River

December 16, 2014 § Leave a comment

Christmas2014Family

When I am so busy I can’t breathe I decide to blog.

I haven’t been writing here, partially because the scale of busy in our lives has been at an intensity that I have never known before in my life.

I know many of you are so curious about how we are doing and what our journey is like.

I had imagined in so many ways that we would do this together, that I would come here and use this space to process this journey.

However, as we progressed through the last few months, and our social media space is WHOLLY accessible to C’s (my) family it felt inappropriate and frankly unsafe for me to do that. Partially because it would likely be painful for them and partially because there came a point when we realized that the letting go process for them was for more difficult than anyone had bargained for.

There have been so many times that I have wanted to come here and pour my heart out about the highs and lows, joys and pains, the faith and the fear of this – but not only has there simply not been the time, frankly this just isn’t the time for it.

I will say that all of this in combination with what’s going on globally has led me to a lot of Advent contemplation regarding “rights” and how humanity defines them and holds on to them, and how upside down that all is.

Speaking of rights, as I prepare our holiday cards, and include C, I am struggling with how to honor W… and I can’t quite figure out how to bring myself to do them. With all the joy in my heart, there is such an obvious space where a three month old baby should be.

8 people told us they were pregnant this week. Many of them almost 5 months or 5 months pregnant. I avoid hearing people are pregnant like the plague, even if I know in my gut they are. I know when people start trying to get in touch with me what they need to tell me, and I just can’t bring myself to have the conversation. I don’t want to meet new babies. Everyone just call me when they’re 2… I kid. I kid. I know. It gets better, but for now it stings. Luckily I have an almost three year old toddler to remind me what those tiny snuggle bugs grow into – never stopping, never quiet, never still machines.

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My Story – Adoption Awareness Month

November 24, 2014 § 3 Comments

This month is adoption month. I’ve been participating in the adoption.com #adoptionphotoaday posts. Each day has a word or phrase prompt and you post a blurb about what that phrase means to you with an accompanying photo.

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This has been both a sweet and difficult thing for me as I know it’s likely a difficult thing for C’s birth mom, grandmother, and great grandmother to read. On the other hand, it has been a really sweet way for us to celebrate him and his addition to our lives. Also, as advocates for adoption before C was ever a part of our lives it feels powerful to share about how wholly impactful and transformative these months have been. Easy? No. Perfect? No. Clean cut? No. Worth it? Absolutely. I only say this because I believe adoption is lauded as this miracle answer for those who cannot have their own children…

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Justin and I can have our own children. We wanted to adopt the same.

Calvin was deeply and passionately loved by those who let him go, they did so just the same.


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This is a process being undertaken within our family, does that make it easier? I would posit in some ways it makes it more complicated, and in other ways makes it sweeter. He will always know his family, his story, and that he has been loved from the moment he was known.

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This also means that he has one great-great grandmother, one great grandmother & grandfather, twelve grandmothers & grandfathers, & four parents – not including our siblings (aunts, uncles, and cousins.) That’s right. That’s 17 people for one 2 year old, if you don’t include one sibling of a parent, grandparent, or great-grandparent.

WOW. WOW. WOW. WOW. WOW.

Too. Much.

How do two new parents of a toddler look at 15 people and decide how to divide up a toddler’s time? They don’t – can you imagine? Instead we looked at C and said, “Buddy, it’s the three of us now, and we’re going to figure this out.”

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Two and a half months in it’s hard to say that we’ve got a story. We’re still in the process of SLOWLY introducing C to our parents. He’s met J’s parents, GAM & GUK just came and saved us – helped us get over the house hurdles and life stuff I just couldn’t manage with everything else going on (not to mention cooked meals, cleaned, carried strollers up subway stairs, helped grocery shop etc.), and we’re hoping Dad can meet him around MLK JR. Day.

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It’s important to us that people are not added too frequently, and that his foundation remains intact – that he knows he is only adding to the people that love him – not replacing people. We mainly manage this by looking at a lot of pictures, talking about people and how they intersect with our lives, and reading books about families that look more like ours. We also do A LOT of kissing pictures.

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Is this My Story or C’s Story? I wouldn’t say it’s either of our stories… As I said… There are far too many people invested for anyone to lay claim to the story as their own. I can only offer some random bits of what the last couple of months have looked like for us. As things become more cohesive a story will form for each of us and we will all have a chapter in this book, my deepest wish is that it will be a book of lavish love.

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If I Needed You

September 18, 2014 § 8 Comments

Ken, Marla, and I love Lyle Lovett.

My first trip back to Texas after I got married I was at Guerro’s having lunch and he walked past. I almost fell over. Freaked. Out.

It was at this point they decided to break the news that they had gotten tickets to the Lyle show that night… I mean…

There’s a Townes Van Zandt song Lyle covers called If I Needed You – I’ve loved it forever.

The chorus is:
“If I needed you would you come to me,
Would you come to me, and ease my pain?
If you needed me
I would come to you
I’d swim the seas for to ease your pain.”

Man. I love those lines. I’ve loved those lines for over 20 years, when my Papaw used to listen to Emmy Lou and Don Williams sing the song by 8 Track driving me home from school.

As many of you know we recently acquired a 2 1/2 year old human. He is a distant family member. The grandson of one of my family members. He doesn’t feel distant to us. He feels close. And I said many times in the process that I imagine the most difficult decision in the world outside of war must be to relinquish your child – even if you truly believe it to be in the best interest of your child. I can assure you that the only thing considered in this process by everyone involved was this little one’s very best interest.

While we are over the moon with love for this child we grieve for his family that adores him and acutely feels the loss of his presence in their daily lives.

It’s been a quick transition, but he’s a very happy boy and we love that he’s content with a bucket of toys and the NYC park system. We spend the days running and playing, working on colors, letters, numbers, and family rules (we use “may I please” and not “I want” in our home…”) He’s such a quick study, already saying thank you and you’re welcome, identifying when it’s safe and not safe to cross streets, and telling jackeogh she is NOT allowed on the couch (it’s good to be the boss of something…)

We’re trying to balance work, school, board memberships, things we’re committed to and making sure one of us is with him at all times. As you can imagine sleeping is a thing of the past.

We know all of you will love him. He’s magical and really a very fun and funny kid. Thank you so much to each and every one of you for your love, support, cheers, texts, prayers, and waves of kind words. We’re over the moon. I’m sure eventually we’ll figure out what to do and how to do all of this. Until then, enjoy laughing at us.

Oh, I almost forgot. Every nap, and every night Calvin sits in my lap – we read some books (ending with “Guess How Much I Love You?”), then we talk about our favorite part of the morning or day, finally he lays back and I rock him and sing, “If I Needed You” to him until he’s asleep… Today at nap time he asked for his song. I hope he knows just how much we mean it, and just how much we needed him. Isn’t that just the way it always seems to work?

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Repost of Article from Columbia Spectator

September 5, 2014 § 1 Comment

I’ve never done this, but I’m doing it today. I’m doing it because I haven’t written about this summer yet, and this touches on some of what I will. I’m doing it because so many – viewing themselves as Intellectuals turn off or shut down the voice of the religious in the debate. Likewise, viewing themselves as the keepers of the truth the religious reject the academic or the liberal debate. The problem is, no one has the market cornered on right or truth – or everyone thinks that they have the market cornered – I think you see the problem. Which news do you watch/read/listen to that’s the LEAST biased (toward which perspective), when we say truth do we mean Jewish – which Jewish – Orthodox, Hassidic, progressive? – Christian? Catholic, Mormon (Romney… He was the right choice), Presbyterian (Reformed), Protestant, Evangelical… I think you see my point. It’s kind of tough to have the market cornered on truth when SO many people have it and it’s SO different and requires you buy different versions of it’s sacred texts. Literally – within the Christian sect there were three different required sacred texts among the divisions listed. These ideologies often shape our debate in ways we don’t realize. Our school newspaper published a powerful article by the Rabbi of Hillel regarding the debate, and I’d like to share it with you. I hope you’ll consider it as you engage people, and if possible, I hope you will be brave enough to allow it to challenge your thinking as it has mine.

Learning to embrace radical humility
By YONAH HAIN
As published on line in the Columbia Spectator used without permission 😉
September 4, 2014, 5:05am
On campus, waxing poetic about diversity is like oxygen: It’s everywhere. A major talking point from day one (e.g., Under1Roof, Perspectives on Diversity, and every ResLife session), it lies at the heart of the Columbia experience. Classes, professors, books, and fellow students will challenge your biases and push you to think beyond your own certainties. After eight years working on this campus, though, I’m not here to wax poetic, but to challenge how hollow these messages can ring, particularly in the face of conflict.

University President Lee Bollinger has emphasized the centrality of the “scholarly temperament”: the ability “to acknowledge the difficulty and complexity of things, to set aside our preexisting beliefs, to hold simultaneously in our minds multiple angles of seeing things, to allow ourselves seemingly to believe another view as we consider it.” This ability to consider many perspectives and to avoid the absolutist assumption of right and wrong is only of heightened importance outside of the classroom.

When conflict arises, our instincts urge us to filter world events through the facile binaries of good and evil, economical and wasteful, ally and adversary, etc. And so we must, both as individuals and as a community, look to our studies here as a lesson in the complexity that we ourselves must bring to bear on our understanding of world events. For that reason, I’m going to urge us to embrace a radical humility about our own views.

I’m thinking, for example, about the war in Gaza this past summer. For many of us, social media outlets revealed themselves as forums inhospitable to a diversity of opinions, unable to challenge inherited biases. Seemingly every Facebook post unleashed a comments section full of hateful speech or an echo chamber of cheerleading. But with this new academic year upon us, and the Jewish New Year approaching, I am challenging myself to choose the bravery of humility. Let’s connect with one another and chip away at defensive postures, hear others’ narratives without often instinctual dismissiveness.

This notion can be traced back to an old rabbinic adage. In the Pirkei Avot, the collection of pithy teachings colloquially referred to as the Ethics of the Fathers, the ancient Jewish sages understood honest, well-intentioned dispute thusly: “Any debate that is for the sake of heaven is destined to endure; any debate that is not for the sake of heaven will not endure.” Strikingly, the honest disagreement will not be resolved. There is no mention of a divine truth appearing to put an end to the controversy once and for all. Instead, real difference is axiomatic, and the rabbis insist that such debate will carry on.

To be sure, this is not something I have mastered. Nor is it everyone’s cup of tea. This kind of openness can feel unstable for some or may lead to a weakened sense of identity. But for me, this kind of radical humility helps refine and strengthen my personal convictions. I have grown to feel most comfortable in my own particularity as I have come into deep contact with divergent opinions. Note that I am not endorsing using other people’s approaches as a foil for your own, in order to decide what you do not want to be. Rather, what I mean to say is that subjectivity is real, as real for others as it is for me, and as real for me as it is for others.

***this is cut & copied from the original post on ColumbiaSpectator.com used explicitly without any permission whatsoever but linked back and with credits given everywhere in every attempt to establish that this is in no way anything I did any work on and is fully just something I liked and used***

Italy, Knowing it All, & How to Solve the Problems of the World

August 21, 2014 § 1 Comment

I’ve struggled with what to write about this summer.

While I was gone a civilian aircraft was shot down over the Ukraine – as well as an Air Algérie flight, which crashed in Mali. On both flights all on board were killed.

Conflict has been renewed between Israel and Palestine.

The death toll in Syria rises.

People realized that among the many casualties of ISIS are Christians.

There were horrible landslides in Nepal.

Finally, police across the US have continued to shoot citizens, but in Ferguson, Missouri they shot an unarmed black teenager about to leave for college resulting in ongoing rioting.

Haley and I traveled for a week before Bologna. Justin and I traveled for two weeks after. The five weeks in between were spent at a Symposium on Conflict Prevention, Resolution, and Reconciliation. I will write about the symposium at some point, but I need more time. It was much different than almost all of us expected. We all learned incredible things from each other, from some of the speakers, from the dynamics, and from the incredible cultural diversity. We also learned a lot from those around us that had nothing to learn.

There are several kinds of non-learners. There are people that have something to say about everything, there are people who are passive aggressive directors – frustrated if they can’t control a conversation/discussion/small group/friendship/negotiation etc., there are simply quiet resistors to information, and there are just people that believe they know everything and don’t care what you have to say. These people may be academics, they may be teachers, students, facilitators, they may even perceive themselves to be dynamic empathetic learners – but they are unaware of the way that their communication changes the air in a room. You may speak to them, they may repeat back to you what you’ve said, but you know distinctly you have not been heard.

Why does this matter?

As I try to consider what’s happening in the world…

As I contemplate this summer…

As I grieve the infrastructural and systemic racism in this nation…

As I question what I can write that’s not offensive to those who struggle. Truly struggle.

I recognize we often choose our ignorance.

We choose not to hear when oppressed communities say, “this is wrong, it’s not just, it’s not right.”

We choose to defend our position, our organization, our religion, our ideology, our ‘hard work’, our rights, or our opinions.

We don’t often ask ourselves why.

What does it cost us to have our paradigm shifted?

Or what about this…

What does it cost us to live peacefully and respectfully with strongly differing ideas?

I often hear extreme right wing Christians say that they feel alienated in mainstream culture, politics, & schools. They feel that this country, which they believe was founded on Christian values (including the 3/5 Clause, no voting or land rights for women, and other Constitutional offenses), is rejecting them. These are OFTEN (not always) the very same people that deny religious freedoms to Muslims, or the right of no religion to agnostics and atheists – with little understanding of the similarity of the situation.

By extension, when you look at the situation in Israel, you see a similar inability to recognize that by displacing Palestinians from Israel in the 40s they were doing the exact same thing to the Arab people that had been done to them so long ago – they seemed to disregard the potential unintended consequences of that displacement for the Palestinian people as well. We as a world, compelled to assuage our gilt for our sins of WWII and driven by a powerful lobby, refuse to acknowledge the fact that the global standard for Rules of Engagement is the “absolute minimum force necessary proportional to the threat.” There is no way that we can call what is happening in Israel against Palestine proportional to the threat – if there is a question we can compare the casualties between the two countries. As of today, according to the New York Times, “the Palestinian death toll since the onset of the operation to nearly 2,100. On the Israeli side, 64 soldiers and three civilians, one a foreign laborer, have been killed.” 33:1 – Disproportionate. This is not a matter of ideology, this is a matter of numbers, logic, and international law.

As far as what is happening in Ferguson, I feel hesitant to speak. Not because I don’t feel what’s happening is wrong, but because it’s not new. I don’t understand why we are surprised. If you feel that there are better options to rioting, if you feel people should be keeping authority issued curfews, perhaps consider that two men have been killed in the area in the last week. Tazers were not used. Mace, a baton, or some equally undesirable but non-lethal action was not attempted. Consider what you would do if your government had failed you? What if that government had shown that it was going to fail to achieve justice on your behalf? Do you think I am being dramatic? Go back and read what was written after Trayvon Martin and see how familiar it all sounds. Or the articles from the 1960s… The oppressed of our society are not confused about their oppression, it’s generally those holding on to their privilege that refuse to see how much they benefit from denying their co-nationals equality.

I’ve also been thinking a lot about our sense of patriotism and identification. How we tend to identify with those familiar to us more than we do ‘the other.’ For instance “our brothers and sisters in Christ.” It is the similar tendency that makes us want to close our borders, guard our tax dollars, protect our co-nationals from potential terrorists sneaking over borders, and maintain the “American way of life.” I am not entirely sure what any of this means. We are a nation founded on principles that “all men are created equal” whether we identify more greatly with them or not. We may think ISIS is MORE evil for killing Christians – but ISIS is just killing people, all the people, and they’ve been doing so for a long time. Also, as you’ve seen on the news – your co-nationals – a 19 year old from Colorado has joined the organization and is participating. So, in that case, since people are actually defecting, should we stop people from LEAVING America, so that they can no longer kill Iraqi Christians in the name of Allah? It becomes problematic to value people more because we can identify with them, nationalism was a pretty serious problem historically, one that led to the current problem in Israel, and despite claiming a lot of love for our co-nationals, we, here in America can’t seem to work out the problems on our own soil – so perhaps we shouldn’t go on and on about the evils abroad. We’ve got a pretty large plank in our eye that might be obstructing our vision.

More than ever, especially after my time in Italy, what I think I believe is that if people refuse to listen to each other – if they refuse to recognize their own weakness and be comfortable with their imperfection and lack of knowledge, then they will not seek others to compliment their weakness or ignorance and instead surround themselves with people who assure them their thinking is complete and correct. This is a dangerous and deadly thing in our world. We are all weak, ignorant, and flawed – this is humanity. The beauty of humanity is that we have each other to complement us, to teach us, to strengthen us. We don’t need to know everything, to be able to do everything, to be experts in every field…

We must learn to live in tension. We must accept the differences in those around us. We must learn to extend to others those things we demand for ourselves. We must offer the same empathies and compassions that we have sought for ourselves. It is not required that we all agree, that we all like each other, that we sing in harmony – there can be beauty in musical dischord. If every piece of a stained glass window was the same there would be no image to behold. It is crucial that we allow individuality and the tensions that exist from that to develop in order for a healthy society (and I would argue a representative government) to function properly.

Father’s Day

June 15, 2014 § 3 Comments

To bear your own pain is one thing. You know how to manage your own pain, but to see someone else hurt is often much more difficult.
I didn’t know how to prepare Justin for this weekend, and so perhaps I let the words stick in my throat. Part fear, part knowing, and the rest helplessness.
Frustration that I should be done with school (I wouldn’t have been, even without Wright – I was planning on hanging out until December) and working – and were I – I’d be able to scoop him up & steal him away to Bermuda or the Keys for the weekend. Not be here trying to figure out if we want to go out to Montauk for a night or Rockaway for the day…
I want to protect him from the hollow achey feeling, the irrational sense that American media is trying to remind you what you’ve lost, the even more irrational sense that social media is entirely immune to your wound and armed with balloons filled with salt… I want to steal his phone, change his alarm and let him sleep through tomorrow. I want him to never have to wake up on Father’s Day and remember…
But if he does. I hope he remembers that he fought with me about how much he should be able to talk to my stomach once the baby could hear so that she could recognize his voice equally – since he was at work all day. And how mean he was to me about coffee – because rules are rules for a reason. And how we listened to songs and dreamed and changed our plans and our hearts got bigger and once your hearts get bigger they can’t get smaller. And even before it got scary we loved her to the moon and he was the most incredible Dad. And after it got scary he fought for her, and he held on for her, and he protected her, and he was brave for her – even though it meant this would all hurt a lot more. I hope when he wakes up that’s what he remembers – because that’s what we have. So much more capacity to see the facets of a stone than we did before.
Father’s Day isn’t always happy, but it’s always here.
There’s no way around pain but through it. One step. One moment. One ‘holiday’ at a time. So today we celebrate our fathers for the ways they’ve stood with us always, and my UK – you’ve read his celebration.
And I celebrate Justin for the father I saw in him. I especially raise my heart to him for the father he was May 2. More loving and courageous than I ever could have imagined. And every day since, I admire a respect him more.
To all the men out there that are also Fathers in difficult and non-traditional ways – may you feel deeply loved, understood, and celebrated today.

Willie

June 12, 2014 § Leave a comment

 

Taken by the amazing Mary Caroline Mann

Taken by the amazing Mary Caroline Mann

I let him pick the song, he chose Angel Flying Too Close to The Ground. We wept many times before we danced to it so we wouldn’t that day. Justin often says about the amount of tears shed around my wedding that he married me, he didn’t murder me… We are a very, very close family. You might take the previous post and the previous sentence and consider the amount of conflict we have that produces this kind of affection.

I was 11 when UK met me, 15 when he got me. The last 4 months have been the hardest of our lives, and the most precious. I would also say over the last three years as the landscape of our family has shifted, I have seen a different – more fierce and more fragile – side of his heart. This is quintessentially Irish. Quintessentially Brooklyn Irish… I don’t really know how to separate Brooklyn and Irish, so that’s kind of the limit of my expertise.

We’ve spent a lot of time over the last few months sitting next to each other in silence, crying in public, quietly communicating expectations or blocked goals in raised whispers in public spaces, far too much time in hospital waiting rooms… I begged AM & UK to come last month and then told them not to. Once they were here I would tell them they could leave and then ask them not to go. Despite feeling helpless and likely somewhat concerned for my sanity (pure speculation) – they would come every morning and if nothing else, help me mark another minute off the clock, or give me someone to sit in unbearable silence with beside myself. UK has spent a good portion of the last 4 months sitting and watching the women that he loves hurt and he’s responded with overwhelming love, kindness, compassion, thoughtfulness, and care (AM is doing fabulously – they went for a 10 mile bike ride around the lake yesterday.) There are few men in the world that are so tender and so fierce. He’s been applied love for Justin and I and there are insufficient words for the ways that we feel loved by him.

I guess it just goes to show that you can spread your wings, but no matter where you build your nest, you always need your parents. Even when there’s nothing that can be done, “Love’s the greatest healer to be found.”

Happy Birthday UK – you’re one of the best. In the words of Willie Nelson, “I’ll love you ’til I die.”

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