Author Archives: Dina

IAG Indictment

Those of you who read my blog by now will likely know that four employees of the adoption agency we used to facilitate our adoption have been indicted. (One presumed to be living in Ethiopia, the in-country representative named Tefere in my book, has a warrant out for his arrest.) I have remained silent here simply because I do not know where to begin. One day, I will write Book II and the sequel of our adoption journey will be available for public consumption. At this time, however, for those of you who may be curious to hear how I feel about the intuition expressed throughout my book (most of it written during 2008, the start of IAG’s descent towards its indictment), I will be brief, but, yes, I will speak.

Recently, I received an email from a reader seeking my guidance about which adoption agency I could recommend for an Ethiopian adoption.  This email arrived shortly after the indictment was made public, and the inquiry seemed naive; through my perspective, everybody considering international adoption must know how corrupt the process has become. I now realize, I’m the naive one if I think there is nobody left who hasn’t read about the plethora of criminal acts surrounding Ethiopian adoption.

So, for those of you starry-eyed prospective adoptive parents of an Ethiopian child, now would be the time to remove those rose-colored glasses. There is no longer a place for romanticism when contemplating international adoption; those days are over.

Thus, for the record let me express my opinion: I have come to believe, at least until a complete overhaul of the system has been accomplished, that couples seeking to grow their family through adoption must at least consider going domestic.

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From the Epilogue in Finding Aster: “… I never accepted how little information we were given. From current [2010] research I now know that the story we were told is common: mother too sick and/or poor, father ‘unknown.’ Before Aster became a legal citizen of the United Sates of America, I needed to let my concerns go. I could not afford to irritate the wrong person for fear, I thought, that our adoption would for some ridiculous excuse be halted.” (page 167.)

I now know that the anxiety I felt about not doing/saying anything that would piss the wrong person off was not ridiculous. Those in charge—then—did use their manipulative, criminal power to intimidate us, the adoptive parents, in order for them to keep their multi-million dollar fraudulent business thriving. I could beat myself up for not taking my pre-adoption intuitions more seriously. However, I won’t do that to myself; it’s clear now that if I had, another couple would be raising our daughter.

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Last night, in the dim, pre-sleep light of her cozy bedroom, as I lay next to my daughter she spoke in her “little” voice. “Mama,” she quietly said. “… I miss Mama.”

Our noses nearly touched we were so close, so I knew she couldn’t be speaking about me. I wanted to make sure, though, so I inquired. “Your birth mother?”

“Yes,” she said. “I haven’t seen her since I was a baby.”

The emotions are layered, thick, and sticky, as I continue to unravel slivers of truth. Not sure how such a seemingly win-win way to grow one’s family could coalesce into such a messy, complicated, blessed union of disparate parts. However, why-ever, we–our adoption triad–have become family. One distant yet connected family. And though the future has yet to find its clear path, we rest easy knowing there is a future. For us all.

*In upcoming posts I will slowly introduce how we came to know that much of what IAG told us–before, during, and after–were lies.

Christmastime For a Jewish Mom of an Ethiopian-born Wondergirl

I have rarely thought about being Jewish. Other than when I was a child squirming during Friday night services on the hard bench listening to a melodic, yet unintelligible language, waiting for the praying to end so I could enjoy a brownie that waited on the sweets table in the reception room, Judaism has not been a strong presence in my life.

Though that may be true, so is this: I love being part of an ancient tribe of peoples who are linked to me by blood. Even so, my Jewishness is a distant reflection of my daily life, and how I see myself as a woman on a spiritual path that includes kindness and respect for all living beings. Somewhere inside my soul, though, I know that this particular ancient blood has contributed to the way I attempt to live my life. In peace.

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My childhood family Menorah

This year my mother and father placed our family menorah, with faded candles carefully wrapped in faded tissue paper, into a box and had it mailed to me. Every Hanukkah, even when we stopped attending Temple after we moved to southern California in 1970, we lit the Hanukkah candles, and prayed the Festival of Lights prayer. “Blessed are you, Lord our God, ruler of the Universe …” This thin Jewish tradition has remained with me throughout my adult years, even if only in my memory. The miracle of oil lasting eight days, instead of the predicted one resonates with me; this story suits me well. I also like the idea that the Jewish people were against killing for religious superiority. This idea actually fills me with some pride. “Note that the holiday commemorates the miracle of the oil, not the military victory: Jews do not glorify war.

This Hanukkah, Aster’s fifth Hanukkah with us, we lit the candles on a new menorah (the family menorah arrived two days too late!), a simple sliver-looking small representation of my Jewish heritage. As I spoke what Hebrew I remember of the Hanukkah prayer, she respectfully gazed on alongside her dad, my husband, whose blood has been washed clean of anything resembling the dogmatic religion his grandparents enforced on his parents. We three, this small yet vibrant family of mine, stood before the candles, as Aster picked up the shamas and lit the small, thin candles, night after night. (Doing some research after the fact, I realize I forgot to cover her head with a scarf, which is part of the tradition she would have joyfully observed, being the fancy, and tradition-loving kind of girl she has become.)

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The 2013 McQueen holiday tree

Along the years of my, for lack of a better term, religiously blank adulthood, I’ve felt a rather large hole inside of me. Still, if I imagine strongly enough, I notice the delightful Jewish traditions of my youth are stitched into the fabric of my soul, as I sit on the yoga mat and chant, move my body in yogic asanas, or join my daughter in hanging sparkly balls on a pesticide-free Christmas tree I bought through a Certifikid deal this year–the first (of not very many, actually) Christmas tree I’ve decorated that did not come out of a box.

My father grew up in an Orthodox Jewish home. When his father died of cancer when Dad was just nine years old, all he remembers is being forced to “sit shivah” every day after school for a week. Nobody sat to comfort him, to help his grief flow from his body, his heart, his soul. Not one human being in his community of religious family and friends took him in strong arms and allowed his tears to stain their shawls. This seemingly benign lack of what we would now term “consciousness” ruined any chance his progeny would be enthusiastically brought up in an observant Jewish home. I understand now how the lack of demonstrative love towards a nine year old boy who had just lost his father played the major role in destroying the proper chance I had at “being Jewish.” I blame nobody.

The other night my daughter was wondering about her name, and I told her I was sure that someone in her first mommy’s church named her. I know from the DVD we were given after a birth family search we did through EthioStork that Aster was named by the church that her birth mother attends. I think about this church frequently, and the meaning it holds for the woman who gave birth to the daughter we share. I wonder sometimes if she would be displeased with us that we do not attend church. I know in my heart of hearts that my spirituality has grown roots in my soul from a life lived practicing kindness and the ancient texts of the yogic traditions, and those teachers who have written interpretations and explanations that are more relatable to this so called modern world. I asked Aster after the naming discussion if she would like me to take her to church. “No,” she said. “I do not like church.”

Each night as she attempts to fall asleep, with the lights turned out and me by her side, I pray words of light and protection, love, gratitude, power, and presence. And while I do I picture her birth mother, her sister, and the blessed man who made our connection happen. In the very north of Ethiopia, there are people who have blessed our lives with a light-filled child who mourns the loss of her first family and the country where her existence was created. I picture this place and ask God to send angels to protect and heal, protect and heal, protect and heal.

At this time of year, as I feel sadness about being so far away from my family of origin who live on the other side of the country, I open wide my heart, and call upon the ancient ones who celebrated the Festival of Lights, that honored a miracle in the name of humanity. We are all one, in the end. Jewish is my blood, this may be true. But I know for sure that God’s plan is for all beings to live in peace, together, in harmony with All that Is.

American Girl Dolls–are they tainting our daughters’ sense of self?

When it comes to knowing what is best for your child, how do you proceed? When an emotionally motivated mother wishes to teach her daughter how to love herself, to encourage her in ways that will keep her from being influenced by the opinions of the outside world … where does that leave said mother?

I watch my six-year old girl as she peers at the burn under her chin that has yet to disappear; it is school picture day. She turns her chin this way and that, and finally agrees with me: “You can’t really see it.” Then she adds, “So that’s good.”

When did she leap from a little girl who would, upon bumping into a doorway, feign tears and cry out, “I need a bam-baid” just so she could display Dora’s face on her forehead, to a young female worried that the camera will capture a recent, barely visible wound?

There was a time in my own youth, for example if I had become a mom in my 20s or 30s, when I could claim responsibility for such vanity. Not so much at 51, when three days after a shampoo I realize my hair is starting to smell “off” and I should probably consider getting my hair wet with soap! No, I did not do this to her.

It is happening at school, and it is happening on the “junk” we named commercials that she now screams to watch. She’s getting oh so subtle messages from as seemingly benign places as the pages of an American Girl Doll catalogue. Barbie may have tits and ass, but those American Girl Dolls are, as society sees it, flawless.

What if some of the available accessories offered to American Girl Doll shoppers happened to be stick on flaws? Like open wounds, scars, bug bites, birth marks? What if Corporate American Girl Doll devoted a page to creating American Girl Doll so-called imperfections? They’ll punch a hole through a doll’s earlobes at an American Girl Doll store for pierced ears so why not provide a section devoted to accidental or birth related marks on a doll’s skin?

The world is filled with non-vital inventions. Why not stick on scars for your girl’s favorite doll?

There is a plethora of media out there advocating girl empowerment in ways that were not even dreamed of in my youth back in the dark ages. But the bottom line for me is that these adult-like discussions about positive female self image are not trickling down fast enough for my liking. If I had the power to enforce change, there would not only be American Girl Dolls offered in wheel chairs, but there also would be available a slightly plump doll. A girl with uneven skin tone. Perhaps one with a short leg, or a harelip. Kinky hair. A third toe that is longer than the others. Come on, Corporate American Girl Doll–get creative!

Let our girls know that diversity is not only defined by one’s skin color, but by the millions of unique markings that make each human being a work of divine inspiration. Let our girls know they are perfect just the way they are.

 

My Own Personal Scary Mommy Moment

The “H” word is forbidden in our home. But what my family does not know is that these days I violate this rule inside my head quite frequently.

Here is what I Hate:

1. Our political representatives’ lack of ability to make feeling safe in this world their priority; their insistence on “being right,” as Wayne Dyer once said, rather than “being love.” Within this particular Hate lies the total Hate of the lobbying power of the NRA that keeps its fear mongering members loaded, as well as its target politicians who live and breathe under its dirty thumb. According to The Center for Public Integrity, “The NRA and its affiliate spent nearly $3 million on federal-level lobbying in 2012 — more than it has during any previous year … but spending during this year’s first quarter puts it on pace to exceed that mark.” Further, according to the Washington Post, “213 members of the 113th Congress received NRA dollars in 2012,” an amount totaling about $650,000.

A protester demonstrates in front of the NRA lobbying offices in Washington D.C.

Is there anybody left who does not feel that the NRA is running our country? For this, I will break another family rule: No using the “F” or the “S” word: Holy f-ing shit!

Why use #1 to explain My Own Personal Scary Mommy Moment? Because I am pissed off. Angry, and seemingly unable to let it go. Or process it in any way that facilitates healthy body/mind/spirit. I am simply, totally, upset with the prevalence of violence in our society, and this anger is keeping me from acting with unrelenting patience, respect, or kindness. Kindness and respect: a family motto we created even before our baby girl could speak. I have violated my own dogma now, and this too I Hate!

2. I Hate that my daughter sees me act in ways that could be perceived as violent; or at least not kind or respectful. I recently jumped out of my skin and heard myself as I  screamed as loud as I could, three, maybe four times, at the bottom of the stairs, below where my exhausted daughter was in bed screaming that she refused to get up and brush her teeth because she was too tired to stand. So, what did I do? Something I really Hate: I lost control of myself and the situation and screamed like a five year old. I’m 50.

3. I Hate everything about this one: The other day my daughter came up to me while I was fixing her breakfast, and for no seemingly good reason that I can come up with made a finger gun, pointed it at me, and sounded a gun shot, albeit in hardly above a whisper. I matter-of-factly said, “Um, what was that? You know we don’t pretend to shoot in our house.” She then crossed her arms, frowned dramatically, and put herself in the corner. Refused to explain why she was doing this.

What I really Hate here is that I didn’t let her be five and just go on about the breakfast chore at hand. I convinced myself–yet again–that she may be just 41 pounds, 42 inches but her head circumference matches, or beats mine, so her large brain surely must indicate that she is capable of a mature conversation that includes discussing the horrifying internal reaction I feel when anybody even pretends to use a gun. This includes weapons crafted from shaped fingers, plastic, or the real thing. Yes, I definitely Hate that I don’t have the parenting skills to navigate these waters with the kind of finesse it requires to maintain a calm home and raise a kind, respectful, communicative child who may one day decide to run the U.N. I, indeed, Hate myself for this one.

4. Ironically, here, I truly Hate that I do not forgive myself for failing to behave 100% of the time in a manner that would warrant an onlooker to admire my keen sense of knowing how to lovingly, consciously, compassionately, and, oh yeah, brilliantly parent my only child.

Luckily, I have not let this piece of writing depress me. Thanks for listening; I actually feel somewhat liberated for confessing, and perhaps even slightly giddy. Me thinks I may be letting this all go … for now.

 

The Truth Will Set You Free (for what?)

“When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants and murderers, and for a time, they can seem invincible, but in the end, they always fall. Think of it–always.”
Mahatma Gandhi

This season, the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) has regularly featured some of today’s most interesting spiritual teachers and celebrities “on the path.” I regularly make time to watch episodes of her series, Super Soul Sunday. This past week I here and there, in the snippets of time I snatched, watched both Dr. Brene Brown, and an old personal favorite, Caroyn Myss, speaking to Miss O. about what I interpreted as telling, being, and living the Truth.

Dr. B. Brown spoke about “The Power of Vulnerability,” the topic of a June 2010 TED talk. With Ms. Winfrey, she spoke about that TED talk where she described her decade of research, thousands of stories, thousands of pieces of data that changed the way she lives and works. In a Tinkerbell nutshell, this is what she found: “In order for connection to happen, we have to be willing to be seen.” She found that those who believed what made them vulnerable made them beautiful. Dr. Brown’s research subjects expressed that they thought it was fundamental to be willing to be vulnerable even if in the end a relationship doesn’t work out. Or the ending of a particular scenario isn’t what they may have liked.

In that same week, I watched Oprah’s interview with medical intuitive Carolyn Myss, who, though not using the word vulnerable, in my mind, spoke about the same thing: allowing yourself to be vulnerable enough to the tell the truth. She said, “We have an intuitive voice in us. … People hear when they have betrayed themselves. … It’s the voice of your gut instinct. … This is the part that says you should push, you should do this. … It will guide you.” And, she says, the voice will also tell you when you’ve done enough, all that you can.

Now then, what do Dr. B. Brown and Carolyn Myss and this particular week of my life have in common? The answer is–finally–the reason for this blog post. Without further ado, here I go …

Those of you who read my book, Finding Aster–our Ethiopian adoption story, will know that even prior to traveling to Ethiopia to bring our daughter home, my heart ached for the woman who gave her child away knowing she may never see her again. Those who know the beginning of our adoption story will also know that while at the U.S. Embassy finalizing the paperwork, the in-country representative to our American adoption agency verbally told us, and the embassy official behind the window, that Aster’s birth mother was dead. Prior to that moment, we believed, via the referral paperwork, that this nameless woman had been too sick and too poor to care for her child–but still alive.

To carry on with that start of the story, eight months after returning from Ethiopia, we discovered, quite by accident, that Aster’s birth mother was most certainly not dead. A sixteen year old recent Ethiopian adoptee who had lived with Aster in the small orphanage told me so. She did not know at that time that we had been told she was dead. She did not realize the incredible gift her simple words were: “Oh,” she had said. “You don’t know Aster’s birth date? Would you like me to ask her mother?”

Fast forward three years to September 2012 when my husband and I finally decided to follow a gut feeling and hire EthioStork to see if we could get some truth. Real, visual, verbal kind of truth, from She Who Is Not Dead, or Aster’s first mother, the one who gave her life. And so we did.

There will be many people at this point of the story who will angrily question my public post. There will be many moments when I too question this. Is this my truth to tell? What about the child who has no choice in my describing the details of what may appear to be her, and only her, story to tell? There will be huge moments when I will agree. Yet still, what about the others who also play a part in this one, huge story of lies and discoveries and exposures and choices to share or not to share? I star in this story, as does Aster’s first mother, and all the other people whom she calls, and will one day call, family, as well as the global family of adoption, and those who have been scarred by human trafficking, child harvesting, and selling babies in the name of staying alive–or buying a new iPad.

What about God?

To whom do I owe an allegiance? To whom shall I hold myself responsible? Who do I believe deserves the whole truth and nothing but the truth, as well as this particular truth at this particular moment, can be told? I do not have definitive answers. And yet, and yet … I must make myself vulnerable enough to be seen for the suffering that the lies have caused me too. This too is my story. I am also a mother. I am a daughter, and a human being, and a lover of all that is kind and respectful in this sometimes horrifically messed up place called earth with its masses of multitudes and miseries and beautiful aspects that I feel responsible to show. Always.

My gut instinct has guided me, Ms. Myss. It pushed and pushed me until I found more truth than I thought possible–or sometimes wanted. And then it came time to stop. Time to take a frightening breath into my soul and make myself vulnerable. Why now? It is only now that I know for sure what was done to those I love. Now because the world needs to know that sometimes children we fiercely love deserve to know that they were robbed of a birth right by those who wished to prosper from their despair. A birth right that screams you are not actually alone, that you were always loved and missed and  no, my Lovey, your first mother is not dead. We now know this to be true. And you deserve to know.

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