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) 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. 
  • 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!