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The flip side of the adoption interview

Adoption Bloggers Interview Project 2012I’m closing out the last week of National Adoption Awareness Month with the second part of twin posts from the Adoption Bloggers Interview Project. Part 1 was where I interviewed Becky of Scared to Be Happy, and below is the part in which she interviewed me (originally posted on her blog).

(If you’re looking for some great holiday reading as you digest your food tomorrow or take a break from cleaning up/family time/shopping on Friday, make sure to click on the adjacent image. I’ve been slowly working through the list since last week and there are some fascinating posts in this project.)

Becky: What motivates you to write? Have you ever faced writers block, and if so, how have you overcome it?

I’ve always been a wonderer. I’ve always liked to see the same thing from different angles to understand it better. I find, when I’m writing a post, that in trying to be clear with my reader, I’m also finding clarity for myself. This is why some consider writing as therapy — it requires focus to take an idea or issue or emotion and reduce it to words. It’s the yoga equivalent of finding my core, of honing inward. Writing is introspective and causes me to be more honest with myself, with my motivations. I also like to write because it makes me more observant, more present as I move through my day.

As for writer’s block, I do get it every once in awhile. Sometimes I just take a short break from my blog (usually not more than a week).  Sometimes I just sit down with a blank page and commit to be there for an hour. If it flows, great. If not, so what.

Guess what…? Usually it flows when I commit to showing up.

Becky: If there were one misconception you could clear up about open adoption, what would it be?

May I address two?

The first is that open adoption is super-hard, that only exceptional people can “do” it. True, parenting in open adoption (OA) can be more complicated than parenting in a biologically-built family, but with complexity often come unexpected gifts that you don’t get from simplicity.

Know what’s hard? Relationships! In them we don’t always feel we have the power we want. We don’t always know how to get our needs met. We fear someone else being a “wild card” that makes things be beyond our control.This isn’t unique to open adoption relationships, though the feelings may be heightened in OA because of strong swirling emotions — guilt, fear, debt, regret, anger, sadness, envy.

The other misconception is that love can ameliorate all possible adoption-related issues for the adopted child. Some people are probably wired to be relatively issue-less, and others not so much. Parents (biological and adoptive) never know which they are getting. I remember thinking that my children would come to me as blank slates whom I could fully influence with my love and guidance (and my husband’s). I forgot that my kids would come to us with 23 pairs of other people’s chromosomes, which — surprise — pack a punch. These babies already had personalities by the time I met them as newborns — shocker!

So, because your child may have issues with identity formation as s/he grows up (and really, who doesn’t?) you might as well provide what you can to them about their birth parents. Maybe that’s contact, maybe it’s open-hearted conversations, maybe it’s just you not being threatened by their wondering and processing.

Becky: How do you feel about PAL (positive adoption language)? Do you think it affects the way your children view their family structure? 

I’m all for being mindful, for choosing one’s words deliberately. But if we’re too careful, if we tiptoe around the realities of adoption, we indicate that there is something to hide and that there is shame around adoption.

For example, I don’t say to my daughter, “Crystal put you up for adoption.” It sounds so careless and impersonal, like you’re talking about a discarded toy. In reality, Crystal’s decision was anything but careless and impersonal. Instead, I would say, “Crystal couldn’t parent a baby at that time in a safe way, so she decided we would be your parents and she placed you with us.” I try to understand how the words would feel to my child.

I wrote about this topic once regarding whether it matters if I say “we adopted my son” (which indicates it’s something we did – or “my son is adopted” (which indicates it’s something he is). He seemed to pick up on this distinction, as I found out one morning at Take-Your-Parents-to-School Day. But does it really matter? Some adult adoptees have said that being adopted IS who they are. Or at least a part of who they are.

As for language affecting how our children feel about our family structure, yes, I believe it matters. The more secure and issue-less I can be about the way we became a family, the better the soil from which my emotions and words grow, and the more secure and issue-less our kids will have the opportunity to be. For then they can be left to deal with only their issues and not mine.

Becky: What has been the hardest part of your adoption journey so far?

Once we set out on the adoption journey, back in 2000, most everything seemed to fall into place relatively easily. It was the infertility process that brought me to my knees. Once I learned how to relax the grip I had on controlling my life, I was in a better position to yin-yang my way through the adoption process and now the parenting process. I was always good at the yang part — making things happen; I had to get comfortable with the yin part — letting things happen.

Becky: What do you like to do to relax?

I enjoy practicing yoga. For an hour I try to bring my awareness to the confines of my mat. It’s a practice of focusing attention, of taming the wild-child that is my mind. Yoga yokes my mind and my body and helps me remember to be more present even off my mat. Through yoga, I’m beginning to “get” that life is a journey and not a destination and shed the “I’ll be happy whens.” In yoga, everything is a process and no pose is ever perfected. Even savasana, corpse pose — the pose of complete relaxation at the end of a class — even that one!

I also love to read  and write and do cool things with my kids like paint pottery. My daughter, 11, plays volleyball and my son plays whatever sport it’s the season for, so Husband and I spend a lot of time cheering them from the sidelines.

Becky: Being a self proclaimed new age libertarian, how do you feel about the upcoming election? 

I wish we could break free from our two-party system. The way it is, a candidate doesn’t have to get you to vote FOR him (or her); he only has to get you to vote AGAINST the other guy (or gal). So campaigns are based on smear and fear and that makes everyone feel dirty.My family lives in a purple state (and a purple home) and are thus bombarded with ads and robocalls and fliers that indicate only jerks, idiots and crooks want my vote. My kids have been told by the campaigns that no matter who wins, we’re all doomed — DOOMED I tell you. Husband and I have been doing some damage control surrounding these ubiquitous messages.

Becky: Tell about your upcoming book on open adoption.

I was thrilled to announce that my project had a heartbeat last December and that I was going to give birth, metaphorically speaking. I spent the next several months gestating The Open-Hearted Way to Open Adoption: Helping Your Child Grow Up Whole with the help of a lot of midwives (and their male equivalent; midhusbands?). My daughter’s birth mom, Crystal, is a contributor to the book, as are a host of other adoptive parents, first parents, adult adoptees and adoption therapists and advocates who shared their insights, viewpoints and wisdom with me — many who are part of this Open Adoption Bloggers Interview Project!

The book will be published by Rowman & Littlefield in April of 2013, and if you’re interested, you can read early reviews and pre-order on Amazon.

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It was a pleasure to work with Becky on this project! For more insightful adoption reading, visit The Adoption Bloggers Interview Project 2012.

3 Thoughts on the New York Times Article on Adoption & Magical Thinking

While researching his book on magical thinking, Matthew Hutson interviewed a psychologist and one of his collaborators who had, in turn, interviewed 38 adoptive parents. “It turns out that most of the parents had told her that their children had been brought to them by destiny.”

Granted, 38 is not a very big sample. But the idea is worth exploring.

The resulting New York Times article, “Adoption, Destiny and Magical Thinking,” is causing quite a stir in the adoption community. In just two days, there are 139 comments and counting.

(And this post comes on the heels of my review of a Disney movie that epitomizes magical thinking. Coincidence? Oh, the irony.)

God, Winners and Losers

Continue reading 3 Thoughts on the New York Times Article on Adoption & Magical Thinking

Perfect Moment Monday: Blog life meets real life

June has been a month of convergence between my two lives, the virtual one and the face-to-face one.

Loch Tess: To welcome the month, reader Caitlin and her adorable son, Sam, invited the children and me to spend the afternoon on her pontoon. Tessa and Reed swam in the lake and, thrill of thrills, they each got to pilot the boat. Caitlin and I chatted happily, snacked and enjoyed the first day of summer break (there may or may not have been a red Solo cup of white wine involved). The combination of friendship, 75°  weather (no wind),  and well-behaved children made Caitlin and me realize we were having a perfect moment.

Double treat: A few weeks later I got to meet my Twitter friend, Karen.We met for the noblest of reasons — to try out the desserts at the restaurant of the Denver Art Museum (thanks to the recommendation of dessert blog SugarLoco.com). Our children got along well and Karen and I gave each other the happy look when the three of them headed to the gift shop together (our daughters are the same age). Karen is a mom via adoption and a spinner, a fiber artist — hence the references to spider and Arachne in her online identity. It was fun to put a face to her Twitter wit, and I hope we get a chance to get together again.

Three corners: Last week I got to meet adoption-reform bloggers Peach and Cassi. One was coming through town and the other lives in town. I was a bit nervous — as I always am when meeting people from other corners of the adoption triad — but also excited because these are women I’ve long respected for their viewpoints and thoughtful treatment of people and issues.

Me, Cassi, Peach

One thing that came up during our dinner is that members of the triad can have such a hard time putting themselves in another’s shoes. How can a birth parent who was told “it’s best for your child” (and had to believe it for self-protection reasons) really face the loss that said child may feel? How can an adoptee understand the overwhelming desire an infertile person has to become a parent (unless, of course, she has experienced it)? How can an adoptive parent understand the feast that is an unexpected pregnancy when all she knows is famine?

And we must add in the other permutations of understanding — the adult adoptee understanding the viewpoint of the birth parent, the adoptive parent seeing through adult adoptee eyes, the birth parent walking in the infertile person’s shoes. Our familiarity and entrenchment in our own corner of the triangle can keep us from grasping the complexities of the adoption mosaic.  This is probably why we sometimes yell at each other.

What made our dinner so amazing was that we three were listening, understanding, and learning from one another. It was refreshingly affirming. I left Peach and Cassi feeling exhilarated. I can’t wait to see them again. Maybe at a future Adoptee Rights Demonstration.

June has been a very rich month, indeed.

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