Archive for March, 2016

Inter-country adoption lowest since 1981

Thursday, March 31st, 2016

Inter-country adoptions by US citizens fell 12% last year, to the lowest level since 1981, according to an article in the Wall Street Journal by Miriam Jordan, based on US State Department statistics. Maybe because I read about adoption every day, this news doesn’t surprise me. So I asked my 13-year-old daughter Olivia what she thought about the statistic. Her answer: “Every child should be given a chance to have a family.”

The subject is complicated, but I appreciate Olivia’s reaction. Here’s the WSJ article link.


TLC “Lost and Found”

Monday, March 28th, 2016

Spring Break this week for Olivia and Mateo and we’re on the East coast visiting historical sites. Because every hotel has cable TV, the kids were thrilled to catch up on Cutthroat Kitchen, Extreme Weight Loss, and Cupcake Wars, programs they miss in our cable-less home. That is, until they discovered the new TLC show about adoptive families: “Lost and Found: Reunited.”

Now it’s back-to-back Lost and Found episodes, one story melting into another–of mothers and their sons and daughters searching and hoping and meeting. Of filling in blanks and seeing oneself reflected, of finally getting answers. Olivia and Mateo are fascinated, mesmerized, transfixed. Glued to the screen.

I’ve written about Lost and Found before, but now that I’ve seen the show myself, I am re-recommending. If the episodes do nothing else, they will generate dialogue. Dialogue is good. It’s a beginning. ~


Antigua Semana Santa

Thursday, March 24th, 2016

I found photos from a 2013 trip with Olivia to Antigua during Semana Santa. It was a memorable visit—the processions, the solemn fervor (a balance hard to achieve, but somehow pervasive), the crowds, the carpets. All made better because many other adoptive families stayed at the same hotel and we shared the experience. (We were the lunatics up and out at 5 AM to watch artisans construct their rugs. )

The pix here are from Holy Thursday.





Monday, March 21st, 2016

If you’ve been to Guatemala, chances are you’ve eaten Tortrix–the savory, heavily salted corn chips with a hint of lime that are sold in tiendas and markets everywhere. Ordinarily, I’m not a big snack eater, but Tortrix are my weakness. In Guatemala, a bag always is stashed in my backpack, ready to be dug into whenever hunger strikes.

Of course, Tortrix and I have a history. Back in 2002, when Tim and I visited Olivia in Guatemala City at the Camino Real, we often did a run to a nearby market for stuff we needed or forgot. And there, hanging by the cash register, calling to me, was the display of Tortrix. The iridescent green bag. The bold red logo. The promise of salt and flavor. I was hooked.

Last week, in the US, I visited my parents in San Diego. They’re in an assisted living facility now, 87 years old and as comfortable as one can be at 87 in assisted living. The visits are bittersweet, as my husband and kids understand. Anyway, while I was away, Tim took the kids to a restaurant he discovered, owned by a family from El Salvador. And hanging by the cash register was the familiar display of Tortrix.

It doesn’t take much to make this girl happy. xo




DNA and adoption

Sunday, March 20th, 2016

We’ve met Olivia’s birth mother and other family members, who identify as K’iche’ Maya, and Olivia feels secure in her Maya identity. But recently, after studying DNA in 7th grade Science, Olivia said she’d like to take a home DNA test such as 23andMe to learn more about her genetic heritage. This NY Times article therefore resonated: Marie Tae McDermott, adopted from Korea at 6 months old, took a DNA test and writes about the experience in Meeting My DNA.


Book club

Monday, March 14th, 2016

I’m grateful to live in an area with an active adoptive parent community. Yesterday, Olivia and I drove an hour for “book club”–no matter how many times I drive to my friend Marie’s house, I always get lost–and met with moms and kids we’ve known for years. (Shout out to Marie’s husband who watched the kids while the moms talked. Thank you, Ralph!)

The book discussed was Separated @ Birth: A True Love Story of Twins Reunited, a memoir about two young women now in their 20s, born in Korea and adopted to two different families, in France and the US. The conversation veered, as it always does, from the book to other topics: this time, the impact of social media on finding biological family; the impact of social media on our kids; birth family reunions; trips to Guatemala; adoption and how our kids approach it now, as tweens and teens; how our own views of adoption have developed as we grow as adoptive parents. And on and on.

What a comfort it is to be in a roomful of people who understand the very specific experience of being an adoptive parent. Who “get” what you’re saying, with insight and without judgement, because they live it, too. Thank you, friends. xo


Bonnard in SF

Friday, March 11th, 2016

The kids and I saw the Pierre Bonnard show on Sunday. You would have thought I was dragging them for a day of hard labor in a diamond mine the way they resisted, but I digress. By the time we got inside, their bad moods had lifted. The Palace of Legion of Honor Museum is sited on a dramatic cliff overlooking the SF Bay, and views of the Golden Gate Bridge framed by hillsides of redwoods would cheer up anyone. Rubbing elbows with the scads of young, cool SF hipsters viewing Bonnard’s work didn’t hurt.

Either the kids are finally old enough to appreciate painting or we’ve done this so often something’s sinking in, but we made it to the end with only minor fisticuffs. Bonnard’s canvases often include dogs and cats, and spotting them became a game. I sprang for 3 separate AudioTours, which kept us distracted and apart. And as always, the trip ended in the Cafe with a delicious chunk of chocolate cake.

Overall, a success. We recommend!


Keep the faith.

Wednesday, March 9th, 2016

When I read the headline “Empowering Girls Through Education,” I thought, “OK! Education for girls in Nahuala, Guatemala! Count me in!” The project is sponsored by the international organization CARE, partnered by the personal-care products at Hain Celestial.

Today I must be feeling cynical, because after reading the article, instead of feeling optimistic, I felt my spirit deflate. Will this program really effect any permanent lasting change in the life of these young girls? Will anything?

Some days I wonder. Some days I believe nothing less than a 100% commitment by the leaders of Guatemala–not aid organizations, or corporate America, or any outsider–will change anything. And will that day ever come?

Be assured, my family supports multiple NGOs in Guatemala–which are all doing meaningful work! I subscribe to Mother Teresa’s philosophy: “Do small acts with great kindness.” I remind myself that no one can change the world, but maybe we can change one tiny thing.

Yet some days, like today, I read an article touting a revolutionary new program guaranteed to lift up and empower, and what do I do? I sigh.

Note to self: Shoulders back while marching forward. Keep the faith.


Letter from Kahleah to her birthmother, on the event of Kahleah’s 25th birthday

Thursday, March 3rd, 2016


On her 25th birthday, Kahleah Chisholm Guibault wrote this letter to her birth mother. Kahleah was born in Guatemala and grew up in Canada. Some two years ago, she moved back to Guatemala, where she works in an orphanage. The opinions expressed in the letter belong to Kahleah, and I’m grateful to her for allowing me to share. ~


Kahleah Chisholm Guibault feeling blessed.

February 28 at 4:48pm ·

Dear birthmother,

Did you know I never really liked my birthday? I can imagine you don’t much like my birthday either. I always loved the idea of a birthday; the parties, the gifts, the friends and family. And man did I every get the best ones growing up! I like that part of it. But the actual day itself, meh. I could go without. I think its because more than anything for me, for 5-year old me, for 10-year old me, for 25-year old me it marks loss. I know that 25 years ago, in a little clinic at the foot of a volcano, there was no family patiently waiting in the waiting room for the exciting news that I was born. There were no grandparents excited about my arrival. From what I can tell there was no father waiting impatiently to hold me. I know there was no baby shower or celebration during the months I was in your belly. I know there was probably panic and stress and sadness during your pregnancy. I know there was no joy as they cleaned me and dressed me and took me away. I know that there is a probable chance that we never laid eyes on one another.

Did you know that I spent a lot of years being mad? And sad. And hurt. I spent a lot of time thinking that you should have tried. You should have kept me for better or for worst because that’s what moms do. They fight for their children and give the best they can. That’s what I thought I would do so why shouldn’t you? And that wasn’t fair. It took 25 years for me to realize but you did do what is best for me. I think part of it is a perspective I gained form living here. Life is so miserable here sometimes. This beautiful country that I love so much is lacking in almost every social service. Medical care is something that most people cannot afford. Feeding your children is something that is a daily struggle. Malnutrition is rampant in this country and children die every day. The school system is decent at best, and if you are a girl, you are the last priority. Life here can be so so miserable and I realize that that’s exactly what you didn’t want for me. I think the pain of loss overshadowed that for me for so long. The pain of not being wanted. Or at least of thinking I was not wanted by you.

But here’s the bottom line, the truth and the realization that I have come to accept and realize and be thankful for in my quarter century of life: you gave me life and then gave me the chance to live it, to really fully live it. You gave me a father and mother, together. You gave me a brother. You gave me wonderful aunts and uncles, and later cousins. You gave me the ability to speak three different languages. You gave me education. You gave me a full stomach every single day. You gave me a chance at university. You gave me away because that’s what mothers do: what’s best for their kids.

And I thank you. As I sit here in my comfortable home, with a job I love, friends and family who are incredible, I thank you. I thank you for doing the most unselfish loving thing a mother can do. Something that requires so much strength that just thinking about having to do the same hurts my heart so deeply. So happy my birthday to you. The last time we were together was 25 years ago today, but that’s the great thing about love. You carry those you love in your heart every single day.

All my love, xo