Posts Tagged ‘adoption’

Our front door

Friday, August 30th, 2019

Every summer when we visit Antigua, Guatemala, I make Olivia pose with me at the door of the charming little house where we lived together while waiting for her adoption to be finalized, back in 2003. Here we are in August 2019. Mateo snapped the picture. xoxo

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Adoption as universe

Saturday, August 24th, 2019
I’m catching up on my reading, including back issues of the New York Times. In this July 19 Modern Love column, “Don’t Put All Your (Frozen) Eggs in One Basket,” author Ruthie Ackerman writes about her yearning for a baby while married to a man who doesn’t want children. The plot thickens and ultimately Ackerman freezes her eggs, hoping someday to create her longed-for child. She writes movingly and eloquently of her feelings of disappointment and profound loss when, as the article subhead explains: “With ‘fertility preservation,’ I thought I could have children on my own timeline. I was wrong.” There’s much to relate to in her essay, and I encourage you to read it.
But the ending stopped me. The part where Ackerman writes: “Donor eggs are an option. Adoption too.”
After reading those lines, I wanted to sit down with Ackerman and say, “Oh, honey. It’s not that simple. Adoption, I mean. Not the process itself–that’s procedural stuff you’ll get through. But the very fact of adoption. Talk about complicated. For your child, every day of her or his life. For your child’s birth family. For you and your extended family. For every single person involved.”
Mind you: My children came to me through adoption, and my children are the best things, the very best things, in my life. I would not trade a single decision or action that led me to them. I’m a huge advocate for adoption.
At the same time, the person I am now–17 years as an adoptive mother–would say to the person I was then–naïve, as Ackerman is necessarily naïve, how can she not be?–
“Please, please understand: Adoption is bigger than an offhand, two-word sentence.
Adoption is a universe–ever-expanding, infinite. You need to know that going in.”

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English and Spanish

Tuesday, July 16th, 2019

All around the world, people speak more than one language, but in the U.S., increasingly, speaking Spanish or anything besides English feels like a political act. We live in California, where my Guatemalan-born children frequently are assumed to speak Spanish. My daughter Olivia, who speaks quite well, describes this assumption as “triggering.” The other day, Olivia and I were chatting to each other in English while waiting to make a purchase at Macy’s. The cashier, a bilingual speaker, addressed Olivia directly and asked, “Hablas español?”

Olivia responded in Spanish, “Yes, a little,” and engaged in a short conversation to prove her cred. But the exchange bothered her. Later Olivia said, “The cashier wanted to see if I was one of ‘you’ or one of them ‘them.’ Why can’t I be both?” This happens to Olivia all the time: At her new large public high school, where teachers and students assume she’s fluent; in restaurants, where staff will speak to her in Spanish and me in English; in the aisles of the grocery store and Target, where strangers approach and ask her questions in Spanish. (“Do I look like I work here?” Olivia sometimes wonders.) For our kids from Guatemala, as for the politicians and other Latinos profiled in this excellent Washington Post article, Why Don’t You Speak Spanish?: For Julian Castro and Millions of Latinos, the Answer Is Not So Simple, speaking Spanish is considered a litmus test, a mark of authenticity. At the same time, in the United States, being bilingual often is viewed with suspicion and contempt.
Witness these sentences: “You’re in America. Speak English.”

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Book group “Taking Flight”

Monday, March 11th, 2019

On Sunday, our Adoption Book Group discussed the memoir by mother-and-daughter Michaela and Elaine DePrince, Taking Flight (also published as Hope in a Ballet Shoe).

Michaela was born in war-torn Sierra Leone, orphaned by violence and disease, and adopted by the DePrince family in Vermont. From a very young age, she showed exceptional promise as a ballerina and is now a soloist at Dutch National Ballet; you may also recognize her from the documentary “First Position” and “Dancing with the Stars.” Michaela is an extraordinary young woman with an amazing story, and the book is an inspiring read.

Taking Flight seems to be written for a Young Adult audience, although any reader will be moved by Michaela’s strength and resilience. The love and support she feels from her family is palpable.

Photo credit: michaeladeprince.com, Vogue Germany

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Mateo’s Confirmation

Tuesday, March 5th, 2019

On Saturday, Mateo received his Confirmation. For his Confirmation name, he chose “Miguel” (as in the Archangel), and for his sponsor, Olivia.

I’m proud of my son for reaching this milestone, and of his sister for guiding him through his faith journey.

Like siblings everywhere, my kids fight. But when it matters, they stand up for each other, and have from the beginning.

Here they are at Confirmation, and meeting for the first time in the lobby of the Guatemala City Marriott (now Barcelo), when Mateo was six months old and Olivia three.

Not only blood makes a family.

xoxo

 

 

 

 

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MFA and Finish

Wednesday, January 30th, 2019

My word for 2018 was “Finish.” Finish the MFA degree and finish a decent draft of the manuscript for my first novel. Friends, I’m happy to report I did both. Here’s me with Olivia on graduation day, in my cap and gown, and giving my final reading in the Antioch library. I read the opening scene of my novel-in-progress, which seemed to provoke a strong reaction.

My word for 2019 is still to be decided.

Happy New Year! (no longer so new.)

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Annual gathering of GuateAdopt families

Wednesday, May 30th, 2018

Here I am at the front door in my huipil from Coban, Guatemala, as our first guests arrive for our annual party for adoptive families with children from Guatemala. Our community is what makes this party amazing. About one hundred people attend: Kids everywhere, while parents share stories, fellowship, and food.

I’m always happy when I read about other folks/organizations around the country also hosting gatherings. It’s very special to watch our kids grow up together while we grow as parents. We love our community!

photo by Susan Hurst.

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Interview on birth country connection

Wednesday, May 9th, 2018

A week or so ago I posted about Sliding Into Home, the new YA novel by my friend and fellow Guatmama Nina Vincent. One of the themes in Nina’s book is connection to birth country. Nina interviewed me on the subject, posted today on her blog. Thanks, Nina!

Here’s an excerpt:

NV  I know that you have made it a point to have your children learn Spanish. Can you talk a little bit about why you felt that was important?

JO’D  The first year we went to Latin American Heritage Camp in Colorado, we attended a panel discussion led by young adults who’d been adopted from Central and South America. The audience was filled with adoptive parents and the question was asked, “What’s your advice for us? What’s one thing you’d like us to know?” And to a panelist, each of these young adults said, “Teach your children Spanish. Even if your kids rebel and resist. Keep trying.”

Language is power. It’s the way we connect with one another. You’ve heard the expression: “We speak the same language.” When we go to Guatemala, it’s great to be able to communicate directly with people. Speaking another person’s language often leads to deeper understanding of that person.

What’s interesting is the way my kids’ attitude toward Spanish has evolved. When they were younger, they studied the language because they didn’t have a choice. They took Spanish in school; they studied for a month every summer in Guatemala; and for five years, Olivia attended a two-week Spanish immersion camp in Minnesota (Concordia).

All that learning was directed by us, their parents.

But as teenagers, they’re out in the world as independent operators. Because of the way they look, strangers start speaking to them in Spanish. Kids at school who are bilingual speak to them in Spanish. My kids want to speak Spanish if only because everyone assumes they do. To become fluent is their goal now, not mine.

And let’s face it, being able to speak another language is totally cool.

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Hidden Figures

Saturday, 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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Movie Review of “Lion”

Wednesday, 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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