Category Archives: Mindful Living

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.

*  *  *

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.

* *  *

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.

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.


A Mighty Girl

It seems that these days, and I know I am not living inside a bubble, women are truly waking up from a Sleeping Beauty kind of deep sleep. It seems that many mothers and daughters, aunties, educators and political powerhouses are realizing that women the world over are rising. We are standing up and making ourselves heard, seen, and respected.

It is with total joy and appreciation that I came upon a new online resource, whose founders and dedicated staff of volunteers are doing all they possible can to offer a thirsty browsing audience a place to go to find books, media, toys, and clothing that empower girls to love themselves as they are, fully and freely.

Please take the time to read my piece about A Mighty Girl published by another fabulous online resource, Kindred Community. Spread the good news: women everywhere are preparing to stand up and be seen, and are offering their daughters, nieces, students and friends the chance to leave the dark ages of oppression behind–for good.

Binky Revisited

The girl is too little to know how profound it is to feel nowhere to belong; maybe no one at any age understands feeling grief for what can’t be remembered. But though she barely remembers anymore the world she came from, half of her brief lifetime ago, she knows she never wanted to leave it, that she left part of herself there, so her grief is a secret from herself and until she learns the word for this secret then it’s not a grieving that heals anything.     –Steve Erickson, author of These Dreams of You

As a result of a Huffington Post article I wrote entitled, “Birth Mother Pain–the only way out is through” that received more controversy than I had thought possible (upon my request, the article was quickly removed) I do not know how to express the intensity that floats through my blood these days, for fear of offending those who wish I would keep myself shut up tight.

But sometimes in a writer there is an almost desperate need to let out the creepy crawlies that weave their way through a banished section of a moment in time. As indicated by the quote at the start of this piece, one must deduce that this particular topic has to do with the hidden grief that a small adopted child feels once the reality of who she is emerges from her very own private darkness. And, as indicated by the eloquence of the author, a complicated mix of emotions experienced by the parent joins the child in this braided mess of lives that found themselves entwined and subsequently tangled up in a complicated twist of fates.

My daughter had a grow-ing up kind of past ten days. She “graduated” preschool; received her last two vaccinations in order to register for kindergarten in Northern Virginia; visited the dentist for a cleaning and check-up, and was told by the doctor: “That binky is ruining your mouth. You’re a big girl now, you need to stop using the binky.”; and three days after that, she had two cavities filled, which brings us up to last night, the fourth night sans binky. Which brings me back to that first night of her life (as far as my husband and I know) that she fell asleep without a binky in her mouth.

As my big girl/little girl looked me in the eyes that first binky-less night with a fear and longing I recognized from a deep place within myself, and I saw her holding the one binky she had not thrown in the garbage, struggling not to put it in her mouth, the clock ticking on, and her eyes fluttering to stay open for fear of what only she could know, she kept repeating, “Mama,” and then, “Mama,” and I rubbed her back and repeated, “Daughter,” and then, “Daughter, I love you. I am here for you.”

It was then, in the struggle that I witnessed going on inside of her, that I felt a breath blow through my being. I felt a shock of relief, as I realized I could tell her these words: “Daughter, this is your decision. Never let anybody tell you what to do with your body. This is your body, and your decision. Not the dentist’s, not Mommy’s, not Daddy’s, but yours. You must never let anybody tell you what to do with your body. And that includes right now. It is your decision to make.”

She looked at me and I her, and in the dark of the night, and a clinging of her arm around me and mine around her, she said, “Mama, I love you.” Soon, very soon then, she set the hand that held the binky beside her, closed her eyes, and slipped into a peaceful sleep.

After three nights without binky, however, on that fourth day filled with an at-times manic expression of staying awake and away from that binky, added with a morning filled with dentistry, she was wiped the heck out. So was I. My husband and I had planned a few hours out to attend a friend’s birthday party, but by 3pm, with Daughter clinging to me so tight and whining, “I don’t want to you go out,” and other such emotionally challenging sayings, and by simply knowing her so well, I knew that if she did not nap, I would feel like the worst mother in the world walking out the door at 6pm with a crying child begging me not to go. So I let her sleep in the afternoon. I let myself sleep too. The stupid part is that I let this non-napping almost five-year old sleep for more than an hour.

Are you still with me?

That night, we arrived home to a dancing girl who had made cookies with the babysitter, watched a movie or two, and was up up up for the long haul. At 10pm, she moaned beside me as she lay restless in her bed: “I caaaan’t sleep!” I felt her panic as she gave a sort of wide-eyed expression that seemed to be begging me for all sorts of answers I could not at this hour, with this child of mine, give. I put her in a warm bath, and I talked–about love and God and how safe she was in this world–and she repeated, “Mama, Mama, Mama,” like a baby bird pleading for her mother not to leave the nest to go hunt for food.

I held this child with reassuring arms, a life-line for us both I could not remove. In a magic world we would stay like this forever, making good on the promise I offer whenever she tells me she does not want me to leave–Ever! By the time I left this precious one’s side, it was near midnight. I did not know I would be up with her again shortly after daybreak.

This story of one small person choosing to let go of the one constant source of comfort she has known throughout her short but intense life, exemplifies for me so perfectly the human struggle to remain whole, to not fall apart at the slightest nudge to crumble.

This is suffering, as the Buddha called it, and is to be recognized and honored, but not clung to. I am a woman who perhaps too often falls emotional prey to the surroundings in which I find myself. Perhaps this is why, as a young woman and into mid-life, I respected my intuition to keep myself distant from motherhood.

Yet here I am, a nearly 50 year old mother to a deeply feeling human being who needs to know that the world is good and safe, kind and loving. A world in which pain exists, but one that will support her through all that is to come.

All that is to come.