Posts Tagged ‘adoptive families’

Quinceanera

Friday, June 2nd, 2017

Sunday we celebrated the Quinceaneras of three girls in our group of adoptive families in the San Francisco Bay Area. Glorious! Quinceanera is a celebration of a young Latina woman’s 15th birthday, acknowledging her transition from girl to womanhood. Customs to celebrate Quinces vary from family to family and may include a Catholic Mass, Courts and Groomsmen, mariachis and dancing. The parents in our three families incorporated traditions that resonated for us:

  • The changing of footwear from flat shoes to high heels. (The girls entered in flats and the three mothers helped them change into high heels, a symbol of adulthood.)
  • The exchange of a favorite stuffed animal for a tiara. (The letting go of “childish things.”)
  • A speech addressed to each daughter, delivered by her mother.

I’m grateful to my co-Quinceanera parents, Marie + Ralph and Miriam+ Allen, for contributing ideas, balloons, decorations, cake, and, above all, joyful spirits.

Thanks, too, to adoptive mom Ginny Curtin, for her fabulous photos to record the event, and to everyone in our community–parents, kids, significant others, friends–for sharing this special day. And always, to my husband Tim. xo

Below is the speech I wrote for Olivia.

THOUGHTS ON QUINCEANERA

Back in 2012, Olivia’s birth sister, Lucia, celebrated her Quinceanera. We were in Guatemala on our annual visit and wanted to do something special for the occasion. As is our custom, we went shopping together in the local market, and there we bought for Lucia her Quinceanera outfit: a wraparound skirt, called a corte, woven with hearts; an embroidered blouse called a huipil, made with fine fabric and fancy gold thread; and four-inch high heels I don’t think Olivia’s birth mother was thrilled about, but Lucia absolutely loved.
The experience impressed upon me the importance of Quinceanera, a rite of passage our daughters share with young Latina women around the world, including their home country of Guatemala. It reminded me of the multiple identities my daughter holds: Guatemalan, Maya K’iche, US citizen, person who is adopted. How impressively she navigates all of them—with confidence, intensity, and grace.
Olivia, so many people have helped you become the person you are: compassionate and wise, intelligent and creative. Today we remember and thank them: Your birth mother and father, your grandmother Abuela, the long line of ancestors who have lived in the highlands of Guatemala since before the arrival of Christopher Columbus. Your two foster families, our friends in Guatemala. Your aunts, uncles, cousins, brothers, sisters, neighbors, grandparents, teachers, coaches, counselors, religious leaders. Our community of adoptive families, gathered here to mark this occasion.
Olivia: As you go forward and walk through life, stand tall and stay strong. Be who you are. Be true to yourself. Remember that many hands hold you up. Don’t let anyone dim your light.
We love you. ~

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Foolish pie

Thursday, April 20th, 2017

A couple friends asked me to explain “foolish pie.” My grandmother was a fantastic cook of Southern dishes–fried chicken and dumplings, green beans with pork with a streak of lean, baked beans, sweet iced tea–and foolish pie was one of her specialties. The pie’s main ingredients are pineapple, whipped cream, and sugar. Served chilled, it was cool and simple on a hot summer night. I thought the recipe was unique to my grandmother, or maybe to Tidewater, Virginia. But I looked it up and here it is on Cooks: Foolish Pie.

My sister Deanna clarified for me why the name: “Foolish” because it’s so easy, anyone can make it. Not, as I assumed, because you’re foolish if you eat too much of it.

Maybe that, too.

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At the bookstore

Friday, 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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A visit with friends in Guatemala

Thursday, August 4th, 2016

When Olivia was a toddler, I moved to Antigua and rented a small house where we lived together while her adoption paperwork was being finalized. I studied Spanish a few afternoons a week, leaving Olivia in the loving and capable hands of nanny (and friend) Yoli Rodríguez. Yoli had children of her own, including her then-young son, known as Junior, who was a good “big brother” to Olivia, as well as to Maya, the daughter of another adoptive mom, Kallie K.

This summer in Guatemala, Yoli invited us to lunch at her home near Antigua, where we discovered photos of Olivia and me, and Kallie and Maya, displayed on Yoli’s living room wall, among Yoli’s other family pictures. Seeing the photos reminded me that our children remain in the hearts of their early caregivers, as their caregivers remain in ours.

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Road trip to Tikal, details

Wednesday, July 6th, 2016

Everyone I know who visits Tikal flies via Guatemala City, but we decided to drive. On the way, we visited parts of Guatemala we’d read and heard about–Rio Dulce, Lake Izabel, and Livingston—and saw miles of near-desert and dense jungle vastly different from the familiar mountains and valleys of the country’s west and center.

Our group consisted of my children, fourteen-year-old Olivia, eleven-year-old Mateo, and I, along with good friends from our Bay Area adoption group, Michele S. and her ten-year-old daughter, Sofia. We hired a driver, Helmuth Leal, who owns the Antigua travel company, Caminos del Quetzal. Literally dozens of tour companies and shuttles run trips to Tikal. We chose Helmuth based on recommendations of others in our adoption community. The service he provided was terrific.

Guatemala is divided into twenty-two regions called departments, similar to our States, and enroute to Tikal we passed through nine of them: Solola, Sacatepequez, Chimaltenango, Guatemala, Progresso, Zacapa, Izabel, and Peten. Tkal is located in the middle of Peten, the largest and most northwestern department, bordering Mexico to the north and west and Belize to the East. The distance from Guatemala City is about three hundred thirty miles. We started our trip in Panajachel, which added another hundred.

The trip took six days, with two days dedicated to driving. The cost was about twice as much as the price of five people flying round trip from Guatemala City to Flores, Tikal’s nearest airport. Bear in mind, the price included hotels, transport, and Tikal Park admission.

Before leaving for Tikal, our families had spent a week at Lake Atitlan, and Helmuth picked us up there on Sunday at 6 AM. If I were to do it again, to save travel time, I would start in Antigua. Lesson learned. We stopped for breakfast at the restaurant Chichoy, between Lake Atitlan and Antigua, and snacked in the van until we arrived almost at Rio Dulce. I say almost, because it was while on the road that we learned the meaning of the word pinchazo—flat tire. The incident added to the adventure.

Once in Rio Dulce, we unloaded our luggage onto a riverboat and cruised over to the rustic and charming Hotel Catamaran. The cabins were simple and clean, with ceiling fans we grew to cherish—that part of the country is hot! and humid!–and no internet access. The no-internet theme was repeated for the rest of the week, and for the first time I could remember, I truly felt off the grid. (more…)

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Road trip to Tikal

Saturday, June 25th, 2016

Olivia, Mateo, and I just returned from visiting the great Mayan pyramids in Tikal, which is the reason I’ve been incommunicado. Not even phone reception in some places. I can’t remember when I’ve been so off the grid. We’ve been traveling with another family from our adoption group, Michele S. and her daughter Sofia, and the kids got along great. We drove through 9 departments in Guatemala–departments are like our states; there are 22 total–and saw a part of the country completely different from the highlands, where we usually go. The east and north are very dry and then very jungle.

We spent a night or two in Rio Dulce (details are a blur at this point!), which is beautiful and like I imagine the Amazon to be. We took a boat ride down the river and stopped at a hot springs, where a natural healer named Felix massaged the sulphur sands into my bad knee, and for good measure, the other knee, too. The kids loved soaking in the scalding hot water. An amazing day.

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GuatAdopt Gathering 2016

Tuesday, May 31st, 2016

I’ve posted a few snaps from our annual GuatAdopt party, taken by the multi-talented Ginny C. Everyone agreed this was the best bash ever–our kids have grown up together, and we have too. Friends pitched in with set-up and break down, and pot-lucked delicious side dishes and salads to complement Tim’s wizardry at the grill. How lucky we are to be part of this group!!! xoxox

 

 

 

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Gathering

Saturday, May 28th, 2016

Sunday is our annual party for adoptive families with ties to Guatemala. So if today you saw a crazed lady steering a mondo cart through the aisles of Costco, that was me. The weather forecast is great, and for once, we’re ahead of schedule with cleaning and prep-work. (After five+ years, I think we’ve finally gotten the system down. ) Looking forward!!! xoxox

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Antigua nostalgia

Friday, July 31st, 2015

During my trip to Guatemala with Olivia this summer, I felt very nostalgic for our earliest days together, when I moved to Antigua and we lived in a small house to wait for her adoption paperwork to be finalized. We were first getting to know each other then, and many of those days weren’t easy.

I remembered the hours we passed playing at Antigua’s Mickey D’s, wandering through the markets, and admiring the artwork painted on the sides of local buses. I also remembered the care shown to Olivia by our dear Guatemalan friend Yoly, who babysat during the afternoon hours I studied Spanish.

As I watched Olivia navigate her life in Guatemala this June–confident, happy, independent–I thought, How far we have come. ~

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Bunk Bed Project

Tuesday, July 14th, 2015

A few years ago, American adoptive mom Tamara Hillstrom, founder of the Guatemalan orphanage El Amor de Patricia, visited a farm close to the El Amor orphanage, where she noticed that the farm’s caretakers slept on straw mats in barn stalls designed for animals. This wasn’t the first time Hillstrom had observed families in such dire circumstances: In her work for El Amor, she had visited homes where many poor parents and children slept on twigs or pallets or cinder blocks, or on nothing at all. “How can anyone function after a night like that?” Hillstrom wondered. “Doesn’t everyone deserve a comfortable sleep?”

Thus, the Bunk Bed Project was born. The concept is simple: raise funds from the American adoption community and other interested donors, use the funds to build bunk beds in Guatemala, and deliver the beds to families in need. Since the project’s inception, more than 1,200 bunk beds have been installed throughout Guatemala.

Yesterday, Mateo and I helped deliver and build bunk beds for two families.  The beds we installed, like every bunk built through the Project, are given in memory of Gabby Lewis, a child adopted from Guatemala who died too young.

I rarely ever promote nonprofit organizations, but if you’re looking for a service opportunity especially meaningful for children, consider the Bunk Bed Project. Sweet dreams. ~

 

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