Fire in Guatemala

March 8th, 2017

Our Guatemalan adoption community mourns the loss of at least 19 children in a fire at an orphanage in San Jose Pinula. The fire followed a 15-hour riot waged to protest living conditions and alleged abuse.

Someone asked me via Facebook, “They thought rioting would make it better?”

To which I answered: These children have no voice and no rights and no advocates. They saw no other way to call attention to their deplorable conditions.

Someone else asked, “Were these placed children?”

And I explained this was a government-run orphanage, a kind of full-time care facility for children removed from dangerous situations at home, mixed with children in juvenile detention and children left there by relatives. Adoptions from Guatemala to the US closed in December 2007.

I was shaking as I read the news and watched the footage of inside the concrete facility.

They feel so close to us, those children.

I offer prayers for their souls and for the survivors who must live with the memory of this horrific ordeal.

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My mother laughing

March 2nd, 2017

 

My mother loved to laugh and was the best audience when hearing a joke.

For years, I called her a few times a week with the goal to say something funny enough to provoke a chuckle.  As I began to spin my tale, I’d sense her anticipation.  “Uh-huh, uh-huh. Then what?” she’d say, coaxing me on. She was easy! She laughed at everything. I imagined her eyes brightening as she waited for the punchline.

Laughing was my mother’s default. She’d rather do that than anything else. To my mother, the world, with its flawed and imperfect people, was always good. She looked for the good, the positive, the funny. And she found it.

I read somewhere that it takes six months after someone dies to realize what you miss about them.

My mother’s sense of humor, her love of a joke, her delight at slapstick, a pun, or a pratfall. That’s what I miss.

I laugh less with my mother gone. I miss laughing with my mother. ~

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Hidden Figures

February 4th, 2017

Drop everything you’re doing and make time to watch Hidden Figures. Mateo and I saw it this afternoon with two friends, ages 12 and 13. The film touches many subjects important to our community: civil rights in America, women in math and science and academia, single parenthood, family, achieving one’s potential, feeling empowered enough to dream.

Funny, smart, gripping. My vote for the Academy Award still goes to LION. But thrilled to see Hidden Figures in the race. What a terrific season for movies!

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At the bookstore

February 3rd, 2017

Last night while standing in line at Barnes and Noble, Mateo noticed the woman waiting behind us carried a purse made of fabric from Guatemala.

“Ask her where she got it,” he said.

“Do you want me to tell her you’re from Guatemala?”

“Just ask,” he said.

The woman finished her purchase and walked toward us. “Excuse me,” I said. “We’re admiring your handbag.”

She looked down at her purse and then at me and then at Mateo. “This? I got it at a county fair, years ago.”

Mateo nudged me, staying quiet.

“It’s from Guatemala,” I said. I pointed out the two different fabrics, cut from the embroidered blouse and woven skirt. “This part is from the blouse called a huipil. This part is the corte. The designs are specific to regions in the country.”

“Wow, I didn’t know,” the woman said. “I always get compliments on it. Now I can tell people it’s from Guatemala.”

Mateo took my hand and smiled. ~

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Lion nominated

January 24th, 2017

How thrilling to see “Lion” nominated for Best Picture, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress, Original Music, Cinematography, and Best Writing Adapted Screenplay. (from Saroo Brierley’s memoir “Long Way Home). The film handles adoption with sensitivity, grace, and truth.

Watch the trailer and read my review from January 20.

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Arrest of soldier in Dos Erres massacre

January 12th, 2017

One of the worst massacres in Guatemala’s armed conflict happened at Dos Erres in 1982. On that day, 250 unarmed men, women and children were slaughtered by soldiers in Guatemala’s elite unit, the Kaibiles. Pro Publica reports that last week, US agents arrested 54-year-old Jose Mardoqueo Ortiz Morales–former Kaibile, now legal US resident living in Maryland–for his involvement. Praying for the souls of the victims and for some peace for the survivors of the horror.

 

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Movie Review of “Lion”

January 4th, 2017

Yesterday, the kids, my sister Patrice and I saw “Lion.” As you probably know, the film tells the story of a five-year-old boy in India, Saroo, who is separated from his older brother at a rural train station. When Saroo gets off the train hours and miles later, he is alone and lost in the teeming city of Calcutta. Saroo spends several harrowing months surviving on the streets before a woman who runs an orphanage places him with loving adoptive parents in Tasmania, Australia, where he lives for the next twenty years. As an adult, Saroo is happy and healthy and seems well-adjusted. But, inside, Saroo is tormented by the loss of his family in India—Where is his mother? What happened to his brother? And wouldn’t they have spent the past twenty years worrying about him?

Through the wonders of the newly hatched Google Earth and after months and years of obsessive calculation, Saroo is able to recreate his journey and locate his family in India. His mother, thankfully, is alive. His brother, tragically, was killed on the same day he and Saroo were separated. The film ends with a gorgeous scene of reunion.

If you’re reading this, you may know my daughter Olivia is fourteen, my son Mateo twelve. We searched for and found each of their birth mothers in Guatemala when the children were seven. We visit Guatemala every year, often with my sister Patrice, and are grateful we are able to maintain birth family contact.

Okay. Back to the movie. Caution: The themes are mature. The theme of adoption, first. The theme of losing one’s family and being separated from people who share one’s blood. The theme of not-knowing where your birth mother is or what happened to your siblings. As every adoptive parent knows: Those themes can trigger very strong reactions in our children. Nightmare-level reactions. And they’re front and center in ”Lion.”

Second, the theme of treachery by adults. When Saroo is lost and alone, bad people do bad things, to him and to other children. Nothing awful is shown on screen—everything is alluded to and suggested. Yet, still: It’s terrifying to watch, certainly for young children, and, depending on the individual, for tweens, teens, or adults.

That said, the film was mesmerizing. My normally squirrelly kids didn’t move or talk. They forgot to eat their popcorn. We knew how it would end, but the ending still deeply moved us. When Saroo finally walks through the streets of his village, remembering places and colors and smells, and then his mother appears and they recognize each other and embrace, my very cool teenage daughter, who rarely reveals her emotions, sobbed. Broke down, weeping. Twelve-year-old Mateo was also moved, although he didn’t cry. “Here come the waterworks,” he whispered to me as he leaned in close. “You and Olivia.”

The film allowed Olivia to witness a reunion from the outside—as an observer instead of a participant—and gave her room to experience emotions that may overwhelm her when the reunion is her own. She reacted the same way I react when I see either of my kids with their birth mothers, every time. A complex mix of great love and great sadness, resulting in many tears.

Afterward, Olivia said “Lion” was the best movie she’d ever seen. Her summary: “Saroo grew up in a safe place and then he found his birth family. That’s a good story.” Mateo especially liked the relationship between the brothers; my son’s greatest distress came with the news that Saroo’s brother had been killed. My sister Patrice saw the movie twice. She said the second time around, with us, the film seemed “even sadder.” After a moment, she added, “Aren’t you glad you found their birth mothers? So they don’t have to go through life wondering.”

Yes. Yes. Yes.

“Lion” is based on the memoir by Saroo Brierley, “A Long Way Home,” which I recommend, and which our Adoption Book Group is discussing later this month.

Consider seeing “Lion,” by yourself or with your children. Like all powerful works of art, it will make you feel and think. It may leave you changed. ~

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PRI on Guatemala

December 28th, 2016

Guatemala’s thirty-six-year armed conflict ended twenty years ago with the signing of the Peace Accords on December 29, 1996. This PRI segment focuses on victims of the conflict who are telling their stories. From the article: “It was especially hard on Mayan women, who lost loved ones, suffered sexual abuse and other atrocities, and have had to find new ways to survive and move forward in the ensuing years.”

Wishing continued Peace to the country we love.~

 

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Thank you.

December 24th, 2016

If you’re reading this: Thank you for sharing the adoption journey. When I started this blog, never did I think I’d still be at it–six or seven years later? But here I am. And so very grateful you are, too. Best wishes for 2017! xoxoxox

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Low-residency residency

December 18th, 2016

On Saturday, I finished my first low-residency residency at Antioch. I drove down the 405 Freeway exhausted from listening, thinking, and navigating the technology. The last research paper I wrote was banged out on a Selectric typewriter, from sources like the World Book Encyclopedia.

But I got through Round One.

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