Monday, June 29, 2009

Hello, Sunshine

It is finally finally almost July. This is important to me because I knew that June would just about do me in with busy life and away from home-ness and I have been waiting and longing for July.

Not that I haven't loved June. June has been very exciting. I was away, Andrew was away, and for the past few days I have had the privilege of hosting my mother and spending much time with my family. My brother and I had secret plans for this visit, a plot that we've been hatching for a couple years now and things went off without a hitch. We had a lot of time together and I enjoyed being with my family for several days in a row - it was tiring but good.

Our little godson/nephew is getting big and strong. Also he is wearing his share of obligatory funny baby hats:

And our niece, S., is as darling and camera ready as ever. She is learning to be a good big sister, and full of imagination and games:

She is, I have heard, a lot like another blond haired, blue eyed little girl was, a rather long time ago.

And we are waiting still. I feel like now that June is over, July and August stretching in front of us open and free, we can really be ready. This might make waiting harder. But we have tomatoes on the vine, zucchini in a pot outside our window, a plane landing at SeaTac as I type this with my heart on board, and plenty of that rare Seattle sunshine to keep me warm while we wait.

4 months, 2 weeks, 6 days. That's not our number, yet.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Pom Pom

This is Andrew's grandmother, Pom-Pom. She is my garden guru, our constant cheerleader and is just as salty and wonderful and dear as she looks.

She left us this morning, after a long battle with emphezema. I am so sad that our kids won't get to know her. I will miss watching the flowers bloom with her each year, and hearing about the names and histories of each of her mother's rose bushes, which still grow all around her home. I will miss eating way too many of her cookies, because they're just too good to stop. I didn't know her as long or as well as my husband and in-laws did, but my life is poorer now that her dear raspy cackle of a laugh has gone out of it. If you are one who prays please keep her son, Andrew's father, and the rest of us who love her in your prayers. She lived life. May we all be so bold.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Father's Day musings..

I think Father's Day can easily get a bad rap. I tend to surf around the feminist blogosphere a bit, and I've noticed a lot of articles this week about fathers: how good they are, how bad they are, how some of them are mad that they don't get the hoopla and presents that mothers do on Mother's Day.

One thing I haven't noticed is any mention of the guys that want to be dads but aren't, for whatever reason. So much of parenthood is focused on moms, and that's true about the road to parenthood, too. It makes sense. For people who build their families through having biological children the process is just naturally pretty mom-focused. After all, the dads-to-be aren't growing a person inside them, dealing with hormones and weight gain and the crazy-scary-amazing labor of giving birth. They play a supporting role through most of that.

And then there is the trope deeply embedded in our culture that men don't long for children the way women do. Some of them don't, I suppose. But, to be fair, there are women who don't long for children either. And there are men who do. Our culture doesn't assume that men without children are less than whole, they way it does with women. But there are men who feel that way, supporting role or no. There are men who also deal with impossible situations, who choose not to be dads, who have lost little ones and yet somehow carry on through a day that must feel like salt in those wounds.
I don't know how much my father longed for kids, although my parents did have some trouble when they first tried starting a family. I get the impression that the depth of his love for my brother and me sort of surprised him. At least, he wasn't very comfortable showing a lot of feelings to us when we were little. But as I grew up my shy quiet father came out of his shell, started saying "I love you" and "I miss you," once I left home. Even today, when I called him to say Happy Fathers Day and our conversation inevitably turned towards financial planning and home projects (I learned my craftiness from him) I noticed that when he and I talk about the challenges in my life he still says "we." As in "what we should do about that is" or "what we can do is..." Because no matter how old I get we're in this life thing together. I love that. I love him, too. It's wonderful that we can say it out loud.

I'm so excited about what Andrew has to offer our family as a dad. He's the sort of man who will learn how to braid a little girl's hair just to show that he can, make glorious messes while baking birthday cupcakes, and take pride in being just as invested and involved in the minutia of our child's life as I am. He understands even better than I do how to be playful. He did some research into the effect of music on the developing human brains and is already developing an appropriate playlist.

But I have a feeling we'll never make much fuss over Father's Day. Not because he doesn't deserve fuss but because he doesn't like it. Parties and presents and onesies that say I heart Daddy aren't really my guy's cup of tea. He'd rather play a game, or guitar, make you some cupcakes, or watch Star Wars.

So I won't wish him Happy Father's Day -he'd just roll his eyes. But man - someday he'll be one of the two best dads I know.

Friday, June 19, 2009

one last time..

I have to shake my head wryly as I pull away from the curb at the SeaTac departures terminal. Andrew is already on his way inside, surrounded by his bandmates, all of them giddy with excitement that will surely burn off into exhaustion by the time their plane lands in Tokyo sometime tomorrow. We must be getting old and married, I think to myself.

I can remember the first time I left my husband at the airport. It was a scant three days after our wedding, and only a few hours after we had ourselves returned from our whirlwind Disneyland honeymoon. (We're pretty much all glamour, all the time.) Andrew was flying out to meet the boys in New York city - they had spent the last three days driving there - to begin a solid three months of touring. That day at the airport we cried and clung to each other. The world was so cruel, we were SO ATTACHED, and any separation seemed like torture. The fact that we were crashing from the madness of having a wedding followed by three sugar-crazed days in the Happiest Place on Earth didn't help. There was a small part of us that loved the drama(the torture!) of separation. It was so romantic. And the promise of reunion was also pretty darn sweet.

Since then I've dropped Andrew off at the airport many times, and he's had his share of taking me there as well. In fact most of the time we travel it seems like we're doing it separately - he's heading off to tour or I'm heading off for work or more recently for consulting/training gigs. As a result we've perfected our airport routine: whoever isn't traveling asks the questions (do you have your passport? your drivers' license? toothbrush? cell phone charger?), and does the driving. There is hand holding on the ride, and non-travel related chit-chat. Our curbside drop-off is quick, an extra kiss for the road and off we go in divergent directions. I wonder if our newlywed selves would even recognize us.

I really don't mind the change. We're more secure in who we are, we don't need tears or passionate public goodbyes to affirm our connection to each other. This time, as I drive away and my love waits for his plane I am almost looking forward to the next ten days. Not that I won't miss him - I always miss him. But I suspect, I hope, that this will be the last time I send Andrew off for an adventure and return home to an empty house. I'm looking forward to some time to myself. Even more, I'm looking forward to this last time to myself, to ramble through our condo and my life just-me for a few days.

It seems like our days and weeks are full of potential "last time" moments. Some of them I can see coming, like this one. Andrew's last big trip before the baby. Some of them we just wonder about. Will this be our last lazy Saturday morning? The last time my mom visits and has to drive to my brother's house to see her grandchildren? The last time I type "s/he" when referring to our little one? It's not a bad way to wait. I am reminded to be grateful for now, for the calm here and now moments we get to have before we meet the person we've been making room for all this time.

But there was something special about that first time I said goodbye to my husband. I will always remember it, even now as I drive away from him this time I think of it and can't help smiling. It's the first time that sets the stage that all the next times reflect and hearken back to.

I'm ready for some first times.

The first time we heard about you.

The first time we held you.

The first time we really realized we'd never get a full night's sleep again.

The first time you smiled/cried/crawled/walked/laughed/spoke.

I'm ready to tell those stories, now. To live those moments, all sparkly and disconcerting and brand new.

The ticker says 4 months, 1 week, 3 days.
This won't be the last time I check it, wondering when our first times with you will begin.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Every child is entitled to love and full membership in her family

Every child is entitled to love and full membership in her family.

For the last week I've been serving as a trainer in a congregation development intensive that is sponsored by my diocese of the Episcopal Church. Congregation Development is a rather amorphous field that incorporates many of the principles of the academic discipline of Organization Development, as well as research that has been done about churches specifically and the ways in which their dynamics as systems are unique from other types of organizations. One of my favorite parts of this sort of study, theory, and work is that it is all so incredibly applicable to other parts of life. Integration is easy, in fact I can't help doing it. (Something that is probably indicative of my Myer's Briggs Personality Type, which we also studied intensively this past week.) One of the theories that we taught to participants and spent a lot of time using and discussing is a model on trust and trust development in organizations. It is a theory that was put together by Jack Gibb, who has written extensively about trust.

According to Gibb's model, which is designed for organizations, trust is key to being able to get things done in an organization. And the first step for trust building is to address Acceptance and Membership. Without this basic first step, people cannot move into the rest of the work of the organization and become productive members able to fully participate in the rest of the work of the organization, work that requires basic trust in place to happen smoothly, such as Data Flow/Decision Making, Goal Formation/Productivity, and being able to have Organization/Control. One level builds on the other, and something that is fairly common in organizations are attempts to have one - for example to have a transparent data flow and common decision making - without really attending to the more basic level first - such as facilitating individuals in truly becoming a part of the organization. Depending on the organization, the way that acceptance and membership is established and maintained can be different. In a business, for example, norms of greeting each other when people arrive to work, or having an annual retreat for people to get to know each other might be examples. In a church it can be as basic as wearing name tags at coffee hour in order to connect with new folks, or conscious efforts by leadership to connect with individuals in tough times. A lot of acceptance and membership in church communities is about the affirmation of shared belief, task, mission. This is true in organizations other than church as well. But that's not what this blog is about.

The question I came away with was this: what does it look like for families?

The first bullet point on the Transracially Adopted Child's Bill of Rights, which is at the top of this entry, addresses membership. "Full membership" is the language used. Well, I thought at the first read-through, of course they are entitled to that. And of course I will fully love and accept my child. Sort of a no-brainer. But as we picked through various church conflict cases this past week I was amazed how many of the issues in those communities came down to a basic lack of trust related to acceptance and membership. Families are where we first learn about trust and about acceptance. No wonder this was first on the list.

There are lots of ways for a family to show a child that s/he is loved and a full member. There are also several ways in which our broader communities and cultures tell children this same thing, that they are loved and full members in their families of origin. Some of these are explicitly spoken, and many of them are not. Montessori education calls these unspoken things "the unspoken lesson." For Montessori educators this addresses the way the room is arranged, how the environment that the child may take for granted plays a powerful role in education. Our culture has some fairly powerful unspoken lessons about what makes someone belong to a family. These include shared skin color, shared genetic connection, and shared racial identity. Present but less powerful, perhaps, are shared personality traits, the little things a child does that a parent might describe as "I was exactly like that as a child, so highstrung/mellow/introverted/etc." For our culture, I think, the least powerful unspoken lesson is that of shared experience, of choice to be together, and of love. Yet these are the only real tools an adoptive parent can count on in order to provide the full membership that this TAC bill of rights begins with. Not being aware of the uphill battle that is ahead in terms of building a family that can be counter-cultural and press against those unspoken lessons about membership, many of which come from external culture and community, isn't fair to the child.

So how do I start to lay groundwork now to provide this for my future son or daughter? I have no concrete answers, of course, but I might start with working to make the values I want to be first and foremost in my family's life for my child's sake the values that I live by right now. This means seeking out connections with people who are different from me and pursuing shared experience with them. It means making sure that the values I espouse about love, choice, and shared experience being the most important ways to be bound to other people are lived values that are played out in visible ways in my life. It means honesty about the fact that none of us are automatically equipped to be awesome at acceptance of others (even those we are bound to genetically) and as a white person the unspoken lesson the world has given me about the value of my existence is not the same one my child will walk into as s/he grows up. I can't control that lesson, but I can know what it is. I can work to change it. I can do my darndest to help my child connect through love, choice, and shared experience to people and communities that are not me or mine, but who will be able to provide the membership that I cannot, with my full love and acceptance of that.

I feel like this is important because I want my child to have the capacity to trust his or her family life and the values and formation that s/he experiences there. Like an organization, there is a lot more to be accomplished in family life than just the establishment of membership. But without that basic acceptance of each other through love, nothing else can really be done well. Love and acceptance are what every child is entitled to first - because the hard work of a healthy childhood can't be accomplished without it.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

fried brains and ham

I'm "away" being a trainer at a week long intensive congregation development thing, and my brain is fried, in case you're wondering about how quiet I've been in blogosphere-world lately. I put "away" in "" because our residential retreat center is a whopping 30 miles away from my home. I'm having a hard time really remembering why I am here in a tiny little room with a lonely single bed when a 20 minute car ride could place me squarely back where I belong, surrounded by Andrew and cats and the lovely familiar sounds of our neighborhood in summertime. Think lots of talking and bustle on the streets and sometimes a siren or two.

But I am taking it as the retreat that it is, and resisting the urge to flee back to the familiar until at least Thursday. We'll just have to wait and see if there are any brilliant insights that hit me in the coming days. I promise to share, should any reveal themselves.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

living in my now

Last weekend I was away, serving as a trainer for a congregation development training for local episcopal leaders. It was draining and exciting, as these sorts of intensive learning experiences tend to be. I found my role as trainer to be almost a relief. I didn't have to acquire a bunch of new information, or try on new roles or skills. Other than a couple of presentations my main role was to observe my small group of ten people while they did all the work of acquiring new information and experimenting with new roles and skills. I needed to judge when to intervene, and how to coach, skills that I am still working on, but they did all the work. What they really needed from me as a trainer was to be anxiety free, relatively objective, and completely present to them as they stumbled through the three-fold task of learning about themselves as individuals, their roles as participants in this newly formed group, and a heap of new information about how to vision, strategize, and perceive their disparate congregations.

I love giving people what they need. It's one of my favorite experiences. But this time I received a gift, something that I really needed. What they gave me was some practice at being anxiety-free and completely present to something happening now. That's not a skill I'm terribly good at, and the many converging possibilities in my life right now - grad school, baby, work, consulting, training - make it even harder.

Last night I arrived home from my day feeling restless and out of sorts. I hit up the computer immediately - without even a hello to Andrew - and began sorting through grad school paperwork, financial forms, whatever.

"What's up baby?" My husband peeked around the corner from the kitchen. He's familiar with my tornado-like grumps, the need I have to obsess over details when I am in the grip of a mood that I don't completely understand.

"I'm behind, I am behind everyone and everything I know." I wailed in reply. "It's the time of year when everybody gets pregnant. All the postulants who are younger than me have degrees already. Nobody wants to pick us for a baby, everyone is moving faster than I am!" Being left behind is one of my worst fears, most likely born of being an annoying tag-along little sister, and a socially awkward adolescence where I was never in on the joke.

"Who cares?" Andrew replied with a gentle twinkle in his eye. "The dahlias are up, you know." And he put dinner, steamed artichokes and guacamole salad, on the table. These are two of my favorite things.

My funk evaporated. He was right, there were more important things to be interested in than how I compare to other people. I am lucky to be married to a man who actually doesn't compare himself to others in an evaluative way. This is a state of being I cannot really begin to imagine, but it benefits me all the time. I looked at the delicious food on the table, the familiar and beloved man I married, and took a deep breath. Then I wondered just how far up the dahlias were, and started to think about summer.

"Well after dinner we should go take a look at them huh?" I replied. He grinned at me. And we ate. I realized that the thing I was able to do for my group this past weekend is a skill I can employ for myself, for my family, for my own life. Looking at other people too much, looking ahead too much can stop me from reveling in and being present to my wonderful full and rich right now. I don't want to miss that.

Here's how up they are, by the way:
baby dahlias:

The dahlias are my special project, but our little green space is awash with blooms and that has been a group effort with others in our building.

Last night spending time in the garden was my now. Today there are other pieces of life to live into, most of them wonderful, all deserving my full, non-anxious presence. There are pregnancies to celebrate, new friends to know, seeds to plant, and artichokes to be eaten. The reality is that I have all the time I need, my life does not compare to others, and the only person likely to judge and find me wanting is, well, me.