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Archive for December, 2007

Presence

Trying to be in the present while making, wrapping, worrying, buying, not buying, looking at recipes, making lists, cooking and putting on eye liner is a challenge.

Special moments:

  • the silhouette of two five-year olds easy with each other, blue and pink snow coats, blond and black hair, one mittened hand reaching out toward the other.
  • the crunch of snow being run over and on and through
  • time stopping as the cold hair hits hair and skin and breath just long enough to feel energized by the brisk and crisp air, just cool enough for the hot cider and cocoa to soothe hands and tongue
  • the quiet, watching lights in the woods while the girls stand on a train seat mesmerized and wiping away at the window, laughing, planning, running from one side of the train to the other.
  • We parents laughing and smiling at each other and them, our girls, all seated at the end of the train by the door.
  • Time as precious as any sweet homemade sugar cookie, as precious as the glittering jewelry made by hand, as translucent as the light beaming through the glass ornaments
  • wrapping presents and fearful our child would wake and walk into her wonderland of Christmas morning too soon
  • our child asking,”Is Rudolph real?” and clearing a path from the fireplace opening to the tree. I talk of St. Nick, the real person. The true story wonderful and I give her bits of it too.  Here’s a link: http://www.northpolesantaclaus.com/santahistory.htm
  • Parents, and our pasts, melt away like the snow to clear larger and unmade paths for our children. Today is our children’s pasts and to be present to them and that is the most important thing for me to remember.
  • Realizing I need to keep attentive to my own collections and my hands, pressed too hard into that of others, can crack more than glass and tables. Balancing being my authentic self and honoring the same in others.
  • My partner picking up all of the ingredients at the insane grocery store so I can try new recipes. He’ll hunt cumin in ground and seed form, ask for the description of scallions in whole form and wait in the lines – better to me than five sweaters!
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Daughter’s Poem

My daughter’s morning poem (she’s five)

The snow is white

it has begun

deep falling snow

we shovel til we can get it

it turns into a big ice path

it falls on my head

it falls everywhere

even in my house

with penguins waddling

I have collections of collections

which means that I have lots

of collections.

by me

Gratitude of the day: My little one loves words and snow and stuffed animals. She loves to shovel and make snow angels. She’s part worker bee and puppy playing.  As a mother I’ve made cookies from scratch, imagined the snow as the jewelry on nature and rediscovered snowball “fights” – it’s a good life. 
Other aspects are work and challenge and conflict and figuring out how much to say or not, share or not, etc. But, in this one moment my daughter sees an expanse of world where inside and outside have little to divide them.

Catch of the Day: A Snowball

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I have a friend who was adopted as an infant. She has called me “1/2 adopted” because I have “issues” I have related to not knowing my biological father who left before I was a year old, who I know some about but don’t know. This is  a revision of a poem I wrote when I worked in the city where my father supposedly lives (if he’s alive) and I was thinking of him as I passed by other homeless vets at the T-stations.

Empty Reserve

for Daddy Frank 

As coins sink in –

change.

How could I look?

How can I see?

In college, a boy with curly hair said,
“Can I ask you a question?”

I slurped my yogurt. He was doing a study

on paternal occupation and offspring height.

“What does your father do for a living?”
“Nothing. He’s a homeless vet.”

“No, really?” he said.

“No, really.” I said.

He stared at me.

I was no help to him.

“I’m taller than he was,” I said,

which was all I could offer.

Oh Daddy, I’m not my sister, your eldest.

Remember how she recognized your gait?

The hang of your head,

the swing of your arms?

Something inside you

still.

She said, “Hey you, I know you.”

And she did. But you don’t

know us, having left

before we were toddlers.

I am a girl on a dock left in the lake 

peering over and into the water,

should I dive in or wait for rescue?

I’m old enough to know you won’t pop up

and say, “I was just here, right under.”

I used to dream you sober.

You are the name printed in the “W” section

of the obituaries.

I run my index finger over the print

each morning searching.

You are an overcast day.

A headache stirring in my temple.

You are the nameless throb

of an unknown muscle.

You are the slope of my nose,

angled and long, the steady bones

of my cheeky face,

the whites and canines –

a kaleidoscope of genetic graffiti.

You are the questions I

always never ask.

The itch at the back

too far to scratch.

Instead swallowed.

You are the blood donor,

anonymously vital to my

organs. The three second

count back, 100, 99, 98

before anesthesia.

You are a broken sculpture

refusing to disintegrate.

Instead, you lean back,

free fall and crack.

Do you ever wonder

who was under or

crushed?

Dog-tagged, in uniform,

Christ, you were once a soldier?

I’ve seen pictures of you muscled and tan.

You were once fresh and clean, writing letters

from Vietnam where you were scared, folded

and interesting.

At least, you knew 

how to reach us then.

How did you arrive at deadbeat dad?

What is Mom owed?
Nana said, “Oh honey,

he doesn’t have two dimes

to rub together.” Great-grandmother

said, “He was all right. The world was

all wrong.”

It’s not an inheritance I’m after.

I’ve got enough,

your absence, the

the limb of grief.

I want proof though

that I ever belonged to a Dada-daddy.

I envision you

at your funeral,

me kneeling

before your casket –

the silence between us

still.

If you are alive, you are shredded,

drifting, dirtied newspaper

humping curbs and corners.

I pray the wind is kind

and you are lifted,

lifted.

—–

I recommend Another Bullshit Night in Suck Cityfor anyone who loves lyrical prose, wants to read about a son’s search for so much including his father. If you want a ‘truth is stranger than fiction’ memoir where the author works at THE VERY homeless shelter his father ends up coming to – this is the book. I had the chance to hear Nick Flynn read from his book and he was amazing. He said he wasn’t a big fan of fiction. He said something such as, “Why bother?” like there’s not enough to delve into that’s real life?

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I love my cousin and aunt. Yesterday, besides the individual things I love and the things they share (humor, smarts, a love of fantastic food, deep caring for others) they are both so thoughtful. I can’t imagine my life without them. They each bought me the most thoughtful gifts. Here, I’ll share some excerpts from the books they bought.

From my aunt, Beach Wisdom: Life Lessons From The Ocean(Andrews McMeel Publishing) a wonderful mix of photos and captions. It’s a nice gift book for beach lovers as the captions without the photos aren’t the same but here’s an excerpt from the introduction written by Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin:

“That’s what the beach does. It gives us a chance to hear the truths our own hearts whisper and to slow our careening inner pace to something that more closely matches the ancient rhythms of the tides. When that happens, the answers we’re looking for begin to float up to the surface. Grace begins to seep in, like the high tide slowly moving up the shore.

Faith also washes up. We watch the tide come in and the tide go out, just as it has for all the many generations before us. Perhaps the gift of the tides is to help us hold more faith in the ebb and flow of our own shifting fortunes or the rise and fall of our careers or even the waxing and waning of our loves.

The beach also reminds us of the playfulness of childhood and can even make us childlike again.”

My cousin gave me Sea Glass Secretsby Valerie Raudonis. She writes poems and is a sea and sea-glass lover. And finally, from my dear aunt, Sea Glass Chronicles whispers from the past(text by C.S. Lambert and photos by Pat Hanbery) is for the sea glass freak who wants photos, history and information about sea glass, beach glass, washed up ceramics and where and why the colors are as they are. I’ll share some “gems” of information.

 “Like a time capsule, sea glass can reveal much about the people, places, and events that were linked to the original object, whether it was a teacup, apothecary bottle, or child’s toy. Some shards speak more clearly than others, which steadfastly refuse to surrender their histories. And some pieces raise more questions than they answer. While it is impossible to trace the exact origin of many fragments, each reveals clues through its color, design, and composition.”

From Page 17,
“Forget the common diamond-and topaz-colored sea glass; ruby is the gold standard. It’s scarcity and value owe to a key ingredient – gold. For example, sixty pounds of rub red glass contain a full ounce of the precious metal.”

There is so much fascinating history in the book but my favorite section is summed up in the first two chapters of the epilogue on page 96.

“Why are we drawn to the coastline? In part, no doubt, the brine that hangs in the air and the rhythmic crashing of waves dispense eco-therapy. The sea is surely Nature’s most potent antidepressant.

Some anthropologists point to sodium, potassium and calcium, whose ratio in seawater is the same as that in human blood and bones. Maybe, with apologies to Herman Melville, beachcombers are just searching for their souls, which lie nearby in the ocean. To be sure, there is something primordial in it all.”

I’m so grateful for these wonderful treasures, my aunt and my cousin and my family – in my home and outside of it – and the books too!

Catch of the Day: Gratitude and Love

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  • I could offend my daughter someday who might say, “I didn’t say you could write about me,” and this is a writer fear about writing about anyone and anything when one writes memoir. But, in the world of adoption there is a desire to have a child COMPLETELY OWN all of her story, all aspects, the search and the discoveries, the process. And yet, as a parent who is a writer who thinks, learns and processes through writing, I’m finding my way in this writer who is a parent.
  • Fear of offending those who are infertile and adopted due to infertility or secondary infertility and of not being sensitive enough to the trials that were experienced pre-adoption and the grief carried about not having biological connections to their children as I have not had that experience and it wasn’t the reason we chose to be adoptive parents.
  • Fear, with a capital “F” of offending those who have been adopted, who are adults, who are sick of hearing their experiences digested for them in any way but their own. Not all adoptees are the same of course any more than all adoptive parents or any group is the same. And yet, there’s a feeling that I have so much to learn as a parent that it’s hard to stand in what I know and who I am in this place on my parenting journey knowing it may reveal gaping idiocy that I can’t even know right now.
  • Fear of offending other writers, especially in my tribe, who I have always said, “Write your truth. Your story is your own. Each person has a story.” And I live this except I am incredibly hesitant when it comes to adoptive parenting.
  • Fear of offending even the idiots who know nothing about adoption and say stupid things and offer stupid comments and suggestions and yet, they “mean well” and are “just saying,” and so who wants to offend them when they are so good-intentioned.
  • Fear of offending my future self who might look back and say, “Dear God was that the best insight you had at that point. And you felt the need to put it in print. Tsk. Tsk.”
  • Fear of offending those who have had children biologically and adopted because sometimes I think they think they know “both experiences” and instead I think, “No, they know the experience of having a family through birth and adoption” and that is a unique experience as well.
  • Fear of offending other “first adopters” who feel adopting for “moral reasons” (because why pro-create when their are children in the world who need families, or just to have genetic mirrors or to experience pregnancy) when if it was done less, there would be fewer living in orphanages. Well, I may agree in my personal life the way I think it’s not necessary to eat meat to be healthy but I actually don’t care if others feel the same way and so I’m not really rallying enough or raising our banner either.
  • The list is endless. That’s just the first few things that come to mind.
  • That’s just the top of the list. 

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I’m in a writing group. One topic we tackled together is, “What keeps me from writing?” For me, not much. I’ve written in my journal forever. However, when it comes to writing about my experience as a parent, an adoptive parent, I hesitate. I weigh my words carefully. I am not always sure of how honest I want to be. My feelings are ever-evolving. Do I want to capture one “in process” before I’m in some “more evolved” state?

In all other areas I say honor the truth, the truth of the moment. Chances are it isn’t my truth alone, might make someone gain an insight, have a combative response, generate conversation and understanding. And yet… there are so many people to consider.

My daughter’s privacy. My raw feelings about child abandonment in China. My growing connection to and awareness of our daughter’s first (birth) family. So, I AM going to share a slice of my recent writing.

The prompt was from Nancy Slonim-Aronie’s Writing from the Heart Program on the Lime network (ch. 114) on Sirius satellite. The piece airs this Sunday at 7pm. The prompt all writers got is this: “What I Didn’t Tell you Then” and in Writing from the Heart style, I wrote, non-stop for about twenty minutes, without editing and overthinking. I did not work, work and re-work the piece (as I would for an article). And here’s what I wrote. And read.

What I didn’t tell you then…

What I didn’t tell you then in the hotel in Changsha China is how little idea I had of what I was doing, what parenthood required, and how my heart had only started to crack open her windows. I didn’t tell you how scared I was to mother you, 13 lbs. and heavy-headed, flopping forward but not towards me only in my direction because your neck couldn’t hold you upright. I didn’t tell you how often I wondered if you would feel ripped from China or rescued from an orphanage – or that I was incapable of realizing you might feel more than two emotions.

I didn’t tell you then how you were left before we found you, abandoned, orphaned and I have found no language to soften the image of an infant left by a gate, a door, a fence or a ditch whether or not a note is left and she is wrapped in a blanket or placed in a box or not.

I didn’t tell you then that when you cried out in terror, so many nights, and said “Mama” that it was the deepest grief I have ever witnessed even if you were just one and how I knew you were not crying out for me, not yet. But how it was my honor to go anyways, until you were.

I didn’t say, when you were a toddler, how sorry I was for the confusion you would come to know. That though adorable, it was also sad when you tried to wipe off your birth mark thinking it dirt. Or how that would symbolize the scars, the skin tone that you are and how being so visible is hard for a shy soul like you who loves privacy and doesn’t have my desire to share all of her stories.

I didn’t tell you because I didn’t know how many conversations we would have about your first family, how when you asked me where your nose, eyes and mouth came from I couldn’t not talk about you growing in her belly. I didn’t tell you how much I ached when you asked, “Was she sad when you took me from her?” I would have been willing to seem guilty of the crime of kidnapper if doing so would have spared you from the dawning realization that if you weren’t stolen… dot. dot. dot.

I didn’t know then how tired I would get of trying to make abandonment seem like an adoption plan when you will someday know girls in China are left in places Americans wouldn’t leave half-eaten sandwiches they might want later. Or, how guilty I would feel for this, writing that line, and ever judging them who make you.

I didn’t tell you how often I would wonder about in utero you or that I didn’t know your father and I should have been saying “Hello China” instead of telling you to say “Goodbye” because we were taking China with us. 

You asked, “How did I laugh when I was a baby?” I could have told you how you laughed at one, two or three but not as an infant. Those giggles belong to China. I told you most of the truth which is, “Your laugh has always been long and deep, soft and distinct.” I told you it was a lengthy giggle, a bird song, humming and captivating and contagious. Everyone has always commented on what a great laugh you have.

I didn’t tell you then that your laugh, like your soul, isn’t something I can explain but is entirely your own, not belonging to anyone, not even your mother (and father) by birth or adoption. Just you.

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Beach Rocks

My friend who loves heart-shaped rocks saw this woman’s work, love and passion at a craft fair. For those who love beach rocks and what can be done with them, please check this site. It’s wonderful.

http://www.kemdesigns.net/

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