Encarnacion Romero. The link to the Baby Veronica case includes a snippet of footage of her birth father, Dusten Brown, explaining why he his decided to stop fighting for custody for Veronica, who will remain with adoptive parents Matt and Melanie Capobianco. The link to the Encarnacion Romero case tells of the Missouri court decision to uphold the adoption of now six-year-old Jamison by Seth and Melinda Moser, a decision that may be contested again at a higher level. From the Kansas City Star:

One of several attorneys working for Romero, Bill Fleischaker, said attorneys have not made a decision on whether to appeal the ruling to the Missouri Supreme Court.

“But given the distance we’ve come, it would be unlikely that we would not take steps to get further review at a higher level,” he said.

The Mosers’ attorney, Joe Hensley, said the decision should help the couple “breathe a little better,” although Romero still has the right to appeal to the Supreme Court.

The child started living with the Mosers in October 2007, and they adopted him after a Jasper County court judge terminated Romero’s parental rights in 2008. That judge ruled the mother had not tried to maintain contact or provide for the child while in prison.

Romero’s lawyers contended that the adoption process was flawed and that Romero was not given sufficient legal representation before losing custody of her son, who is a U.S. citizen.

I try to imagine what it feels like to be party to either of these cases, and am frankly grateful that I’m not.

The third link concerns Guatemala’s brave Attorney General, Claudia Paz y Paz. According to the Christian Science Monitor, Paz may be a contender, albeit a long-shot one, for the Nobel Peace Prize. Sending positive thoughts her way. ~



The tragedy of Hana Williams and failed adoptions

Monday, October 7th, 2013

David Crary’s AP article, Failed adoptions stir outrage; reforms are elusive tells the story of the tragic death of a girl adopted from Ethiopia, and the measures that must be put into place to prevent such tragedies from happening again. Eleven years into being an adoptive parent myself, I suggest my number one rule: “Not everyone should adopt children. Not everyone is capable of managing the complexity and challenges of adoption, and it’s naïve to believe everyone is.” The PBS film, “Girl, Adopted” addresses this issue brilliantly, and if you haven’t yet seen it (link below on the previous entry), please take the time to watch. The family involved is an inspiration, but they struggle.

Perhaps no one ever can be adequately prepared for the rigors of parenthood; moreover, perhaps no one truly focused on that goal ever can be effectively dissuaded from achieving it. Nevertheless, prospective adoptive parents, particularly those adopting older children who have endured institutional or foster care, must be informed of the challenges they will face, guaranteed.

Articles such as this one by David Crary are a step in the right direction.


Girl, Adopted on PBS

Friday, October 4th, 2013

I just finished watching the powerful, realistic, and moving PBS documentary Girl, Adopted. Here’s the description from the PBS Global Voices website:

Girl, Adopted is a contemporary coming-of-age story that follows Weynsht, a 13-year-old Ethiopian girl, from an orphanage in Africa to an adoptive American family in rural Arkansas. An irrepressible adolescent, Weynsht searches for identity in an effort to find out who she is in the aftermath of her adoption. The film follows her struggle for love among strangers and to understand what to make of this love on an unexpected return trip to Ethiopia.

 Weynsht’s story offers a rare, child’s-eye view of being adopted across race and culture. Taking neither a pro- or anti-adoption stance, the film acknowledges the complexities involved and gives a real voice to the experience. The central question that Girl, Adopted asks is, “What is it like to get everything you need but to lose everything you know?”

The defining scenes in the film occur when, after two years of living in Arkansas and now speaking English, 15-year-old Weynsht returns to Ethiopia with her adoptive dad and sisters. During a visit with the woman who raised her for three years before she was placed in an orphanage–both Weynsht’s parents died when she was five–Weynsht discovers she has an older, biological brother, now in his early twenties. Not surprisingly, she feels strong emotions around this discovery–elation, confusion, abandonment, and curiosity, to name a few. During the same visit, Weynsht visits her former orphanage, which also provokes strong and conflicting emotions.

As an adoptive parent who has witnessed reunions between my own two children and their birth families, as well as the reunions of others, the responses and reactions of everyone involved resonated as absolutely real. What I valued about seeing Weynsht’s meeting unfold was that I had no personal attachment to it, and thus could experience it as an outsider. I kept thinking: ”This is hard. This is complicated. This is not straightforward or easy. Especially for a child.” Truly, Weynsht is an amazing young woman.

Finally, I loved the insight gained by the adoptive dad and mom as they developed in their roles as parents. I don’t have a transcript and must rely on my notes, but at the end of the film the dad said something like, “I used to think adopting a child was something everybody could do. All you needed to do was open your homes and hearts to a kid. I don’t hold those same views today…You have an idealistic view of adoption. And as you go along, the details of that are filled in… But the reality of it is, it’s worth it, even if it’s hard.” The mother finishes by saying, “I would never, ever say that Weyhsht will one day be completely whole, and that everything will be cohesive. She always will be Ethiopian, she always will be African-American.”

In my opinion, Girl, Adopted should be required viewing for anyone considering international adoption, and particularly anyone considering adopting an older child. It’s that good.


Families left behind through migration

Thursday, October 3rd, 2013

To me, the most interesting question around the subject of immigration to the US from Guatemala is “What happens to the women and children left behind?” Because mostly women and children are the ones left behind, as their husbands, fathers, sons, and boyfriends make the perilous journey through Mexico and over the border to the US. There’s no question why they risk their lives to do so: for work, to support their families, and to fulfill the belief they will find more opportunity.

In Guatemala: The Deported Return, written by James Rodriguez in the October 2 edition of Upside Down World, I learned these 2013 statistics:

Some 1.5 million Guatemalan nationals currently live in the US without documentation. (Guatemala’s total population is estimated around 14 million)

$ 5.2 billion was sent from the US to Guatemala in remittance money, representing 1/10 of the Gross Domestic Product

In the first eight months of 2013, 33,783 Guatemalans were deported from the US and returned to Guatemala. That number comprises:

31,051 men; 2,475 women; and 257 minors under the age of 18.

In California, I’ve met many Central American nationals who have left family behind, some starting new families here. As an adoptive parent, I’ve heard of several cases where a birth father (and, rarely, a birth mother) has left Guatemala and now lives in the US. In every conversation, I wonder “What does that feel like? Was the move worthwhile? Will you ever go back?” One great book on the subject of migration is the Pulitzer Prize-winning Enrique’s Journey, written by Sonia Nazario, about a boy from Honduras who travels to North Carolina to find his mother, who moved there to work.

I look forward to reading others.








SF Gate series on surrogacy in India

Wednesday, October 2nd, 2013

I’ve written a few blog posts about gestational surrogacy, particularly as it is practiced in India. SF Gate, the online version of the San Francisco Chronicle, recently published an in-depth series of articles about the increasingly popular practice, written by Stephanie M. Lee, with vivid photographs by Nicole Fruge. I recommend reading the entire series, Outsourcing A Life: Chapter One, Two, and Three.