Friday, March 30, 2012

Dreaming of my father

My father died when I was a teenager; he abandoned me long before that.  Yet, there are times when I have very vivid dreams about him.  He is always so alive in my dreams.  So alive that come morning when I wake up I mourn his death all over again.

I didn't know him that well.  My memories of him are very scattered.  When I heard he had died my first response was to run to my room and frantically search for any pictures and letter I had from him.  There weren't many.  I suppose I wanted to hold those pictures and letters close because I had so few actual memories to hold.

I remember one of my last memories was playing Parcheesi with him and my grandmother.  He had accidently put on her glasses and when he realized it he started laughing.  I remember them laughing together, a moment of peace.  In fact I snapped a picture from that moment, he has such a content smile on his face.  I try to remember that smile and that moment.

I have felt so many things about him, and about his death and his earlier abandonment when I was a much younger child.  Anger, sadness, loneliness, love, hate, forgiveness, pity, compassion. confusion, grief, despair, understanding, and on and on.  It is a journey, one I will never embark from, this ever searching for a place of peace as it relates to my feelings about my father.  I often feel angry that my father chose to leave me and for so many years I struggled with deep insecurities and lack of self-confidence.  It took a lot of time, and much love from friends and family, to travel through those deep waters.  Most of all, I just wanted him to want me.  I wanted "me" to be enough.  I wanted to be able to scare away the demons he struggled with and the fears and darkness he raced from so constantly.

I wasn't enough and that wasn't my job, because it wasn't about me.  It had nothing to do with how much he loved me (or didn't love me).  But I was young and didn't know that, and that abandonment affected me in deep ways.  Now I understand that more, now that I am an adult.

I look at my littlest girls.  There are some things about their story that I resonate with in a deeper way.  It wasn't about them, yet they will (mis)understand that it was only about and because of them.  Because we are all naturally ego-centric when we are young.  It is all about us.  If only I could wrap my arms around them and protect them from this future pain.

But it is a gift too.  They will know their story, they will know who they are because they will know their past.  I know their family.  I have held their grandfather's hands in mine and reassured him wordlessly that I will love them, protect them, and be there for them for as long as I can.   Even though there is pain, I would never take that from them.  Even though there is pain in my own story I would never wish my father away.  Because, despite the ways he hurt me and his poor choices, he was my father and will always be a part of me.  I could never wish him away because it would be like trying to cut out a piece of myself.  It would hurt me more than it would help me.  Learning how to love someone, even when they have hurt you, is a life lesson I will treasure and hold close.  Learning to forgive, finding compassion and peace, is something I will always treasure.

We have choices when we share our stories of the past with our children.  We have choices to share judgments along with those stories.  We have choices about how we talk about our children's countries.  A long time ago, my mom had choices about how she would tell me about my dad.  She chose the best way.  She told me the truth without condemnation and judgment.  She told me the things she loved about him and the things that were hard.  She let his actions speak for themselves, and tried to help us find paths of forgiveness and love.  She helped me see the beauty in the pain.  She helped me transform struggling into something that is precious and strong.  She remembered that if she cut down my dad, she was cutting me down too.

When we talk in a condemning negative way about our children's country, we talk in a condemning negative way about our children.  When we make assumptions about our children's families that are negative and harsh, we tell our children that they are bad.  When know nothing about our children's situations before they came to live with us and then assign blame, we make them feel even worse about themselves.  When we place judgment on a culture we don't understand, we place judgment on our children who will always be a part of that culture and ethnicity.  Our words are critical.  We have choices to tear down or build up.  I want to remember the lessons I have learned and build up.  And I will always be ever grateful I know about my past, the good and bad.  Knowing the truth gave me power to confront the past and to move forward, it gave me the freedom to allow the pain to give me strength to find forgiveness, love, and peace.

Monday, March 19, 2012

a random mix of things (a call to stand up...again, a curious case, and donations that make a lasting difference)

This should be more than one post, but considering how long it takes me to sit down to write one, I'm putting it together into one.

Standing Together.

I have spoken out about how I think doing an ethical adoption in DRC is pretty near impossible considering the current state of the country (lack of infrastructure to carry out it's own laws (police itself), the extreme level of corruption, the common practice and wide spread acceptance of bribe giving and taking, the lack of accountably and transparency of orphanages and their directors, as well as the institutions that we work with to adopt, the inability to protect vulnerable and exposed children, and the destitute poverty of most of the population).  I've stated that I think adoptions should be put on hold (and I would state that again and again).

At the same time I believe in adoption.  There are children that need desperately do need homes.  So, I call on everyone, again, (and by everyone, I mean all the adopting (and the ones that consider it) parents and other interested folks that read they little blog) to make adoptions in DRC ethical.  Yes, it is possible and yes, there are extremely extremely important roles we play.  And since I am not writing this blog to agencies (and their staff....but if they read it then, yes you have an extremely important role as well) nor to the DRC government (but yes, you have an extremely important role too), I am writing to adoptive parents.  Because, really without us, there wouldn't be any adoptions in the first place.  So, go back and read the posts on the right side of this blog (esp. the last two).  Comment about the posts, disagree with me, go ahead, let's discuss, let's figure out how we can make this work.  Let's talk about how we can make adoptions in DRC ethical and transparent.  So far, I haven't met anyone that wants to take a child from a family member that wants them!  Let's talk to our agencies (WE are paying them after all), let's work together with them to make sure children are true orphans who need homes and that they aren't being sold in the process.  Let's make sure we are bringing home children that really do need families (and not children that already have families that want them).   Maybe you are wondering what I am talking about, maybe you wonder how in the world investigations to prove orphan status could happen.  Here is an example (in a different country in Africa).  How I wish we would advocate for investigations like this in DRC!  And to all of you who are working with your agencies (or that are refusing to work with ones that you feel are not answering your questions, or won't delineate their fees), asking question after question, refusing referrals that are questionable, working to make change happen, speaking out,  pressing on in your advocacy despite discouragement and negative things said against you, BRAVO and COURAGE ("Courage" was yelled to me often in DRC, the french I walked through the streets with all my kids, it is more applicable here to you all)!

A Curious Case

Yes, I stole that title from this article about the death of Trayvon Martin.  There are so many people that write about racism better than I ever could.  I've written before once here about my very white upbringing in a small town in the Pacific NW (that was a lovely place to grow up).  I've commented before how I feel pretty inadequate to raise our girls to help them understand what it means to be a black woman in the U.S. today.  Actually, I shouldn't even say pretty inadequate, because what I really mean is that I can't raise them to understand what that means because I don't understand what that means.  I am white, my skin is "white", I understand what it means (to some extent) to be a white woman in the U.S.  ( or "tan" in my children's words.).   When I read that article I cried with so many others.  It just seems hard to believe.  But then, it would not be hard to believe if I was black, if my skin was black and not white.  And this makes me feel even more angry and heartbroken.  Now, the two little ones that I am raising, my congolese daughters will grow up in the U.S. not really understanding these two paragraphs from the article above (because, again, I am not a black skinned woman in the U.S., I am a white skinned woman).  

"As the father of two black teenage boys, this case hits close to home. This is the fear that seizes me whenever my boys are out in the world: that a man with a gun and an itchy finger will find them “suspicious.” That passions may run hot and blood run cold. That it might all end with a hole in their chest and hole in my heart. That the law might prove insufficient to salve my loss.
That is the burden of black boys in America and the people that love them: running the risk of being descended upon in the dark and caught in the cross-hairs of someone who crosses the line." (ref.)
I want to say it doesn't matter, the color of my skin (when it comes to raising my kids).  But, it does, it really does matter.  It matters because they are going to be black children in the U.S., they are going to be black adolescent girls, and they will be black women one day, and they will be treated differently because of it.  I want to yell, "the color of your skin shouldn't matter like that, it shouldn't make it harder!".  But it does.  And I won't be able to understand, really understand what that means, how that injustice tastes and feels.  I will never completely understand.  So, we do small things now (that they are too young to understand) to try to bridge this gap, small things that we hope will one day translate into bigger things that will truly help them bridge the two worlds that they are part of because of their adoption.  That we hope will somehow give them a community that not only resonates with the felt experiences of racism and injustice they will one day face because of their skin color, but that will also give them the depth of understanding and shared fortitude that we could never give, simply because we are not black, we are white.  And meanwhile, in every way I can I will work to rid the racism hidden in my heart and stand up for injustice and racism where and when I see it. 
I'm ending with a photo of little Esperance, who has lived at the orphanage her entire life.  She is beautiful.  
Some news about Tumaini coming soon!
Oh, if you are wondering where the "donations that make a lasting difference" part of this post went, I got tired of writing and will save it for a post by itself.  But the photo above is a pretty good picture of what I want to talk about!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

What this blog is about (and it's not just about ethics in adoption).

I thought I would write a small piece about my blog.  As you probably have already guessed, I am not the most blog savvy person out there.  (Add to this that I feel pretty insecure about writing so publicly and you might wonder what this blog is about and why I even blog.)   I started writing this blog about our life in DRC and our adoption of the little boy we were trying to adopt.  We had to stop that adoption and the blog evolved into my work up at the Save the Children orphanage (and the eventual adoption of our girls, Ellie and Mia).  It also was still about our life in DRC as well.  Now we live in the U.S. so I sometimes chat about that transition.  And I talk a lot about ethics in international adoption (in DRC).  A lot of talking about that lately because it is important to me.

But the most important thing I talk about on my blog is the children of DRC and orphan/vulnerable child care. And the reason I went public with my blog is because of these children and the courage they inspire.   Lately, I have talked about this less than I like.  So, I want to again start sharing about the very important children of DRC that we are trying to partner with the congolese people to help.  And specifically our work with Tumaini.

While this blog will still be about--
ethics in international adoption in DRC,
our lives, our faith and our kids,
our lives as they were in DRC,
and DRC--from other's eyes as well,
it will mostly be about the children at the Save the Children orphanage and what their lives are like and ways we can come alongside our partners in DRC and help to improve them.

It's about these little ones that I want to talk about most--

some recent bumbos donated from friends of Tumaini for the babies