Wednesday, October 31, 2007

War, Peace, and a Very Fine Line

For those who may not be aware of the political situation in Ethiopia, here is a Newsweek article that describes the impending war the country could be facing.

Cut Me Off

I went to Target (quite possibly one of my favorite stores of all time) with Doctor John's mom today. Love that place. AND found so much good stuff! I love their $1 area and got a ton of things for Abigail's birthday/Christmas.


Actually, I got so much that I am not allowed to get any more stuff for her.

But, if you would like to get something for her for the big 5 or Christmas, here are some ideas:

*Books about adoption or featuring transracial relationships
*dress-up clothes/shoes, such as ballet slippers, dresses, tutus or dancing things, lip gloss or nail polish, hair bows or clips (no jewelry, please). She wears a size 7ish clothes and 13/1 shoes, and it is always better to have the dress up stuff be too big (to fit over clothes)
*Disney movies or other good DVDs (American Girls has a few movies out that she loves)
*Kids praise and worship CDs
*"I'm a big sister" shirts or books
*Photo albums of you all (she loves to look at pictures of her friends and family, but we never have enough!)
*Papa John's or Friendly's gift certificates (her favorite places to eat)
*"fun" socks (colors, patterns, etc)
*VISITS!!!!!

1 Month and Counting

The first month of my adoption journey has flown by! This month's highlights are:
~chose an agency for adoption and home study
~submitted most of my application
~gathered most of my dossier documents
~submitted I600A application and was fingerprinted (awaiting home study to complete the application)
~scheduled home study
~started this blog
~started telling people outside immediate family and friends
~learned more and more about Ethiopia

One more thing to add to the list: made first changes to home layout!

That's right. I have spend most of the month cleaning my house, sorting out closets, getting rid of unused things, packing things up for garage sales, and doing all those other little "nesting" things. But today I made the first major change...

About 18 months ago I decided I wanted to restore a beautiful dresser that has been in my family for as long as I can remember. It is a dovetail double dresser, with six drawers (I will post a pic as soon as I can.) Anyway, I love this dresser and it is a really beautiful piece, but it was in bad shape. So Todd and I decided we would restore it. For obvious reasons, that never happened. Long story short, in August I took it into a local wood shop to have them do the project. All this time I had thought I would be putting it into the guest room. Well, this month I've been thinking about Abigail sharing her room, bunk beds, dressers and the like, and decided that the restored dresser would be perfect for the girls to share in their bedroom. Then this morning I got a call asking if I could take delivery of the dresser on Friday morning. (YEA!) So...
this evening I moved Abigail's current dresser into the guest room, moved a ton of other things (like the TV that was in the guest room and the stuff that was in the guest room closet) and made room for the new dresser.

So excited!

And while it is not technically an "adoption" thing, I feel like the whole series of decisions surrounding the dresser have affected and been affected by the adoption, so I am posting that little tid bit here:)

17 days until my home study!

Monday, October 29, 2007

Hoping for a KO in round 3

Round 3 with the head lice.

Someone at school must be re-infesting the class, because today I had to start the third series of treatments on Abigail. This is so frustrating. And of course, there are more eggs (nits) in her hair, so this could end up going a couple more rounds. Maybe they should totally take away dress up stuff? I don't know what else might possibly work to stop the spread.

So, here I go, rewashing everything in hot water, packing away the pillows, stuffed animals, brushes and hair bows, and having Doctor John check my head.

Oy.

For Abigail



Your baby blues

So full of wonder

Your Curly Que's

Your contagious smile

And as I watch

You start to grow up

All I can do is hold you tight

Knowing


Clouds will rage in

Storms will race in

But you will be safe in my arms

Rains will pour down

Waves will crash all around

But you will be safe in my arms


Story books

Are full of fairy-tales

Of kings and queens

And the bluest skies

My heart is torn just in knowing

You'll someday see

The truth for lies


Clouds will rage in

Storms will race in

But you will be safe in my arms

Rains will pour down

Waves will crash all around

But you will be safe in my arms


Castles they might crumble

Dreams may not come true

Cause you are never all alone

Cause I will always

Always love you


Hey I

Hey I

Will love


Clouds will rage in

Storms will race in

But you will be safe in my arms

Rains will pour down

Waves will crash all around

But you will be safe in my arms

In my arms

Getting Down with my Fingerprints!


Well, I had a busy morning! On Saturday, I received my invitation from USCIS to be fingerprinted for my I600A application. So this morning, I drove down to York and was fingerprinted. They say that it will take them approximately 30 days to process the fingerprints. That is about the time when I think my home study will be ready to be submitted to USCIS... So, maybe I could receive my I171H by the end of 2007? A friend from an adoption forum said that she never had any delays getting her approval (and she has done this 3 times) because as soon as everything was submitted she would call her congressman and ask him to intervene. Right now the website of the Philly office of the USCIS states that they are processing I600As from June 1. WHAT??? That was nearly 5 months ago! So I might be calling my congressman:)

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Secrets

Work makes me sad. Not because it is work, but because I feel like the nature of my work and all the "politics" and "respect diversity" and "non-judgmentalism" involved make it difficult for me to be true to myself and my faith. Let me explain.

I just checked out the Myspace page of a guy I work with (and I use "work with" loosely. It is more of a "we work at the same place and occasionally care for the same patients and have had a few conversations" relationship.) Turns out, this guy is a Christian and we probably share a lot of the same religious beliefs, etc. However, due to the nature of medicine/nursing (wherein you are almost never to share about your personal experiences, especially your faith, unless asked by the patient, so that any "disrespect" of the beliefs of others can be avoided) I don't know if I ever would have found that out about him.

That makes me sad.

Paper vs. Preggers

So, I have been making a list of things I like about adopting vs. being pregnant, and things about pregnancy that I like better than adopting. For those who have done (or are doing both, ahem, Emily) feel free to add to each list!

Things I like more about adopting:
~ No morning sickness! (for those who don't know, I puked 6 x day for 34 weeks when I was preggers with Abigail!)
~ No weight gain.
~ No need for wardrobe changes.
~ No hot flashes/swollen feet/pelvic pressure.
~ Easier to "share" the experience with others (as in, this experience is not a series of "hurry over and feel the baby kick- oh, you missed it!" but more of a "look at my I171H that I got in the mail today!")
~ Does not require a male :)
~ No labor.
~ Can skip early infancy and the related breastfeeding-around-the-clock chaos.

Things I like more about pregnancy:
~ Defined time frame (9 months- or less!- and the deal is done.)
~ More "emotional connection" (maybe this will develop more for me as I get farther along in the process?)
~ "I'm eating for 2!" excuse. (related- the "the baby wants White Castle!" excuse)
~ Feeling more and more beautiful as your belly grows.
~ Cleavage.
~ Breastfeeding and the subsequent weight loss.
~ Connecting to the general population (especially other moms) due to being (obviously) pregnant (everyone smiles at pregnant women:)
~ Closeness to my mom because of similar experiences.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Reason #4-HE is Hope for the Hopeless

"... for the children around the world without a home..."

FAQ

Q: Is that her?

A: No. It's just a picture I found when I Googled "Ethiopian orphan."

When I do get a picture of my child-to-be, believe me, I will post it! But that won't happen until I get my referral, so probably not for a while:)

Fall

It's finally autumn here. Cold (50s), rainy, and dark. I can't wait to change the clocks next month (so strange with the "new" daylight savings time!) The leaves are still green, but they are supposed to change this week. Even still, they are falling.

The year is flying by- I can't believe we have lived in Hershey for over a year! And I really can't believe it's going to be Abigail's birthday soon! Then Christmas, and a whole new year. Wow.

Things I like about fall:
~ Wearing corduroy.
~ Bonfires.
~ The smell of burning leaves.
~ The apples.
~ Hot chocolate and hot apple cider.
~ Closer to Christmas!
~ Gazing out over the valley at all the beautiful colors of the leaves!

Things I don't like about fall:
~ Hunting season and the fact that kids get the day off of school in honor of the first day.
~ It's cold!
~ It's dark when I drive to work, and it's dark when I leave (thankfully, I only have to do that 3 days a week:)
~ Summer's over, and long evenings spent on the porch just don't sound so fun (it's cold!)

Now, add to the list, okay?

FAQ

Q: Will she have AIDS?

A: I was quite surprised when I learned that many people were concerned that the new little one would have HIV/AIDS. While this is a horrible disease, and occurs frequently throughout Africa, not all orphaned children are HIV+.

Just to remind you, it is actually fairly difficult to pass HIV. The virus is very unstable and does not "live" on environmental surfaces. In fact, blood-to-blood contact is one of the few ways HIV is spread (transfusion, sharing needles.) Other ways include penile-vaginal, penile-oral, or penile-rectal contact without a condom, childbirth (not during pregnancy- the virus does not cross the placenta), and breastfeeding. You cannot get HIV from sharing a bathroom, sharing linens, eating off the same dishes, kissing or changing diapers of those infected with HIV. In fact, people without HIV are more likely to infect people with HIV with colds, flu, and other infections than those with HIV are to infect others with HIV.

That being said, all children coming into orphanages are give a "rapid" HIV test and a PCR (more accurate) test upon admission to the orphanage. For those children who are relinquished (given up by parents) a parental history is obtained if possible. (Obviously, abandoned children are not able to have a parental history.) When filling out the Gladney application, I was given the option of having a second HIV PCR test performed before accepting the referral. All children are given another "rapid" test before being issued a passport.

I have chosen to have the second PCR test performed prior to accepting a referral. This is NOT because I am opposed to caring for a child with HIV or out of fear for myself or Abigail, but rather out of the fact that people who "die from AIDS" actually die from other diseases and infections that take over the person's body. I don't think, being a single mom, that I could devote the time and resources necessary to care for an HIV+ child. I am very thankful for those who do choose to adopt HIV+ children. Many of these children do quite well once they get the anti-retro viral (ARV) drugs that we have here in the US. In fact, many of these children do so well and have such a positive response from their white blood cells that they never progress to AIDS. (The distinction between HIV and AIDS is based on the number of certain types of white blood cells present.) Many of the HIV+ women who take these drugs can give birth to an HIV- child. Unfortunately, these drugs are not available in Africa (at least, not to the masses) due to the high costs.

FAQ

Q: Do you have a name picked out?

A: Yes.

Q: What is it?

A: I'm not telling.

Q: Why not?

A: I had the unfortunate experience of telling people Abigail's intended name when I was pregnant and having a less than kind response. ("Are you kidding! I knew a girl/babysat a girl/had a cousin who was named Abigail and she was a brat! I hate that name!")

Q: Can you give us a hint?

A: Okay. While I named Abigail with the intention of never using a nickname, I am fully intending to call the new child by her nickname... an abbreviated form of the name.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Hooray for CoCo!

Ahem. Cook County finally sent me my certified divorce decree. Now I can send it back to IL and get it authenticated. Fun:)

Ah, well... One more thing to check off the list!

On that same list-checking note, my labs came back yesterday, so hopefully by Monday or Tuesday I will have my physician report and letter. Abigail's doc isn't in the office until Tuesday, but since I work with her, I think I will just drop her a little text page to remember to sign Abigail's health clearance. Nice knowing how to get ahold of the people you need...:) One of the small perks of working with doctors all day!

That will pretty much be it other than the 2 letters of reference (they should both be done by Monday, hopefully), my home study, my FBI clearance, and my CIS (I171H) authorization. So start praying that all those agencies get going! My dossier is now in their hands.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Trick or Treat?

I'm not sure why, but Hershey had trick-or-treating tonight. And boy, Abigail made out with some serious loot. We are talking full-size candy bars and 2 foot long pixie stix. That's some serious candy! And this is not counting the candy she got at the local outlet mall's "Halloween Egg Hunt" (like an Easter Egg Hunt) or the candy she will get at the Hershey parade. (Thanks to babysitter Kellie for taking her to the hunt and the parade!)
(As a side note, you know you are in Hershey when, an hour into the 2 hour trick-or-treating window, the bowls that are set out with the "please take one" sign are still 3/4ths full... because the kids really only take one.)
We had great weather... Abigail stayed nice and cosy in her "Queen Lucy" dress (as in Lucy from The Chronicles of Narnia.) Jeans, sweatshirt, and a scarf kept me warm (an you know I am NEVER warm!)
Abigail got lots of compliments on her costume and she loved wearing her new sparkly silver shoes. Thanks to Teta for the costume and Gaga for the shoes!

Parenting Philosophy-ish

One of the requirements for my Ethiopian dossier is to write a statement explaining why I want to adopt, why I want to adopt from Ethiopia, how you plan to keep the child's culture and heritage alive, and what you feel your strengths are as a parent. Pish-Posh. That's nothing, right? Here's what I am submitting... a synopsis of my parenting philosophy, I guess:)

To Whom It May Concern:

Ever since I was a child, I have loved the idea of adoption. It seemed the most natural way to grow a family- to love a child who had no home. What could be more beautiful or right? For quite some time I have been considering adoption, but recently have decided that it is the right time to add a child to my family: another child for me to love and share my life with, and a little sister for my daughter.

From the time I began exploring international adoption, I felt drawn to Ethiopia. As I learned more about the country, Ethiopia’s history, and the present conditions, I knew this country was calling my name. I know my child is in Ethiopia. The current state of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Africa, and specifically the way it is ravishing Ethiopia, drew my nurse’s heart to the children who where orphaned by this horrible disease, and the families that have been broken apart by something from which we in America rarely suffer.

I look forward to being able to share in the deep history and culture of Ethiopia. Already, my daughter and I enjoy reading stories about Ethiopia and exploring the world map to find Ethiopia and her neighbors. We have started connecting to the local Ethiopian community, trying new foods, listening to new music. We learn about the country, the current conditions, the beauty of the history, and love to share what we learn with others. I look forward to serving the Ethiopian people using my nursing skills.

There is an old saying “give a man a fish and he will eat for a day- teach a man to fish and he will never be hungry.” I feel that my greatest strength as a parent lies in my ability to teach. I don’t just tie my daughter’s shoe laces- I teach her how to tie them. I don’t just read bedtime stories to her- I teach her how to read. I don’t just dictate morals and ethics- I teach her how to think about life and people, how to consider others and make choices. As the leaders of tomorrow, it is important that the children of today learn to value the human life, and I feel privileged to be teaching this to my daughter, even at her young age. Even more, I delight in the way she teaches me. Children are wonderful teachers, and my second greatest strength as a parent is my ability to learn from my daughter. For the rest of my life, I hope I will always be able to humble myself and discover what wonderful creations that can spring from the minds of children.

I know that I am not perfect. I realize that I have limits and boundaries in what I can do for my child- what I can give my child. But what I have learned so far in parenthood is this: there is no such thing as a perfect parent; there are only parents who do their best. I hope that I am able to teach this to my children- to do their best, always. To know that their best is enough. Above all, I hope that I am able to love them deeply enough that they never question their intrinsic worth.

Sincerely,
Grace Kirk

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Tell Me Lies, Tell Me Sweet Little Lies...

I caught Abigail in a lie twice tonight. Man. This is bad on two fronts. First, it means she is lying to me. Probably fairly routinely if she definitely did it twice in one night. Second, it means I had to discipline her. I hate that.

She understands what a lie is and that she is not supposed to lie to me. So gone are the days where I might have let it go with just an explanation of what a lie is and an admonishment not to lie.

I believe in the "punishment to fit the crime" type of discipline. You can't clean up your toys when I tell you to? I take the toys away. You can't obey when you are playing on the computer, I take the computer away. You yell/scream/say something mean, you don't get to talk for a few hours. You get the idea. I also believe that we discipline to correct poor behavior. I don't just punish because you were bad, I discipline to help you learn a new way or better way of dealing with a situation. It is correction, not just consequences (although consequences often are a part of the correction...) I also tend not to be "physical" in discipline. Yes, there are times when I believe smacking a child's hand or a spanking on the butt is appropriate, but more often than not, I don't find it is effective with Abigail, especially not at this point. So, all of this considered, what is an appropriate discipline for lying?

Ultimately, I led her though a series of questions to make her realize exactly where she was lying. We examined her motivations for lying. And then I gave her the talk about how love means being honest and truthful- when you lie to someone, it is like telling them you don't love them (yes, stretching it a tad.) When she understood that telling me lies was like telling me she didn't love me, she started crying and saying she was sorry and that she loved me. It was pitiful, and sweet and... wet. And really, I don't think she needed further discipline in this case.

But next time.... wow, I am going to have to get creative.

Also, is it odd that I sit around and plan how I will discipline my child?

FAQ

Q: What are you having (requesting? getting? picking?)

A: I am going to request a girl (what on earth would I do with a boy?) I really don't feel a need or desire to have an infant in the house (or to lose all that sleep), and I really like toddlers better, so the youngest I would be interested in would be age 8 or 9 months at the time of referral. I would take up to age 3. My "ideal" would be 12-14 months at referral.

However, this is not necessarily what my home study will designate me as eligible for... and it may not be what God has in mind. So, this is just my idea.

Reason #3- Sisters

On Monday I asked my sister if she would accompany me to Ethiopia when it was time to pick up my new little one. I knew I wanted to take Abigail along to this family-growing event, but traveling back to the US with Abigail and a toddler, on a plane for 17 hours... not so fun sounding. So when I thought about a grown-up that I would like to have along for this momentous occasion, I thought of my sister.

My sister and I were not terribly close growing up, and even now we are not as close as some sisters. But the older I get, the more I appreciate having a sister (and brother.) Your family is so important, and I know my family will always be there for me. Plus, there is a lot to be said for having someone to sit around and "remember when..." with.

And part of why I want to adopt is to give Abigail the chance to have that. To be a sister.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Gasp!

All of the documents in my dossier have to be "authenticated" or "apostilled" before sending them to Ethiopia. This is because Ethiopia is Hague Convention compliant, and this is a step in the US to ensure that the US is sending authentic documents to ET.

This is a step past certified or notarized. It must take place at the state level.

So, I had to send my certified birth certificate BACK to Michigan to get it apostilled. It cost $1.

When my certified divorce decree comes in from Illinois, I will have to send it BACK to Springfield to get it authenticated. That costs $2.

All of the rest of my documents that originate in PA... such as the statements from my bank, my employer, notarized copies of my birth certificates, etc.... those I will be able to take to the Capitol in Harrisburg and have apostilled...

AT $15 PER DOCUMENT!!!!!!!!!

Seriously, does that seem wrong to you?

Nesting

I'm nesting.

I have no other explanation for cleaning out all (yes ALL) of my closets over the past 4 days.

(I have a lot of closets. And most of them are very big/walk-in. I cleaned out 6 closets. SIX!)

This is part of why now is a good time to bring another child into our family. If I can manage to find the time to clean out 6 big closets in 4 days, I totally have time for a new kid!

(P.S.- My "morning sickness" seems to have resolved.)

Bedtime Prayers Revisited

Dear God,

Please help Momma get me a new sister from Ethiopia who will be kinda adopted and so that she can be in my kindergarten class and I can share my room with her and she will be little and we will be best friends.

And God, please let momma get me a new cat from Ethiopia that we could adopt like Lily.

And this was a good day.

Amen.

To Spread the News...

I spent $12 at Staples and made business cards!


(Still no paper cuts!)

No Paper Cuts (yet)

So, thought I would update you on the current standings:

Sent off my Gladney Application with $2,100 Program fee. This is complete except for the doctor's clearances for Abigail and I. Still have to give them $500 Home Study Review fee before I would be able to get "approved" and submit my dossier to Ethiopia.

Sent off my I600A with the $750 fee. I found out they would accept a plain, old copy of my divorce decree, and did not require a certified copy, so off it flew to Philadelphia. They will still need my home study to complete my application, but I can still get fingerprinted before then.

My home study is scheduled for Nov. 17 in the morning. (Abigail's birthday party is that afternoon. The way I figure it is- clean once, get 2 events out of it!) So that day has a lot of potential to be stressful. Gulp. But the whole home study process should be completed by Nov. 25ish. Still have to give the poor lady some money, but waiting for my personal loan from my credit union to come through.

So, that's my big news. My agency recommends FedEx-ing everything, so I can't wait to see my FedEx bill (I opened an account) at the end of the month. Anyone want to finance my FedEx habit?

So you may now officially call me Grace- The Paper Cut Resistant Momma Extraordinaire!

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Some thoughts about race...

Here are some thoughts I read on another prospective Ethio parent's blog. Read to the end- it's worth it!

...this post is about Transracial Adoption (though I can't imagine how anyone would guess that from my title or introductory paragraph...see why my journalism major only lasted a semester?), so I'll get right down to it. In the last post, I described the evolution of my feelings about parenting, race, and this adoption journey of ours. Now, I'd like to share some ideas that I have about the same sorts of issues. I like to divide things up, break them into smaller parts so that I can look at them more closely (see Homeschool vs. Public School, for example). I have come up with two concepts of race that hold perfect tension on the tug-of-war line between confusion and truth in my mind. I'd like to share them with you, but the caveat for embarking on this post is that if you read only part of it, the tug-of-war sways grossly out of balance. So (if you can tolerate all of the self-indulgent parenthetical asides), read the whole thing in a single sitting. Otherwise, you'll be choking on dry cereal one morning and drinking silty milk from a bowl the next.

First off,Race is a CONSTRUCT: One of the last classes I took during my last run at school spent a lot of effort in examining the ways in which people create ideas, especially socially significant ideas like race, culture, and gender. We talked about the fact that categories that seem pretty discrete and concrete actually exist along a much more fluid continuum than our conceptions would allow. Gender was, during that course, the example that impacted me. Our professor walked us through reading and class discussion that shook apart the dividing lines between categories so broadly accepted that stick figures in skirts or slacks almost universally symbolize their preeminence. But what makes a man a man and a woman a woman? Biology? That answer seems most obvious, but consider the biological qualities that we accept as identifiers. Hormones? Some self-identified women have hormone levels more saturated with testosterone than most culturally identified men. Chromosomes? What about Jamie Lee Curtis and the better part of a women's Olympic shot-put squad, all of whom have been dramatically affected by their ambiguous chromosomes, which include the decidedly male Y attatched to their pair of Xs? That's not to say that men and women aren't different, but it does illustrate the fact that the words we use to meen "male" and "female" are more pliable than we might normally recognize, that they actually represent some combination of a whole slew of factors that may or may not come into play in every instance to which they are applied.

Did I mention that this post is about Transracial Adoption? (7 right turns do, indeed, make a left.) All of that to say that if categories such as male and female represent loose amalgamations of expectations that we drag around without realizing it, then certainly already ambiguous categories like race and tribe slip their fences.

Did you know that people who are from India living in England are considered black? Most American people don't use that word in the same way. What about the word "Indian" in America? At least two stridently distinct ethnic heritages carry that label in our country. And are Russian's Asian? Are Haitian's African? Do you see how the words we use to describe other people leak like sieves? None of the categorical qualifiers that we might stuff in the bottoms of our language are sufficient to plug their holes. Complexion? Language? Family History? Many people who would check the box next to "Black" or "African-American" on a survey line have lighter complexions than other people who identify themselves as categorically white. People from several different continents all speak Spanish when they talk to their great grandparents, friends, and business associates. And while we're on the subject of great grandparents.....consider the flexibility in your family tree. Most of us don't know our great great grandmother's maiden name, and we know even less about the minutae of her daily life or the person she perceived herself to be. Some people's worlds are rocked when their family tree changes color or shakes off its leaves. My husband's German family is actually Danish. My grandmother's mother was Scottish and not Irish. My patrilineal ancestor snuck over on a boat from England and not Ireland. What about Carlos O'Kelly? Where's that guy from? Where are any of us from? Cultural heritage and ethnically rooted traditions can bind families together, but they cannot be regarded as racial signifiers. They don't have the stickiness to do the job. They're like a pencil-scrawled post it note, passed down from generation to generation: the writing has faded, and the back just never holds.

So what is race? Just like gender (only moreso) it is a conglomeration of labels that have slowly saturated our ideas about one another. Some of those labels were scribbled on the back of the post it note passed down to you through the generations. Some seeped in between the worksheets in our kindergarten classes. Some, we made up to explain the vague trends in our own experience. Who knows? I didn't know that "Jewish" could be used as a racial identifier until recently. Ten or twelve years ago, when I went to college, I think, I first heard someone say something like "He looks Jewish" or "That sounds like a Jewish last name." I had absolutely no idea what that person meant. In my arrangment of seives, Jewish was the religion of Moses, Abraham, and Jesus, and the people who observed Purim and Yom Kippur in my high school were white, like me. They just went to a different church. There was no special look, no identifiable last name in my construct of that "race."

Add to that (or add that to) the fact that I am committed, by a lifelong faith, to the absolute particularity of every person and his or her crucial importance to the heart of a loving God, and you have nothing but a shattered reflection through which to sift for any remnants of what you (or I) once labelled "race." In such light, the CONSTRUCT, simply cannot hold.

My children will be (are being) raised in accordance with that truth. Their indispensable voices, their irreplacable selves, their inimitable perspectives...their perfect particularity in the sight of God....will always govern the way our family operates. Our lives and the love that infuses them with meaning will unrelentingly reflect our commitment to the unity that comes from absolute diversity (not the shoddily drawn diversity of arbitrary categories but the radical diversity of individual, unrepeatable souls).

There you have it. Tug of war team # 1, truth, and its presidence over our family and all of its members: Race is a CONSTRUCT. It does not exist.

And here's the second, unmistakable fact:

Race IS a Construct: It DOES persist as arguably the most powerful construct in human history. It has been used to justify war and cruelty beyond measure. It continues to dellineate neighborhoods, churches, and cafeteria tables. In its prevalence, it creates commonality. People who have been stung by the broad, stupid application of the construct, again and again, are galvanized into unity by the heat and pressure. Likewise, people coagulate into like-mindlessness and power by virtue of their appropriation of a construct in common. So, at its best, the construct of race offers people a home, a place where belonging exists before words because common experience rarely needs to be spoken. And in this solidarity, people are comforted, empowered, and understood. At its worst, well....read the papers.

If I don't arm my children with the tools to face down the wrong-headed implications of the most powerful construct in human history, then what kind of parent am I? And if I deny them an opportunity to melt into a community where they can find ease and identity without words among people who share common experience, an experience of a construct that I will never have nor completely understand, then I will have failed my children. I have an obligation to educate, encourage, and empower my family on all sides of this volatile, powerful, hateful, ennobling construct with every tool that my own resources and the resources of my community can provide.

I don't know how we'll manage it, but I'm fairly sure that if we let these two facts slide out of balance, if either side begins to pull harder, our whole family will collapse in a filthy heap. So I'm committed to the effort, with all of my heart. And I'll trust in the miracle of being set aright and hosed off again and again by the one who created without construct and yet enabled us to create them. And I can't tell you how much peace washes over me as I end that sentence with a solid, definitive period.

FAQ

Q: Why adopt now?

A: Because it is the right time. How do I know it's the right time? I just do. (Didn't anyone tell you that moms know everything?)

I know some people can't believe I am ready to take on the "trouble" of a second child... they question how I will afford it, how I will do it without my family around, how I can possibly have the time for another little one. And sometimes I wonder those questions, too. But if families waited until they had the finances, time, and resources for a second child, everyone would be an only child! It is the right time to bring another child into our family, and Abigail and I are excited. I hope to adopt a toddler, and if I wait much longer, Abigail and the little one would be so far apart in age that they wouldn't be close- at least not in the way I hope they will be.

Friday, October 19, 2007

"Freedom" of the Press

The following commentary is from Ethiopian Politics:
ETP/AP - Ethiopia has been outranked by more than 145 countries including Zimbabwe, Sudan, Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia in a survey of press freedom around the world. Ethiopia was rated 150th in an index of 169 countries published today by Reporters Without Borders (RSF), which examined various factors such as the way journalists are treated, freedom of speech, freedom of information and diversity of media ownership. RSF criticized the incarceration of journalists in Ethiopia, deportation of foreign correspondents and the government’s involvement in web censorship.
The report stated that most blogs and opposition websites were inaccessible in the country. The survey also found that Ethiopia’s neighbor Eritrea had the least free media in the world, displacing North Korea. "The privately-owned press has been banished by the authoritarian president Issaias Afeworki and the few journalists who dare to criticise the regime are thrown in prison," RSF said. "We know that four of them have died in detention and we have every reason to fear that others will suffer the same fate." China was seventh from the bottom of the list, at 163rd, just ahead of Burma, Cuba and Iran. The top of the list was dominated by European countries, which made up 18 of the top 20.
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Current Standings

So, in case you didn't know, the adoption process is very... complicated, to say the least. I have 4 different manuals that are 40+ pages each. From these manuals I have to gather and submit various documents and applications to enable the adoption process. So, here is where things stand:

Gladney Application- This document includes several legal agreements and waivers between my adoption agency and myself. It also includes a series of information and documents about Abigail and me that allow the agency to determine1) if I would be a good adoptive parent, and 2) if Ethiopia would let me adopt. Currently I am waiting on three documents to complete my application: health waiver for me, health waiver for Abigail, and a copy of my official divorce decree. This application must be submitted with my initial program fee of $2,600.

Home Study- The home study is conducted by a licensed social worker. The social worker comes to my house and conducts an interview and investigates the home to determine the appropriateness of my home for an adopted child. The social worker determines the desired age and sex of the adoptive child, and what I can "handle" (ie- a family may want to adopt twins age 3-5 but the social worker may determine that the family can only adopt one child age 3-5, but is eligible for twins less than 3 years old.) They provide education and resources for me to help prepare Abigail and me for the adoption. The agency also conducts post-placement visits to make sure things are going well. Because Ethiopia requires that 3 post-placement visits be pre-paid before they will approve you to adopt, my application for the home study must be submitted not only with the cost of the home study but the payment for 3 post-placement visits which, before fees and travel expenses, totals $2125. I am almost ready to submit my application- I am just waiting on the funding.

I600A- This document is submitted to US Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS). This is my application to bring an adopted child into the US. This form triggers the USCIS to fingerprint me, and also results in an I171H or I797C which is my official "approval" to bring a child into the country. My application is complete but I am waiting on a copy of my divorce decree and the $750 fee.

Ethiopia Dossier- The dossier is the collection of documents that is submitted to the Ethiopian government to prove my ability to care for a child. This includes documents such as a certified copy of my birth certificate and divorce decree, a financial statement, my completed home study, health clearances and proof of blood work, proof of employment/income/health insurance/life insurance, letters of reference, a copy of my passport, and pictures of my family and home (among other things.) The dossier cannot be completed until the home study is complete, so I am not concerned with the fact that I have only gathered about half of the required documents. The final piece of the dossier (the last one to be obtained) is generally the I171H or I797C. Once the dossier collection is complete, it will go through a series of authentication on the US side and then be submitted to Ethiopia's Ministry of Women's Affairs.

Once the dossier is submitted to Ethiopia, they review it and give approval for me to adopt. At that point I become eligible to receive a referral (Gladney reports about a 3 month wait time for an approval- some are more and some are less. Babies and sibling groups may have a longer wait time, as do girls. However, most people I've talked to got their referral much more quickly than Gladney reports:) Once the referral is accepted, a Child Acceptance Agreement is sent to Ethiopia. Ethiopia determines a court date, and on that date the child legally becomes mine. The notification of the upcoming court date is my cue to get my airline tickets since most people travel just a few weeks after their court date. Then, 5-10 days are spent in Ethiopia bonding and finishing other required paperwork (and getting the kiddo's Visa) and HOME FOREVER!

So, that's where things are on my end. Hopefully Cook County can get going and get my certified divorce decree to me! (I already received my and Abigail's certified birth certificates over a week ago!) Come ON Co-Co!

Morning Sickness

My tummy has been very upset the past few days. Ugh. Doctor John, in all his infinite wisdom, has diagnosed me:
adoption morning sickness.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

30

Today is Doctor John's 30th birthday. So Abigail and I sang to him before he ate birthday cake.

Abigail sang a really beautiful song:

Happy birthday to you,
Happy birthday to you,
Happy birthday Doctor John-y,
Blah, blah, blah, blah.

It was really... um... heartfelt?

At any rate, HAPPY BIRTHDAY DOCTOR JOHN! Glad I got to spend some time with you on your "getting old day."

AIDS in Ethiopia

This video is about 20 minutes long and tells about the problems facing HIV/AIDS orphans in Ethiopia. Their sweet faces... how can we ignore them?

Going Public

I don't know why, exactly, today is the day... but it is. So, without further ado, here is my big news:

I am paper pregnant!
Check out details here.

Reason #2-Bursting is not a good thing!

When I was a kid, I loved, and was loved by, my parents. I thought I knew what love was.

I grew up. I fell in love. I got married. I thought I knew what love was.

I got pregnant. I gave birth to a beautiful baby. I held her, nursed her, took care of her, cherished her. I thought I knew what love was.

How presumptuous was I? To think the human mind can fathom the height and width and depth of love! Love, true love, stretches across the universe, reaches beyond time, and gives from the never-ending fountain of grace and mercy.

But one truth I know about love is this: the more you give love, the more love you have to give. It's like ivy that can so quickly consume a landscape- the more it spreads, the more there is to spread. So all this love that I have been privileged to experience- all this love that I have been so blessed to give- it's just been growing and spreading and filling my heart. And now my heart is close to bursting with it. And let me tell you, in my humble medical opinion, bursting is not a good thing!

So, I am going to take my ivy-love and transplant it into the heart of another child.


I pray that you will be filled with love. I pray that you will be able to understand how wide and how long and how high and how deep His love is. I pray that you will know the love of Christ. His love goes beyond anything we can understand. I pray that you will be filled with God Himself.
Eph. 3:17-19 (NIV)

He tends his flock like a shepherd:
He gathers the lambs in his arms
and carries them close to his heart;
he gently leads those that have young.
Isa. 40:11 (NIV)

The Horn, the List, and the Risks

Here is a link to an editorial from the NY Times about the Eritrean/Ethiopian conflict. These were the countries that warred through the late 1990s, with a tenuous peace for the past 7 years based on a treaty that neither country has fully respected. Full enforcement will go into effect in November, and tensions are rising. And if they begin to fight again, it will lead to the deaths of many innocent civilians.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

FAQ

Q: Why Ethiopia?

A: There are many reasons why I chose Ethiopia and I will share them with you, but the main reason is that I just knew that's where my child is.

When I initially began to seriously consider adopting I knew I wanted to go international. This was a "given" for me, based on the fact that even as orphans or foster kids in the USA, these children will have food, clothes, and education. As a matter of fact, most of them will even get a college education- free! It doesn't make up for not having a family, but at least they have a chance- a hope. So I knew I was going to look outside the US.

One of the first things I did was research from which countries I was even eligible to adopt... At the time, I was only 24, so the list of countries was quite small (especially with the closing of Guatemalan programs.) Adding to the list of detractors is the fact that I am single. Even fewer countries allow single-parent adoption (China closed their single-parent program.) Some countries have income requirements, others don't allow you to adopt if you already have a child... you get the picture. Anyway, once I turned 25, more countries opened up, including Ethiopia which allows single women age 25+ to adopt (this may be changing... please be in prayer!)

From the moment I considered Ethiopia, I just had peace. And as I educated myself about the country, my feeling that it was "right" increased. One thing that has really touched my heart is the HIV/AIDS epidemic in sub-Saharan Africa. What an amazing opportunity this will create as my child connects with Ethiopia through service work- and the opportunity for me to serve in a medical capacity for people who so desperately need medical help! Additionally, education also revealed other medical problems:

1 in 10 children die before their first birthday
1 in 6 children die before their fifth birthday
More than half of the children in Ethiopia are stunted due to malnutrition
There is only 1 doctor in Ethiopia for every 24,ooo children

These people need help... these children need help! And I can give it to the! Not just through adopting, but through serving in an ongoing capacity.

Education also revealed the shocking human rights situation in Ethiopia. I won't get into it all, but how about this: 1 in 23 women in Ethiopia will be circumcised. Can you imagine?

So, all of this led me to Ethiopia, but mostly it was just the feeling that I don't think I can describe other than to say: I just knew that's where my child was.

Reason #1- 1 John 4:7-10

My beloved friends, let us continue to love each other since love comes from God. Everyone who loves is born of God and experiences a relationship with God. The person who refuses to love doesn't know the first thing about God, because God is love—so you can't know him if you don't love. This is how God showed his love for us: God sent his only Son into the world so we might live through him. This is the kind of love we are talking about—not that we once upon a time loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to clear away our sins and the damage they've done to our relationship with God.

Tease

Big
Big
Big
Announcement coming soon!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Todd

It's been over a year, and I've gained some objectivity about the situation, so I am going to share a little about "the Todd thing."

As you remember, I moved to PA to be with Todd. I was totally in love with him, and knew we would be married and happy. Obviously, that didn't happen. What did happen is this: I moved to PA, became lonely and depressed, and realized that being with someone all the time is really NOT the same as having a long distance relationship. Things were good and bad and everything in between, and finally Todd decided that it was just best to end everything.

I was crushed. It was devastating to be alone, in a place where the only connections I had were to the man who ended our relationship, and without the support system I had for years. Todd had "unofficially" proposed, I was looking at wedding dresses and reception sites, and we were decorating his house to plan for another child sooner rather than later... then suddenly.... nothing. Even our friendship had to end because there was no way we could have stayed friends and moved on.

I can write about it now without any overwhelming feelings, but for weeks- months- after the break up, I couldn't even think about it without crying. I realized a little over a month ago, as I was in that semi-conscious state between awake and asleep, that I was no longer in love with Todd. It was a long process that involved not only falling out of love with Todd the person, but also letting go of Todd the idea.

But it was very freeing.

In retrospect, things could have worked between Todd and I. But I believe God has something different in mind. Todd and I both made choices that messed up a really good thing, but God has redeemed me from being stuck in those trenches. He has given me beauty for ashes. Pretty amazing how HE does that... not just once, but daily!

And HE is working a new thing.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Nursing Back

What can I say? Nurses are crazy!

Religion in Ethiopia

Ethiopia has two primary religions: Orthodox Christian and Muslim. Religion has long been an area of civil conflict within Ethiopia, as it has been throughout the world. For many of us living in the US, religion-based conflict is pretty non-existent. The freedoms we have enjoyed since the foundation of our country- the freedom to practice any religion, and the freedom to abstain from religious practice- is something that we take for granted. The religious conflicts around the world are less "real" than those based on race, ethnicity, or country of origin, since we experience those kinds of conflicts ourselves in the US. However, these religion-based conflicts are very real. Here is an interesting article from the UK edition of The Times. It is particularly interesting because the peace sought with Christians from leaders of the Muslim world is directly relevant to the religious unrest within Ethiopia.

The Ethiopian Flag




The colored stripes on the Ethiopian flag are significant - the red stripe stands for power, faith and blood; the yellow symbolizes the church, peace, natural wealth and love; and the green represents the land and hope. The colors were also interpreted to have a connection to the Holy Trinity, and the three main provinces of Ethiopia. The star represents unity of the people and the races that make up Ethiopia. The five rays on the outside of the star represent prosperity and the blue disk represents peace.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

The Ethiopian Flag




The colored stripes on the Ethiopian flag are significant - the red stripe stands for power, faith and blood; the yellow symbolizes the church, peace, natural wealth and love; and the green represents the land and hope. The colors were also interpreted to have a connection to the Holy Trinity, and the three main provinces of Ethiopia. The star represents unity of the people and the races that make up Ethiopia. The five rays on the outside of the star represent prosperity and the blue disk represents peace.

Pretty!







Pictures from National Geographic.

Blessed to be a Blessing

I have to say, there are a lot of days that I don't really like or enjoy my job. It's difficult work, and on all sides, people are very demanding.

And then there are days like today, where God really blesses me and reminds me what a blessing I can be to others. And that feels really good.

I had the privilege to care for a wonderful man and his lovely family. They really touched my heart; one of the sweetest moments I have ever had at work was one Sunday morning as I listened to this gentleman's adult daughter read Scripture and sing hymns and "have church" in his hospital room. It was so sweet to see their faith and share with them. Abigail and I have been praying for them ever since.

The man was discharged during the past week which I had off of work. When I came in today, there was a package the family had left for me... some books I had loaned them, a cute gift, and a sweet thank you card.

It touched my heart, especially this verse that they shared in the card...

"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God."

2 Corinthians 1:3-4

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

First Contact

I just got off the phone with the intake coordinator of the adoption agency I think I am going to use. This was my first "contact" with adoption agencies, even though I have been researching adoption, Ethiopia, agencies, etc for a few months.

It was my first "first." And it was great! I really enjoyed speaking with Debra, and I was able to get many questions answered. The one thing she said that kind of threw me for a loop was that Ethiopia is considering closing it's intercountry adoption program to single women. Other countries (like China and Russia) have already done this. So, Debra's advice was to "Just Do It!"

Hmm.

Maybe God is throwing my timeline out the window?

Decisions, Decisions

A super-big decision is going to be made in the next week or two... A decision that can literally affect the rest of my life, Abigail's life, and my family.

Please be in prayer!

First Contact

I just got off the phone with the intake coordinator of the adoption agency I think I am going to use. This was my first "contact" with adoption agencies, even though I have been researching adoption, Ethiopia, agencies, etc for a few months.

It was my first "first." And it was great! I really enjoyed speaking with Debra, and I was able to get many questions answered. The one thing she said that kind of threw me for a loop was that Ethiopia is considering closing it's intercountry adoption program to single women. Other countries (like China and Russia) have already done this. So, Debra's advice was to "Just Do It!"

Hmm.

Maybe God is throwing my timeline out the window?

Monday, October 08, 2007

It's 90+ Degrees Outside

And who is done with their Christmas shopping?


ME!

Dead Dawgs

Yesterday I went to church with some friends, Jen and Jon. I think I may have finally found a home church at Caring Community Church of God! The congregation is small but faithful and genuine. The worship was great, and so was the sermon. ((Hence the title of this post... ask if you want:) I am excited to go back. Besides, I got "mugged" there, and that's one of the most exciting things that has happened to me in PA!

In other news, today at Walmart Abigail learned how to tie her shoelaces. "Make the cross and pull them apart. Make a little loop. Turn this one around. Pull it through and pull the loops." That is how Abigail "talks through" tying the laces. She was so excited!

I know I have been a putz about updating, but that is partially because I am actually starting to have a life here. Like, inviting people over for dinner, going to lunch with new friends, spending hours working on pointless schoolwork. Wait. That's not having a life. But that IS my life.

More and more disappointed with school. I really thought I would be learning and growing, but every day and every assignment feels like just another time killer... another round of busy work. But- after this semester, only 3 semesters to go (at 9 credits/semester) which means I could be done by Christmas 2008. Whoot!

More and different other news: I have decided that I am going to live in PA until at least August 2009. This is mainly because I am vested in my 401k after 3 years of employment, so it would be silliness to leave any sooner. Which means- YOU NEED TO COME VISIT ME!

I will leave you to think about that.

Deuteronomy 10:14-18

Look around you: Everything you see is God's—the heavens above and beyond, the Earth, and everything on it. But it was your ancestors who God fell in love with; he picked their children—that's you!—out of all the other peoples. That's where we are right now. So cut away the thick calluses from your heart and stop being so willfully hardheaded. God, your God, is the God of all gods, he's the Master of all masters, a God immense and powerful and awesome. He doesn't play favorites, takes no bribes, makes sure orphans and widows are treated fairly, takes loving care of foreigners by seeing that they get food and clothing. (The Message)

Deuteronomy 10:14-18

Look around you: Everything you see is God's—the heavens above and beyond, the Earth, and everything on it. But it was your ancestors who God fell in love with; he picked their children—that's you!—out of all the other peoples. That's where we are right now. So cut away the thick calluses from your heart and stop being so willfully hardheaded. God, your God, is the God of all gods, he's the Master of all masters, a God immense and powerful and awesome. He doesn't play favorites, takes no bribes, makes sure orphans and widows are treated fairly, takes loving care of foreigners by seeing that they get food and clothing. (The Message)
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