Tuesday, December 25, 2012

More hopeful than merry

 All photos by Jenny.
 It's the first day of Christmas and here in the afternoon all but me have collapsed for naps, worn out from sugar, fun, and excitement both welcome and planned as well as the unplanned and unwelcome kind that have found their way to us and our extended family this year.  Our holiday started a couple days ago with my in-laws' family gift exchange and continued with a Christmas Eve service last night and of course stockings and our gifts to each other (and from St. Nick) this morning.
The holiday season is full of ferry boat rides for our little foursome, as we go back and forth between our urban home and city life and our times with Andrew's family over on the peninsula. Last week my beloved Jenny tagged along with us to capture our happy commute in this grey season. The Washington State Ferries have long been a big part of Andrew's family's life, as they are for just about anyone who lives out on the Olympic peninsula or one of the islands in the Puget Sound. Now our girls also will have layered memory upon memory of riding them to Grandpa's house or to stay the weekend with Grandma and Bobo.

In part because of my work at the hospital (Andrew is working night shift tonight, and I'm on overnight tomorrow) and in part because of that unwelcome excitement I mentioned above I find myself more tuned in to the melancholy parts of the holiday this year than I have been in the recent past.  I know that for many it is a time of release - the waiting of Advent is over, the waiting for presents is over, the pressure of the holiday hustle and bustle is over. The lucky ones among us can sleep in or be woken early by happy children, hug family members, use the extra time of a day off to focus on experiencing and expressing love for those close and far. I am most definitely a lucky one.

But I know that there are those who don't get to feel this way or have these experiences. I am starkly aware that life, in all it's unpredictability and constant fragility, does not stop for Christmas.  People will die today, loves will break, hearts and bodies will be wounded - just like yesterday and just like tomorrow. In a way that is appropriate - after all in the faith tradition that claims Christmas as a holy day it is the arrival of an ordinary and extraordinary human life that we stop all of our regular routines to celebrate. That baby's life wasn't easy, and it didn't end in peace or without heartbreak. It helps me, this Christmas, to remember that sometimes it's how we suffer with those who cannot feel happy on special days, how we reach out to other human beings who don't feel lucky any day, that brings us the closest to the Christ Child and the miracle of his birth.

So from us to you, Merry Christmas. And if today is not a merry one for you please accept instead a wish that you may find rest, peace, and hope this year. From here on out may your year, like the season, only get lighter.




Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Life can get weird but we go on together from here

A recent photo of us, by JennyJ.
Yesterday, 12/10, marked nine years since the day Andrew and I first met each other in person. We never forget the date because a little over a year later we wrote a song about falling in love with each other and named it 6/8=12/10. You can probably guess the time signature it's written in.

So nine years ago my band was invited to play at a show called "Indie meets New Wave" full of local bands covering New Wave songs. We covered "99 Red Balloons" which, incidentally, is harder to learn on the drums than one might imagine. It was a really fun night and this guy whose band I had heard good things about from friends in the music scene and "met" on LiveJournal(so quaint now, LJ!) decided to come. I encouraged him, in fact, not thinking romantic thoughts but hoping to network and make a new band-friend, seeing as his band had a great in at the local weekly paper and was getting some great press from a writer there. He was younger than me, not from the city, and judging from the pictures on his band's website, not really my type. Three strikes, whatever. But he did come, and he was better looking than the pictures and sort of intriguing despite the whole "kid from the sticks" thing I thought he would have going on. He gave me a cd and to my surprise I loved it - despite the music being heavier and considerably more intense than the pop stuff my Seattle crowd was into. So I consented to see him again and really, truly, the rest is history. It was a happy, unexpected romance and in all the ways that matter it still is.
2004, about a month after we met. Look at us, sweet young things!!


6/8=12/10

Friday, November 16, 2012

taking a moment

One of the goals I have for myself during patient visits is to at some point pause and be still. Sometimes the patient talks through this intentional pause, sometimes not. The point of it is to make sure that I check in with myself, with what's going on inside me. Sometimes there is something useful happening in there that I'm not aware of. It's been a very productive practice for me.

I'm sure this goal of mine is part of the reason I can't get over this poem by Pablo Neruda that I found while flipping through Earth Prayers, this book that my boss in my graduate assistant position uses to open and close staff meetings. With all the frantic Big. Event. stuff going on seemingly everywhere I wish we could just, as a planet, count to twelve and be still for a moment.

Keeping Quietby Pablo Neruda  
Now we will count to twelve

and we will all keep still... 

 For once on the face of the earth,

let's not speak any language,

let's stop for one second,and not move our arms so much.  


It would be a exotic moment,without rush, without engines,

we would all be together in a sudden strangeness.  

The fishermen in the cold sea would not harm the whales

and the man gathering salt would look at his hurt hands.  

Those who prepare green wars,

wars with gas, wars with fire,

victories with no survivors,

would put on clean clothes 

and walk about with their brothersin the shade, doing nothing. 


 What I want shouldn't be confused

with total inactivity:

(life is what it is about,

I want no truck with death.) 

 

If we were not so single minded 

about keeping our lives moving,

if for once we could do nothing,

perhaps a huge silence might interrupt this sadness 

of never understanding ourselves 

and of threatening ourselves with death,

perhaps the earth can teach us

as when everything seems dead

and later proves to be alive.


 
Now I will count up to twelve

and you keep quiet and I will go.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

to keep looking and finding

"So, what are you hoping for, in your relationship with God?"

The person who asked me this question was a long-ish term resident of one of the psychiatric units at the hospital, and we were several minutes into a visit. He wasn't being intrusive or inappropriate. Far from it, in fact, he was asking me a question that I had just asked him. And I had to admit to myself that in this situation turnabout was fair play.

True confession - I had asked my patient this question because it seemed an appropriate way to explore his particular spirituality. In the hospital I am learning to do this - to assess where people are and what language they are comfortable using when talking about their values and spiritual beliefs and then do my best to work within their frameworks without imposing my own. But this was not a question that fits comfortably within the framework and language around spirituality that is most comfortable and natural for me. (long story, different post maybe.)

Here is something else I am learning - I cannot bulls--- psych patients. There is no way to really describe it, but something about the deeply mentally ill demands authenticity from me. This patient's question was sincere, without artifice, and so I stopped and thought about it. And realized that I had an answer.

"What I am hoping for," I said slowly "Is to keep looking for God, and to keep finding God. I think I just don't want to ever think I've got God figured out. I hope that I am always looking, finding, and being surprised."

What surprised me, just then, was how right that particular answer felt for me.

I've been thinking about that ever since - how it is easy in any relationship to stop all of the looking and finding that goes on when things are brand new.  And, it seems, the older the relationship the easier it is to forget to look and so fail to find what has changed, how the other is different, what it would mean to find each other all over again.

Maybe this is especially alive for me because I spent the last week on vacation with much of my original nuclear family - my mother and brother and the people they have brought into the family unit we all share. As Andrew and I walked around Disneyland toward the end of the week - the only time we had just the two of us - I mused aloud about the envy I sometimes feel toward his family situation. His parents live close by and their lives are woven into ours in a much more regular way than is possible for me and my folks. We rarely need to re-adjust to each other, whereas I often experience a rub with my family the first hours or days we are together as we figure out again how to be who we are with each other, this time around.

Now I am wondering if this re-discovery tension is actually a gift of a sort. I wonder if I look for my own family in new ways and re-find them in ways that I would not if they lived next door, if we shared more of the minutia of daily living.
From my Gran-book, my mother and me. 

And here is something that I believe with all my heart - the looking and finding of the Divine is, for me, part and parcel with looking again and anew at all the world that my tradition tells me this Ultimate has dreamed/is dreaming and has made/is making. My hopes for my relationship with God are inexorably bound together with the miracle of connecting with the people that God has given me to love  - both those who I meet in bonds of mutual care and loving forever and those who, like the man who asked me the question, enter into my care for just a moment and remind me to look again and see what the One who loves me best of all has for me to find.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Adoption Blogger Interview Project - Meet Kathleen from Our Tree of Hope!


For this year's Adoption Blogger Interview Project I was randomly matched up with Kathleen, an adoptive mama who blogs at Our Tree of Hope. I had a lot of fun reading through Kathleen's adoption story and the long journey through foster parenting, examining international adoption, and finally domestic infant adoption that led her and her husband Clint to their gorgeous daughter Layla.  Read further to find out what I asked Kathleen and how she answered and then head over to her blog to read her questions for me! If you're interested in reading more interviews from the Adoption Blogger Interview Project follow this link to Heather's blog post where they'll be compiled. 

Big Thanks to Kathleen for being such a great interview partner! 
  • You are a step-mom, have been a foster mom, and now you're an adoptive mom. You've written about what is common to these experiences - the love of a mom for a child - but what can you say about what is different about these different mother roles for you?  In all honesty I would say that in the role of foster mom I felt like I do now with Lyla...except I knew he wasn't mine. I knew there was a possibility that he would be taken from our home to be placed with his siblings. There was such an unstable/scary feeling with all of that. You fall SO madly in love with a child to have them taken from you. My role as step-mom has always (until recently) been a bit bitter-sweet. I came into their lives before the ink was dry on the divorce decree (I didn't know that at the time)...so I dealt with a LOT of bitter feelings from my husbands family, his ex, etc... So I kind of feel like that role has always been tainted. I love them SO very much and I consider them my children....but I have been through A LOT to be their step-mom and sometimes I just wanted to give in. Not because of them...but because of all the grow-ups making it nearly impossible to be a family! Being an adoptive mom is pure joy. She is mine and I am hers and there is just such love and peace that comes with that. It's nothing like the other roles and I feel so very blessed every day that I get to be Lyla's Mommy!
  • Congrats on the fairly recent arrival of your adorable baby girl Layla! What have you learned in the past few months about being a transracial family? What is the best part for you? Worst or most uncomfortable? I have learned that not everyone will agree with our decision to adopt transracially. I have learned that those opinions really don't matter to me anymore. I have learned that love is colorblind. Sometimes I have to remind myself that I have a chocolate skinned daughter. The best part is that God chose us to be Lyla's family. He was faithful and has blessed us with the most amazing gift ever! I would say the worst or most uncomfortable part is just not knowing what will come out of ignorant people's mouths. I'm not looking forward to when Lyla is old enough to understand. I pray about that every day. That God will give me the wisdom and words to explain to Lyla why people would say closed minded things. It's not something I'm prepared for yet. I'll get there I'm sure. :) 
  • It's not clear from you blog if your adoption is open, closed, or somewhere in between. I'm curious what your relationship, if any, with Layla's first mom is and how that has been going? We have a closed adoption. We were open to the idea of a semi-open adoption, but her first mom wanted no contact. We have not had any requests from her since Lyla was a month old. I am happy to keep the lines of communication open, but so far it has not been an issue. I mainly want to stay in some contact with her so that one day when Lyla decides if she wants to know her, she can. 
  • Deciding how to talk about my family and how much to reveal on my blog is a constant ongoing conversation I have with myself. How do you decide how and what to write about on the internet? I think that is one of the biggest hurdles that I have yet to overcome. I have not blogged nearly as much as I did before we came home with Lyla. I have a lot to say, but just don't want to say things "wrong". In the long run, my blog is for our family and for Lyla one day. It's not really for everyone...even though its a public blog. Does that make sense? I mean, I want to reach out and say things that may help someone who is going through what I did...but I just have yet to have the words. I'm kind of in a funk and need to just dig myself out of it!
  • What do you like to do when you're not blogging - I saw on your family blog that you run an etsy store - I'd love to hear a little more about that if you still do it. I do have an Etsy shop and I still work hard to keep it open. It's VERY time consuming, considering I work full time and have 3 kids at home. Sewing is something I love to do and my Etsy shop provided a source of income when we were fundraising for our adoption. It still does. We have incurred some unexpected debt with our adoption attorneys that we are paying off now and Etsy is a way to help out a little. www.craftycreations2.etsy.com 
  • What is your biggest pet peeve? (of any kind or sort!!) Fakeness! Just be real. Be true. Be yourself! 
  • Favorite meal to cook for your family? (I'm always looking for recipe ideas!) I really love to cook baked ziti, chicken pot pie and cream cheese enchiladas. I'm always looking for quick meals. With a 9 month old, a 12 yr old boy and a 16 yr old girl...our house is BUSY! I need quick meals! :) 
  • Is there a question you sort of wish someone would ask you? What is it - and what's your answer? I feel like through infertility, foster care, step mom life, and now adoptive mamma life...I have been asked every question imaginable. :)

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

well it was a good idea.

Dude, you guys, I must have been a little bit of a crazy person to imagine that I would be able to BLOG through a vacation that included taking two toddlers to Disneyland. I'm sorry for misleading you and for misleading myself!

But, despite my dismal failure at blogging every day in November we had a really wonderful trip. Which in the long run is probably the thing that I'm most likely to remember about this month after all.

Quick recap! We headed off to the city of angels last Monday, where my amazing mother had two condos at her timeshare reserved for the week. Our family shared one with her and her bestie, and my brother's family got the other one. This was a good arrangement for us - my brother and sister-in-law got to have their own bedroom but I got to have my mother for late night chats. So basically I won.

The week included a visit with one of my sweet heart-friends on Tuesday, Disneyland on Wednesday and Friday with a break day in between and then a huge family reunion day on Saturday in celebration of my Gran's 90th birthday. I cannot tell you how comforting it is to have a relative who is 90 years old.

Here are some photo highlights:
This guy - one of my sweetest and dearest friends.
J's favorite part of Disneyland was meeting and hugging characters - she finally learned how to smile for the camera!
S loved everything - here she is on the big carousel.
just some of us at Gran's party - where the kids behaved themselves quite beautifully. 

One of the best parts, for me, was Gran's decision to share some of the hundreds (maybe thousands) of photos she has amassed over the years in her self-appointed role as family photographer. She presented each of her grandchildren - there are ten of us - with a photo album full of pictures she had taken or acquired of us throughout our childhood. My mother has  yet to relinquish our baby books to us (smart move Mama), but there are copies of many of my favorite pictures in the book Gran made for me. I've easily spent a couple of hours looking through them and am barely resisting the impulse to scan them all and inflict them on Facebook. I'll save them for another post and bring this one to an end.

As fun as vacation was it is good to be back home. The girls each did some marathon sleeping sessions as part of their recovery process, and I should do the same.

Stay tuned in the morning for my Adoption Blogger Interview Project Interview!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Consultant, heal thyself.

This is one of my favorite weekends of the year, the first weekend in November. Every year for the past four years I have begun the weekend working as a trainer at the congregational development conference that I now help to run. Three years ago on the first day of that particular weekend, a Friday, I got the call that changed the course of my life as a parent and mother forever. So there's that. And in the curriculum of the training this is the weekend we always teach something called Force Field Analysis, which sounds like a cool sci-fi trick and is really a super helpful way to think about any sort of change on a personal or organizational level.

Credit goes to Kurt Lewin, who is one of the big superstars of organization development, who theorized that the reason systems don't change is because the forces at play in an organizational system like stability, and so they work to maintain the status quo. This means that whenever someone is contemplating a change to the current state, their are forces already present driving this potential change as well as forces already present restraining the change. The forces work together to maintain stability.

So, if one were to chart out as comprehensively as possible what the desired change is (move from _____ to _____) and the forces involved that are driving and restraining that change it becomes much clearer how to strategize about moving the desired change forward.  The theory goes that the best way to do this is to weaken a restraining force, enabling the driving forces that are already present to move the change along. If this isn't possible, one looks at strengthening the driving forces, or maybe even adding a key driving force - although some theorists think that adding forces is counterproductive because organizations tend to respond with a balancing new restraining force.

We teach this to teams from churches so they can use it to plan interventions in their congregations. But this weekend I've been thinking about it terms of my own health and well being. I want to make some changes toward overall better health in terms of exercise and nutrition. I think it is helpful to think about the forces driving this desire for change and those restraining it. On the driving side I want to feel better, sleep better, and I don't like how I look in pictures. Also, working in a hospital has gotten me in touch with how I am not maintaining my physical self to the best of my ability and some of the potential consequences of that. On the restraining side I've got my busy schedule, lack of planning, love of late-night sweet snacking, and the fact that I have that stereotypical tendency to eat my feelings. Augmenting the late night feeling eating thing is Andrew working nights - like many extroverts I have this deep suspicion that the stuff I do when no one can see me doesn't count. Alas, if only it were so!

So according to FFA, the ideal thing is to weaken a restraining force, which seems more doable than my usual plan which is WORK OUT EVERY DAY UNTIL YOU FAIL AND THEN EAT ICE CREAM. Since no forces will be strengthened or weakened during vacation week I have some time to ruminate on this - what's more effective, planning out diet and exercise or reducing time commitment so I can prioritize health? Do I need a more specific goal, like don't eat after 7pm or work out 2x a week? These are some of the things I hope to spend some of this week's downtime figuring out, so I can stage a positive intervention on that most basic of organizations - the single human self.


Saturday, November 3, 2012

well then

So I'm already not doing awesome at the blogging every day thing. But I shall carry on, keeping calm!

We are t minus 2 days away from a family vacation and people are starting to get excited around here. J keeps chanting a litany of the people and characters we are going to see "on a plane to see Nana, Uncle Ben, Grandma Sue, Gran-mommy-gramma, Mickey, Donald, Princess Tialiana, Jingle Belle, 'fia, your friends..." and the list goes on. Andrew has been prepping the girls by showing them you-tube videos of specific rides he wants to take them on during our time at the Most Magical Place on Earth. I arrived home today after a night away at a conference to a rousing rendition of Yo-Ho, A Pirate's Life for Me.

I'm excited about our trip. I'm also feeling the usual mix of anticipation and trepidation that comes before spending a week with my family.  I adore them, and at the same time there are traditionally a few moments that are not easy.  This time I wonder if the moments will come sometime after Tuesday - as my immediate family and I often vote differently in national elections.

But I'm not going to worry about that. I am going to wake up whenever the kids wake up tomorrow (and while I clearly explained the whole time change concept I don't think it took) and start packing. J and I spent about three hours doing hair before bedtime tonight and I'm estimating we've got at least an hour to go tomorrow. Vacation hair doesn't twist itself! But if we do it right she'll end up with a style that will protect her hair all week and then easily undo itself into something gorgeous for our big family party that will close things out on Saturday.

Time to make lists and then put myself to bed.


Thursday, November 1, 2012

Blogging Every Day

I'm going to attempt the blog-every-day-thing that I see many of my brave blog and internet friends attempting in the month of November. I figure - why not? At the least it will be fun, and it may help me get some discipline around writing here.

Blogging every day this month will be a challenge, too. Life is busy and this month includes a holiday and a family vacation in addition to the usual juggling act. But I've also got the Adoption Interview Project coming up, which that's one day right there, and holiday/family time usually sparks a deep thought or two. So here, it is, my first day of writing every day. Woo!

A fun Halloween was had by all around these parts. J went as a lion and we picked out an owl costume for S.  The girls got to trick or treat multiple times, which was nice for me because on the actual night I was working overnight at the hospital and missed the fun.  But one of our amazing neighbors came downstairs after the kids were in bed last night and hung out for a bit so Andrew could come visit me at work.  We went to a pot-luck that his night shift buddies were throwing and had our own oh-my-lord-too-much-sugar hour or so before it was time for him to head home and me to hit up the sleep room.  And the hospital was, for spiritual care, fairly quiet last night.

And we are counting down the days until a week - glorious week!! - of time away. We are going somewhere sunny and corporate and there will be princesses and a special mouse involved. Also, my sole living grandparent is turning 90, and our whole family will be celebrating her. I'm so excited to get away for a bit and enjoy my girls and my family and make some of the brighter memories for a week.

So stay tuned! One thing about blogging every day- I fear as the quantity goes up the quality may go down.  Some days you might just get a picture. Also there will probably be more typos. Y'all will have to let me know when the month is over which one is preferable!
J is doing her version of a posed smile, while S is stunned by the flash.

See you tomorrow!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

perspective

I'm not a fan of blood and guts. I don't like violence in television or the movies (despite my fascination with medical dramas) and I hate horror films. I remember leaving Finding Private Ryan just feeling angry at the makers of the film for exposing me to it. Andrew - a longtime fan of the horror movie genre specifically and scary stuff in general - started early on in our relationship with previewing films that he suspected were too intense for me. That's right, just like my mother used to do when I was five. He learned his lesson when we were dating and I hadn't told him that I hated horror movies yet. I let him take me to some high profile remake, the one with the zombies and the people in the mall, so he wouldn't think I was a wimp. After I spent the whole movie hiding in my hoodie and then had nightmares for a week following the jig was up. I was relieved that it wasn't a deal breaker and haven't seen a horror movie since.

So you can imagine that my husband was a little, oh shall we say curious as to how I would handle working at his hospital, which among other things receives all the major trauma cases for our states and four others. I was curious too. Actually I was scared - broken bodies scare me on tv and I find contemplating other sorts of health disasters is also anxiety producing.  Before this internship I wouldn't let Andrew tell me any stories from the neurology ICU - aneurysms and strokes freak me out. Don't even get me started on burns, or the stories he has to tell from the pediatric ICU. The list goes on. This was one reason I was attracted to this particular site for my chaplaincy internship. I think in many cases somewhere inside a fear is an invitation. I figured this hospital was full of stuff that terrified me so I should probably go there.

I'm not going to write particular stories or vignettes from my experiences with patients at the hospital here in this blog, at least not while my internship is ongoing.  And I've had so many big moments, even now less than half way through, that it is difficult for me to figure out how to blog about the stuff I'm learning without illustrating it with stories about the people I am working for and with.  Not all of the big moments are traumatic - some are just calm pastoral visits with people whose tenacity for life or courage in facing their death ring like a bell in my soul. Other stuff has been pretty intense by anyone's standards. Whenever a patient goes into cardiac or respiratory arrest and a code is called the chaplain on call responds as part of the code team.  If the patient has family present than my role is to be with them, because no one else on the code team is there primarily for the family.  If there is no family present - which is much more likely in my experience so far - then there isn't an active role for me.  Yet I usually stay. Because in all the hustle and busyness of a code - the chest thumping and bagging and command central like feel of the thing - in all of that there is still a human being in there standing on that line between death and life. The medical personnel can't afford, emotionally or otherwise, to be present to that part. I can, and doing so is something that I don't have words yet to describe.

Here is what I can say: the hospital is this incredible thin space in the universe, a place where the lines between dead and alive, crazy and sane, knower and learner, minister and minstered-to, the sacred and the stuff of the gritty and real are really thin. People cross over back and forth from one to the other - those who work there and those who are there because they are sick. I find that when I am not at the hospital I'm not burdened, but what I do carry is a sense that the whole world is a little more beautiful and I am quite aware of my own vulnerability within it. Tears spring to my eyes a little easier.  I need more hugs.

Oh, and there is nothing there for me to fear. Every time I go with trepidation into a terrifying situation I meet a human being - that's the great thing about being a chaplain(intern). The other stuff - the broken bones and breathing tubes, the crazy eyes and broken hearts, the terminal diagnosis, whatever, it's not as important as the person I get to be with. In fact the best thing is that I get to be the hospital employee(okay, volunteer but still) who helps patients remember this about themselves - in the whirlwind of doctors, nurses, pokes, prods, and financial paperwork I get to ask different questions and pay attention to the parts of the people in the hospital bed that are not defined by their diagnosis. I get to provide comfort if I can, a listening ear if they want, and if nothing else to bear witness to the thin-space moments in a way that other medical personnel cannot.

I struggle with anxiety sometimes, but it is rarely specific. This work gives me perspective on that abstract anxiety - when I enter a hospital room it is never about me and it is always about the deep and sacred humanity of whoever I am there to see.  It's hard to give energy to my own anxious thoughts in the context of this work. And, lucky for me, I've got a lot of resources to go to when I need a hug.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Three



Today is my oldest daughter's third birthday. We celebrated with friends, family, and cupcakes last Saturday, and she'll be off to daycare with treats to share with all her friends there by the time this message posts. My J is gorgeous, lively, full of words and songs and dance. She loves church, candles, LMFAO, her family and friends, and life with a passion that amazes me. My heart is so full with the gift of mothering her that sometimes I actually get all mushy and cry about it. In private mostly, but also sometimes when I tell her the story about how she became my daughter and I became her mommy.  She will pat my arm and say "it's okay mommy. it's okay." And I will tell her that it's more than okay - it's so, so wonderful that mommy gets a little teary. My three year old then makes a sound that she learned from me. It's something like "mmmMmm" and I say it when I think she's talking nonsense but want to play along. Touché, my darling.


Those really are super happy tears. But there is, for me, a dissonance about the day she was born. Probably because while the day my first child was born was a definitive day in my life it was also a pretty heartbreaking day.  On J's birth day I was completely unaware of sweet, new, particular her and instead was saying tearful goodbyes to someone else's child, a baby that we had for a while expected to parent. I ended up surviving that disappointment, and learning through it that being disappointed didn't change the ethic I had developed around how we would build our family. In an odd way I am proud of what happened in our world on the day J was born, and how the twosome of Andrew and I responded to it.

But J's birthday, while it is mine to celebrate with her as she grows isn't a day that belongs to me and my baby J. It's a day that belongs to J and her first mother, who I am certain cried her share of tears as she said goodbye to a child three years ago today.  Her loss that day dwarfs my own.

I don't mean to sound melancholy  or ungrateful. I imagine that as J grows and we build family memories around the celebration of her birth the memory of the wilderness that I experienced the first two weeks of her life, before I knew she was here, will fade. But in some ways I hope it doesn't. I loved that small baby in a way that I couldn't begin to understand from the moment I held her in my arms. My joy in that moment will never come undone from my sadness of the weeks before, or successfully disconnect from the loss that J and Z experienced when they lost each other. This is an appropriate tension. I want to be honest, and being honest means that J's birthday will never be uncomplicated gladness for me, and it may not stay that way for her. We didn't know it, J and I, but we were together in loneliness her first two weeks of life - she a small baby in a care home waiting for a family and us in our sadness surrounded by baby things, waiting for her.

It's weird, because it sort of hurts, but I don't mind thinking about all that happened starting today, three years ago. I love to remember it. I love to remember it all.

together


Wednesday, September 26, 2012

continuing bonds

In the first weekly didactic session (fancy word for education time) for CPE a hospital social worker came in to talk with us about Grief and Loss.  She is someone who works in palliative care and does a lot of grief counseling in that role. One of the valuable pieces of information for me in her lecture had to do with moving past the cliched "five stages" of grief, a model which has been considered a little outdated by people who study grief and loss for a while now but is still quite prevalent in popular culture.  I was aware that the stages weren't as universally accepted as they once were, but I didn't know what, if anything, had replaced them when preparing people for what to expect while grieving.

In our session we learned about the new model (1990s new, so not that new) by someone named William Worden that talks about grief as work - and there are tasks associated with that work that anyone who is grieving engages in. The work comes and goes, much like housework or any sort of domestic tasks, and we cycle through it with some days being more intense than others. I like this, and may write more about it later.

But the key thing I took away, the thing I am thinking about every day in and out of my work at the hospital has to do with getting rid of the idea of "closure" or "acceptance" as the final stage of grieving a loss. In fact, according to Worden's model, there is no final stage of grief because it isn't something that you complete. It is work you do, and unlike the idea of "stages" which imply progression and completion the work of grief is something that doesn't necessarily have to end, but is instead a new way of being in relationship with that which or whom has been lost.

Now, the social worker instructed us, we consider it more helpful to talk about "continuing bonds" with the person who has been lost. She spoke about the ways in which people commemorate their dead - marking the day of their death with a celebration, wearing a treasured piece of their jewelry, writing letters or having conversations with the loved one - all these are ways to continue in relationship with the one you have lost even though they are not physically present.

I haven't been able to stop thinking this idea and how it applies to so much more than death.

For example, much of what Open Adoption is about is creating a continuing bond between a first parent and child. I struggle with how to do this in ways that are healthy, honest, and good but it is essentially what I want for my kids - for them to weave the story of their first parents into their everyday lives in ways that are healthy and normalized for them, despite the loss of those first parents' as a physical daily presence.

Or, on another tack, I think about all the ways any of us work to keep parts of our past selves alive as we change and grow away from who we have been. The tattoo on my left arm is a way for me to keep a moment in my life - playing music with incredible friends - alive forever despite knowing when I got it that the opportunity to be in that sort of creative relationship with those women was someday going to end. The box of pictures from college that I can't yet make myself sort through and thin out is a similar bond with a time in my own life that has passed.

And yet another way I've been thinking about it is religion - thousands of years of rituals, belief systems, patterns of life and prayer that enable us to reach out to and maintain relationship with the Ultimate, that which no individual can physically touch or fully intellectually conceptualize but none the less much of humanity seeks and has sought after for all of the time our species has been. Religion is a powerful continuing bond - a way of coping with the loss of our God(s), the alone-ness of being a human being in the world. For my faith tradition the story of Adam and Eve is a way of describing that primal Loss - and all of our faith and belief and ritual since has been a way to continue relationship with a God who no longer meets us to walk in the garden as the sun is setting.

What do you do to continue your bonds with that which you have lost?

Sunday, September 9, 2012

now for something a little different...

I haven't ever really gotten out of the habit of using this blog primarily for reflections on my life as a mom, although I meant to after J's adoption was finalized and I no longer needed it primarily to vent and reflect about the adoption process itself. This isn't a bad thing - I have a lot of outlets for processing many parts of my life and this is less true with some of the stuff I choose to reflect on here.  My life as a grad student/consultant/seminarian is FULL of reflection papers, peer discussion groups, and one-on-ones with mentors, so it's no wonder that I don't feel a big need to blog about all that here.  It also occurs to me that most of you out there who read this, especially those of you who don't know me in "real life," don't read here for a detailed description of what I'm thinking about models of congregational development, reflections on the book I just read on liturgical theology and practice, or even the very interesting paper I got to write recently on a cool mash-up between Soren Kierkegaard and the Christology of Godly Play. Which is fine. I like you just the way you are.

I'm about to start a new adventure that may be different, though. One of the rites of passage for almost any person seeking ordination in a mainline church (think Episcopalian, Presbyterian, Methodist, etc.) is a unit of what is called CPE. This stands for Clinical Pastoral Education, and it is basically an internship in some sort of "clinical" setting.  People who do lots of units of it eventually become chaplains in hospitals, nursing homes, or other places where people with severe medical or mental issues get care.  The focus of the program is on something called "pastoral care," which is the ability to care for someone's spiritual needs one on one, especially during critical moments in human life - birth, death and severe crisis being some of those critical moments.

Of course there's only one place I even really considered for my CPE site - Andrew's hospital, where he works as a Respiratory Therapist.  It is both the county hospital and the only level one trauma center for our state and three others. It contains the only involuntary commital psych unit in the state. And tomorrow when the pager goes off because someone is in urgent need of spiritual care I am going to be the person tasked with providing that care.

I am equal parts excited and nervous. I know that the next 20 weeks are going to change me - I want this to happen - and I feel ready to begin.  I have no idea what it will really be like to hold that sort of responsibility and if it will be something that I'll want to blog about as I do it. But if I do, I'll do it here.

And if I disappear for the next 20 weeks well - you'll have some idea why.

Time for bed. Report is at 8am tomorrow.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

one year ago today

our sweet baby S, 22 days old.
One year ago today I woke up in a hotel room in Atlanta, GA after just a few hours of restless sleep and got into a car with my husband and 22 month old daughter for our last ride together as a family of three.  When we got back to our hotel that night there was a new somebody with us and a new chapter of our lives was underway.

The only pictures we have from that day are cell phone shots, and all four of us look pretty shell-shocked. I remember Andrew driving us back from baby S's receiving home, me wedged between the girls' carseats with one hand on a very confused J who obviously thought we had kidnapped somebody else's baby and the other stroking my new child's soft infant face as she slept. I was full of big and indescribable thoughts. I wasn't sure how we were going to do it, two babies and everything else in the big life we had planned.

Now, one year later, we do have a busy crazy life.  My girls shriek and sing together and make each other laugh and cry both multiple times every day. I'm really tired sometimes. Okay, a lot of the time. But life is incredibly good. There are adventures around every corner and many friends to share them with.
you've come a long way, baby.


Tuesday, August 28, 2012

those who work, or watch, or weep this night

I recently made the somewhat difficult decision to cut out any and all tv at bedtime for J.  I never meant television at bedtime to be part of the routine but somehow it happened.  It was sometime last fall, around J's 2nd birthday when I was juggling the challenge of bedtimes with a 2 year old and a brand new baby that I just gave in and started using an episode of Shaun the Sheep to preserve my sanity and keep my toddler occupied while I got the baby into her jammies and held her until she fell into a deep enough sleep to put down so I could turn my attention to J.  Ever since any night without a couple episodes of Shaun, Yo Gabba Gabba, or Curious George were considered incomplete by J and much loud and indignant protest was made. And it was so much easier. And there was something really nice about cuddling up on bed with my girl for 20-40 minutes before the battle of going-to-bed began.

But recently I have noticed that it doesn't really make bedtime any easier. J was getting up repeatedly, and now with the extra excuse of "I have to go potty" folded into her arsenal of avoidance tactics there were nights where despite appearing near sleep in front of the TV bedtime would drag on for literally multiple hours afterward.  So I changed it up, and banned screens from the bedtime routine.  The transition was a little rough.

Now J takes a bath every night after the baby goes down instead and J falls asleep much quicker when it is her turn. I'm much more relaxed too, as it turns out. But my favorite part isn't bathtime, or even the 20 or so minutes of reading we do afterwards. I've started doing a little version of Compline with her every night, praying together and singing a hymn for evening before she tiptoes into bed and lifts up her small face for a kiss and a blessing.

J will bring me my Episcopal Book of Common Prayer and ask for the "Daddy work p'ar" which is one of the prayers at the end of Compline in our prayer book, and my favorite one. She listens to me read it and whispers "amen" when it is done. In the past I have often said this prayer just before I close my eyes for sleep on nights that Andrew is working, because it does seem to me that it is a prayer written for him, his co-workers, and the people who have come into their care at the hospital. Saying it is something that, for me, brings peace, eases loneliness, and restores any battered edges from the day with its reminder of just how far the One in whom I trust will go for the sake of love.

It's late and I should go to bed- so I'll just end it here.

Keep watch, dear Lord, with those who work, or watch, or weep this night, and give your angels charge over those who sleep. Tend the sick, Lord Christ; give rest to the weary, bless the dying, soothe the suffering, pity the afflicted, shield the joyous, and all for your love's sake. Amen.


Sunday, August 19, 2012

One


Last Friday my sweet baby completed her first full rotation around the sun - S is one year old! This is crazy and I am not exactly sure how it happened. I have heard that the second child grows up faster than the first and I think in some ways this is true. At least it is for me.  With J we waited patiently and sometimes anxiously for the firsts to appear - first words, first steps, first everything. With S perhaps she has hit some of those firsts a little sooner than her sister (after all she has someone to pursue!) but also we're too busy to do anything but marvel at her when she does. It's a good thing.

We rang in her first year in style.  I'm not normally one for big shenanagins when it come to birthday parties that someone won't remember. For J we did something quite small and low-key. But I have felt bad that we never did a welcome party for S, there are no photos of our friends singing lullabies to her and so forth. As a second-born child myself I feel honor bound to make sure that my second child is as celebrated as my first, even if it is at different times and in different ways. So we had a big fun first birthday for S at the family homestead - the land that Andrew's great-grandfather purchased in the 1940's that has housed birthday parties of all sorts for his family for generations. Andrew's dad lives there now and we feel like it is a second home for us.

Many of our city-friends made the trek across the water to join family to celebrate our special girl and enjoy the summer weather, tree house, amazing cupcakes and home-made ice cream - a tradition from my side of the family. I couldn't have dreamed up a better day, and as I flipped pancakes this morning for friends who had camped out over night I felt light, content, and full of love.

We finished off the birthday weekend with a family feast at home - the girls' Papa and Grandma Nancy came up for the party (some of my folks) and we grilled leftover hamburgers with them and my brother's family and then took all the kids to the park.

All throughout yesterday and today I felt hyper-aware of the immense web of love and support that we rest in: my girls, my guy, and me. I've said it before but it is this love and care - the people who I can trust with my girls and who understand in some way or another the terrible vulnerability that comes with being a parent and take some step to love on us and let us know that we're not ever alone in this - this is a big part, maybe the biggest part, of the richness I bring to my kids' lives.  We're not ever going to be financially rich - they won't get cars when they turn sixteen or trust funds when they turn twenty one.  But they will never be unloved. They will never stumble without someone to stretch out an arm. They don't have perfect parents, lord knows, but they've got so much more than just us. I love this about my life.

Happy birthday my sweet sunshine girl. You are an amazing surprise and every day I thank God and the universe that I get to be one of the people who parents you.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Where go Mommy?

It's been hot in Seattle lately - we are officially in the annual stretch of weeks where local bloggers can begin posts this way - and the temperature slows everything down.  We eat less, move a little less, and I feel less pressured to move everybody in my household through our daily routines and rhythms in a timely manner.

This morning the girls and I were taking our sweet time getting dressed - sprinkling in plenty of tickles and play time along with the required putting on of clothes - and J looked at me and asked "Where go mommy?"

I was a little confused. So I cocked my head to one side and said "Mommy? Where did Mommy go when, sweetie?"

"No, mommy," J was clearly exasperated with my slow comprehension skills. "Where go Mommy Z?"

For a second I wasn't sure what she was saying - my daughter's two year old diction being what it is. And I have never heard her say Z's name before. Then I remembered that we had spent some time the night before talking about baby bellies after attending a party with a family member who is in her last trimester of pregnancy. This had led to J asking to see her baby video, and then I had asked her if she wanted to see our picture of Z. She's seen it before, and I keep meaning to finish her life book and it will be in there, too. So we had looked at the picture together, and for the first time I think J understood that this person was someone special to her. Now I was sure she was processing it.

But it is such a big question. I could feel all the weight of every adoption training/book/ideal/value bearing down on me as I paused to consider my answer.

So this time I kept it simple and matter of fact. "Mama Z lives in the state of Georgia, where we were when we picked up S. We live here, in the state of Washington."  Then I repeated some of the stuff we had talked about the night before, about how J grew in Z's tummy, and Z loved her and took care of her as long as she could, and then J came to be with Mommy and Daddy who were the other people in the world who love her so much no matter what forever and forever. I braced myself for the usual barrage of "why" questions that usually follows anytime J brings something up for discussion but this time was different.

"Okay" she said, and picked the Elmo underpants over the rainbow ones.

I have been wondering for two and a half years now what it would be like for me to hear my daughter call someone else Mommy. My approach to how we discuss Z has always been to take a stance of respect and full acknowledgement of the role she has in my daughter's lives. When I talk about her or refer to her in conversation I call her their "first mom" instead of "birth mom" because after looking through the resources on terminology that was the way it seemed that most first moms who are writing liked the best. It doesn't imply that the significance of this person ended after her children were delivered.  Every once and a while someone will refer to Z as the girls mom, and then hurriedly correct themselves saying "I mean, obviously you are their mom but..." and I am quick to say that I don't mind hearing someone call Z my kids mom. She is. I am too. We can both be "the" mom. I get to raise, know, and love these amazing people every single day. This gift is made possible by the woman who brought them into the world.

But I have felt a little stymied as to how to talk about her with our children. "First mom" just doesn't mean anything to a little kid. "Tummy mommy" sort of creeps me out and smacks of the same connotation as "birth mom." Z has been silent on this, as she has on most everything. So I treat it the way I do multiple grandmas. J calls the grandma she sees the most often "Grandma."  She's got three very important women in her life who go by the name Grandma (plus one Nana), so for the other two we append names - Grandma Nancy, Grandma Sue. So Z  is "Mama Z" which quickly becomes Mommy in a little brain.

And I think it works fine. I feel, if anything, more motherly love for my kiddo than ever.  I feel tender for our daughter, tonight. I feel wistful for Z, wherever she is. Mostly I think I feel somewhat solemn as I contemplate the sweet and sacred task of making a safe space in my relationship with my daughter for her to access and interpret the big stuff that happened in her life when she was too small comprehend it, and then weave that big stuff into her identity and purpose in the world in healthy and honest ways.

The process started almost three years ago. But in some ways it feels like the conversation began today.


Sunday, August 5, 2012

further up and further in

In the last book of the Chronicles of Narnia, after all the action has been done and everyone who is going to get into the barn is in there (spoiler alert!), it turns out that for some people the inside of the barn is actually a bigger, better version of Narnia itself. And then this big mob of those people get all together and they go further in to the new big Narnia and find another bigger, newer, even more wonderful Narnia in there. Somebody, I forget who but maybe a centaur or that flying horse, keeps urging the group onward shouting "further up and further in!" or something like that.

I'm pretty sure C.S. Lewis was constructing some sort of metaphor to represent heaven. At least that's the popularly accepted view of most of those books. But the reason I'm thinking about this story is that it sort of reminds me of being married, or what being married can be like. Maybe. As in if we are lucky we get to be one of the people who experiences it as bigger, better, and more real the further we get.
J & S at the paradise that is Grandma and Bobo's house

Andrew and I got away together this past weekend for the first time in a long time. We dropped the girls off at his parents place and drove to the coast for two nights in a sweet little hotel with the ocean outside our window and free bikes for checkout at the front desk.  The whole time felt like a long sweet montage of all the reasons I really like being partnered with my spouse.  On the one hand there was all the stuff we did while we were there: horseback riding on the beach, a couple hours at the local video arcade playing silly games for tickets and using them to buy candy, biking through the sand dunes with the sea breeze and sunshine making our skin bright red, reading in bed, watching the Olympics, eating ice cream/fudge/candy like unruly toddlers, racing to the beach so we could stand on the sand and watch the sun drop below the horizon. Tons of great stuff that would look amazing in a cheesy video montage. And on the other hand there's the stuff that wouldn't show up on camera - how grateful I am to be seven years into a marriage with this guy and still know deep in my bones that he's my number one favorite person in the world to hang out with.  To no small degree because I can't think of many other people who would be down for a weekend of crazy cheesy laziness like the one we just had. Seriously people, there are a gazillion hikes we could have gone on but there were also three ice cream shops and a candy store so...our priorities were set.

when I say "biking through the dunes" I should clarify that there is a paved biking path. 
I won't lie to you, internet. Everybody says stuff about how the seventh year of marriage is a tough one.  I was determined that we would move through the supposed "7 year itch" unscathed because we are awesome. And so I learned that what I really need is to stop being determined about stuff like that because I think it just makes the inevitable stuff worse. Not us I think loftily to myself, like I've never heard of foreshadowing.  All to say that the good old ups and downs of married life have been a little down-i-er in the past few months than this candy-loving duo is used to. Some sort of transition has been going on. We don't have any of the same atoms we had when we got married, or something pseudo-science-y like that and its been messing with our mojo.

To return to my metaphor, it's like we've been standing outside that dingy doom-filled barn in that much beloved children's fantasy novel. We kick and scream and ultimately somebody blindfolds us and throws in to the next part of married life, the part after kids arrive and somebody works nights all the time, the part where we never see each other and when we do one of us is usually too tired to talk, the part where I wonder to myself what seven-years-four-months-ago-just-married-me would have thought if she could see us now and feel sort of sad and dull about that.

But then we take the blindfolds off and look. And defying all expectation it's even bigger, better, and possibly more beautiful in here than it was on the other side of the door. The landscape is the same - silly, comfortable, filled with geeky obsessions and clumsy jokes that no one else would really think are funny and a willingness to embark on ridiculous projects just because I read about it on the internet somewhere. We are still loved by friends and family both as individuals and as a pair. But when we stop and pay attention - a challenge in and of itself - we see that despite everything what we've built is a love that is somehow bigger, better, and more beautiful.  It has expanded to include the two sweet people we've been gifted as daughters, and powers a lot more these days then it ever has before, with less maintenance. It is something worth celebrating.

I knew all this stuff before we went away this weekend. We've been working on getting back in touch with the good stuff for a while. Our weekend was like icing on the cake and, as Andrew would tell you, the icing is my favorite part.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Friday, July 27, 2012

Sunny days

Do you ever wake up one day and realize that you appear to have taken a hiatus from blogging? This is basically what's happened to me. Or, more accurately, I discovered Friday Night Lights on Netflix and my brain moved to the fictional town of Dillon, Texas during any and all unscheduled down times for the past several weeks. Now that's over I am faced with the choice between forlornly googling random information on a tv show that was canceled a couple years ago or doing as many have done and moving on. So here I am, back at the blogging!

But, really and actually - June was crazy 'round these parts, what with friends and family in town, me out of town on various work engagements, school ending, internship ending, and my job at UW ending. I needed some serious downtime to recover and July has given that to me in a number of ways. Here's a quick summation of what we've been up to:

  • LOTS of time outside. We get plenty of sunlight during the PNW summer and we've been doing all that we can as a family to use it up. There's a new giant ferris wheel downtown, we have a zoo membership, and there are all sorts of adventures just a ferry ride away from the city. We haven't had the sunniest July in memory but that hasn't stopped us. 
  • multiple trips to the peninsula - it's getting so if we don't hit up Grandma and Bobo's house or Grandpa's house toward the weekend J gets to feeling cheated. Both places have killer views of mountains and water, extra hands for baby chasing, and tons of room for kids to run and play. I love it because with or without Andrew all I have to do is show up, throw the kids outside with a grandparent or two and kick back. 
  • reconnecting with our building "family" and other friends. One of the hardest parts for me about being crazypants busy most of the year is how out-of-touch I start feeling with my people.  I remember telling a friend once that I would have to move away to go to grad school because otherwise I'd feel like a horrible friend for choosing academics over the many important relationships in my Seattle life. I didn't go away but I did realize that most everyone can get along just fine without me when they must and not stop loving me just because I have homework to do (yay emotional maturity and self differentiation!). But darnit, I miss the people I love and I have enjoyed being with them more in the past couple of weeks. 
some of the awesome people we live with.
watering the garden
  • Potty training! Andrew and I had been planning for months to take advantage of some of our summer down time to get J out of diapers and it's going quite well. It took about three days for her to get the big idea down and then she's spent the past three weeks practicing and honing her new skills. We're on day three no accidents at this point, which feels pretty good for everyone involved. 
  • Alley gardening - Andrew and J harvested  our first good size zucchini yesterday, and we actually have ripe tomatoes already, not too shabby for what has been a fairly cloudy Seattle summer. It even appears the raspberry bushes might give us some fruit, which is very exciting. 
  • Preschool for J! The girls' daycare (oh yes, and S has started also going to daycare two days a week, big girl!) has a preschool and our oldest started attending at the beginning of summer. Reports are that she is doing great, despite being the youngest in there at the moment, and was more than ready socially for that sort of more structured interaction. I am very proud of her.
  • Getting ready for someone's big first birthday - It's hard to believe our wee baby S is going to be a year old in less than a month. What-when-how-holyohmygoodness that went fast! She is barreling along at light speed these days, not just through time but also space as she speed crawls everywhere, with no regard for her own personal safety. S is pulling up, cruising, sprouting a new pair of teeth every week, it seems (we are up to a total of eight teeth!) and working hard to feed herself. She also plays a mean game of peekaboo. And by "mean" I meant to say "heartstoppingly adorable."

In the weeks to come I'm going to get out of town with my man for a weekend (just the two of us! the glory!!), celebrate my baby's first birthday, get back to my running plan (I broke a pinky toe, which slowed things down considerably, but feeling back on track) and do lots of outdoor play dates, park trips, farmer's market outings, and the like. 

And blog a little more. Yeah, I'm gonna get back to that.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Legal Family!

Legalized!
Yesterday morning we traipsed down to the courthouse with much of our family and several close friends and had our day in court for sweet S. All went well and we are through the final hoop - a legal family of four!
Our friend William Anthony came along and shot photos of the event, for which we will be eternally grateful. This post is full of the teasers he sent us yesterday.

The familiar formula was followed, we gathered outside to wait our turn and connect with the darling folks who came out to watch and celebrate with us.

We swore to love, protect, and provide for our sweet girl until adulthood and beyond. This judge was much less sentimental about the whole thing than J's judge had been, so our lawyer managed to work in some touchy-feely stuff himself, asking the whole room if they would also swear to love and support us. And provide free childcare.






 The kids had fun playing on the benches and generally enjoying each other. It's fun to see how much bigger the older three are since J's adoption proceeding almost two years ago.
I've been her mommy since the moment I met her, but it feels good to know that the connection is legal.

I remember being surprised at J's adoption hearing, at how it really did feel different and important. We'd been a family for almost a year when we finally got to finalize J's adoption, but going to court still meant something. It was similar this time - a short and dry court hearing, not wasting anyone's time. But it didn't stop me from feeling overwhelmed with emotions - grateful, happy, lucky, and so special to be able to hold this particular person in my arms and call her daughter forevermore.


As we were leaving, our lawyer handing us the final paperwork for us to file away and guard with our lives he shook my hand and then looked around at the crowded courthouse hallway. S was being passed around happily to various grandparents. J was barefoot, having rebelled against the shoes I bought her for the day, and chasing her cousin Cub around and around. My sweet friend D was chatting with other family members. "I've done a lot of adoptions,"our lawyer said. In fact, he's probably done thousands - he is the most active adoption lawyer in our city. "But both times, you have probably brought in the most supportive crowd I've seen. Such a support network you've got here."

And he's right. I don't always feel it as deeply as I did these past couple of days, but on some level I am always aware and deeply grateful for the love our little family recieves from the people who surround us with care every day. On the days when it's hard to be a parent, when I feel like I'm screwing it up, I take comfort in the fact that my kids don't just have me alone loving on them. But I think that I have fewer of those days than I would without our village around us, and I thank God for that.

So welcome, sweet sunny girl. You belong with us.
our family members who attended!

Thursday, May 31, 2012

the guns

Our city is in the midst of a huge, disturbing spike in gun violence and the past week has been particularly brutal with several lives lost to senseless shootings. The first hit especially close to home when last Thursday a man driving his car was hit by a stray bullet during an altercation on the street. His two small children were in the car with him, and he died on the spot. Andrew, the girls and I were at a park three blocks away when it happened. It was the middle of the afternoon, and reminded me very much of our experience one year ago, but with much more serious consequences.

In our neighborhood the conversation and assumptions around shootings are always racially charged. The neighborhood chatter assumes the incidents are gang related, that the perpetrators are young black men. They're right a good percentage of the time. Sometimes I feel like there is a narrative in our town that only the brown poor people deal drugs, and shoot people, usually each other. But it's not true, as yesterday's horror story played out in primarily white neighborhoods when a white man shot several people in a northside cafe and proceeded to kill someone else downtown while stealing a car before being barricaded into a house by police and ultimately shooting himself. 

The girls chose to keep each other awake instead of napping yesterday, resulting in an early bedtime for them and a quiet dinner together for Andrew and me. We talked about the shootings, our city, how the whole thing makes us wish that nobody had guns anywhere, ever. We talked about the narratives already forming in the media, and being put forward by the police. And we have our own narratives. 

I think about the two shooters. We don't know anything about the person whose bullet killed the father driving his kids to swimming lessons last week, except that he is likely an African-American male. Even if he is found, tried, convicted and punished he will never get the media attention that the shooter today will receive.  The white man who went on an intentional rampage yesterday before killing himself will have several pages of  media looking into his background for mental illness, repression, bad parenting, anything to explain how or why a white man could act in this reprehensible way. But we don't need to explore the story of last week's shooter. We already have a story for him. With both the temptation will be to dismiss them as random, aberrations, not something that is "our" responsibility. Yet the disenfranchisement of young black men and the cutting of social safety nets for the mentally ill is "our" responsibility. As is the presence and availability of guns.

 I love our neighborhood, I love our city, and as one of our fellow building residents posted on her facebook yesterday, I refuse to give in to fear.

But I tell you what, I hate guns. I don't hate the shooters - while they are definitely culpable for their actions they are also caught in systemic webs of oppression, mental illness, and disenfranchisement from society that we all participate in. But I hate, I hate guns. It is hard to accidentally kill an innocent bystander while in an altercation using a knife. Or fists. We will eventually find out that yesterday's shooter obtained his gun legally.  And while last week's gun was probably not legally obtained someone at some point did buy it or make it. If our culture did not worship the "right" to carry devices whose only purpose is to kill people without touching them, I wonder if that illegal gun may have been harder to obtain. I wonder if the young man shooting it would have done so so casually, in the broad afternoon sunlight. Guns are cowardly weapons. I hate guns.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Spring is here, summer is coming....

Spring is here and summer is coming, we can feel it. Especially today with the cloud-free sky and our alley garden both planted and watered. 



 When it comes to watering, J isn't messing around. She takes it seriously.













But not our S. She doesn't take anything seriously, especially not spring. (or, at this very moment napping. She is not taking that very seriously at ALL.)





I'll admit that this is the time of year when I dream about a very specific sort of summer, the sort that never really happens but always might. It's a summer with long lazy afternoons and days at a time spent at Grandma's house, where things look like this:

But even before then there are spring things to be done, lots of which are not just worth doing but also worth looking forward to. I am co-presenting a paper at a real live academic conference, and we're turning it into a family road trip for one. And of course we're planning to take a certain not-currently-napping baby to court, for another.

Spring is here. (summer is coming)