Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Little Things

We were having a family dinner last night at 8:30. This time it was me and a late yoga class that delayed our dinner. It was nice, though. Everyone was a little more mellow than they would be at an earlier dinner hour. Conversation rolled around to what the oldest son's girlfriend could and could not eat.

"She's a vegetarian, yeah, she eats fish." the oldest said.

"Some vegetarians don't eat fish" I said.

"Well, you do, so I just think all vegetarians do."

and then I heard:

"In fact, I'm always shocked when I see a mom eating meat, it's like 'woooah, mom's don't eat meat'."

My husband, too, and the middlest and the youngest. None of them are used to the primary woman in their life eating meat. Now, this is no big deal. Not really.

What is a huge deal is realizing that it's not just about eating steak and burgers. It's about life. The way I do things is the way my children are learning about the world. Still. At almost 18, almost 15, and 13. They still see what I do and BAM, it's the norm, the standard.

Of course they know that not all women download a new song to their ipod and listen to it 15 times in a row until it's really sunk into their brain. They probably have figured out that not all women find hot baths and snuggling with cozy little dogs to be almost a spiritual practice. But they probably think other things I do are just the way things are.

Not that there's any pressure or anything.

No, none at all. Nope.

I'd better start flossing my teeth every single night, and eating 7 leafy green vegetables every day, and.....oh holy mother! I'm in trouble!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Down Time

My husband started his new job yesterday. Remember when I told you that I could tell you later why he bought that new car? No? Well, we've had an on again off again sports car in the garage over our 22 years of wedded bliss. For quite a while now a rickety old 98 Civic with cool wheels and tight suspension had to "pass" as a sports car. And for quite a while now my husband has worked an awful, awful job that then morphed into a worse job with a ton of travel and crazy expectations of being able to drop life on a days notice and fly to Timbuktu. He liked it well enough, but I hated it.

So I said "if you take that nice quiet desk job close to home, you can get a sports car". OK, I was way more manipulative than that. There was a good amount of whining involved. And begging. I don't think it ever came to threatening, but I thought about it! And good father-husband-partner that he is, he did it! He loves his new car. that wicked machine scares me silly and I refuse to ever drive it. But he now works four miles from home. He has WEEKENDS off! And there is an actual END time to the day. We think that the days of unfair working conditions are illegal in this country.....not in upper management with big companies; they expect you to give yourself heart and soul to the job. The career. Whatever.

For the first time in over three years, we may expect to have a tidy, organized family life. At least sometimes.

It makes me realize how much our big teenage boys, all three of them, need to have a stable home life to be able to thrive. It's really important. Recently it's taken a bit of wrangling to make that happen. I've got a great flexible job, but it's one of those jobs that flows like spilled milk into every single nook and cranny of life. It keeps me slightly distracted from my kids, something I'm really trying to control this church year. My own children need me to notice what's going on for them, too.

The boys need to have a calm house that has food and heat and clean clothes. Those basics are actually important. And they need me to be calm, they need to be able to count on peace and quiet and not chaos; most of the time anyway. They need their father to be around, and available and all "man-like" so they can watch him and learn how to be "man-like". They need to learn how to change the oil and check the tires. Yes, I'm a feminist, but I am not going to teach them to do this. I taught the oldest to drive a clutch, that's my contribution. And heaven knows they need him to help them with MATH!! Thank god that I don't have to do that, our tutoring bills would be huge.

And now, that good man-good husband-good father will be around, and on a schedule we can count on. And he can teach them how to wax a sports car, too. It's a very good thing.

Thanks, babe. You rock.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Queue the scary music....

It's beginning to feel like it's finally autumn here in the Pacific Northwest. It's funny because here the trees begin to turn on the tips of the leaves in mid August, but they continue to show color until late October. It's the light. We have sun until 10 at the summer solstice. Now, just past the autumnal equinox it gets dark by 7:30 and come the winter solstice, we'll be feeling the sun setting at 3:30.

That can mean only one thing....

Soccer Season!

Now I know that some folks think that being the embodiment of the suburban mom is about the most horrible thing that could ever happen to a woman in the early 21st century. But for me? No way. If I get to live where my family can afford a house that fits five people (it's an inner ring suburb folks....we're talking little house, tiny yard, but at least we fit....) and we can be happy where we're planted, then why would anyone disparage our choices? And why would they judge me for being a suburban mom? I LOVE to go watch my son play soccer. Soccer mom, that's me! He rocks. And I can hardly sit still watching him play I get so freakin' worried that a call will not go his way or that he'll make a play that knocks out his vision, or his know....AGAIN. It's a part of being a dedicated parent.

I know, I know. People have made it a sad cliche. But for some of our youth its a part of the whole growing up thing. Why is that so hard for people to understand?

Our middle son is an amazing athlete. Really. Let's just put this in perspective. When he decided to stop going to our little haven on earth of homeschool school and decided to go to the (inner ring suburb gang centered) local high school I asked the counselor how to find the "serious" (read not gang banger) students. She told us that the serious students go out for the cross country team. OK, our middlest has been a super star (and totally marginalized because he's from the inner ring suburb) soccer player. And most improved on the country club swim team. And a champion at our Do Jang in Tae Kwon Do. He's a good athlete. An excellent athlete. So when he came home from Japan he said "Screw Jet Lag, I'm going to XC practice" the very next day, and he ran five miles on like two hours of sleep we knew it was serious. Now he's a Freshman on one of the top cross country teams in the state and he's just made varsity. He went to Nike Pre-Nationals in Portland, Oregon yesterday, and yes, he can run a 5k in under 18 minutes. He's got one of the top 100 times in his school's history. He is going to letter as a freshman. He's working his butt off. He's amazing.

A lot of this is due to his soccer coaches training over the years. He's been on four premier teams. He's learned a lot about pain and endurance and hard work. And yes, it's happened while he lives in the suburbs.

Horrors! The SUBURBS!

Yeah whatever. Don't you just wish that people could stop judging each other for their skin color or their educational level or you know......WHERE THEY LIVE??

I do.

Really, I do.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Forrest Church 1948-2009

I was lucky enough to hear the Rev. Dr. Forrest Church speak at the Unitarian Universalist General Assembly in 2008. I knew he had cancer. I knew I had to go see him speak. But it was so much more than a "duty call". He is inspiring. Or, well, was....I guess. He inspired me.

In 2008 this is what I wrote:

The one sentence summary of his whole talk is this: "The only thing we leave behind is the love we give away while we are alive."


Thursday, September 24, 2009

Can You Hear the Chant?

If you listen closely you can hear it......"girl's trip, girl's trip, girl's trip....."

I am just over a week away from a trip with my girls! And today this arrived in the mail:

The note says "Girl's Trip Survival Kit" and it's got ear plugs and blister treatment pads and the lovely and glamorous eye shade. There's a pack of gum and a pack of tums, kleenex, hand sanitizer, socks and a book about the Beat Generation. One of my bff girls is a crazy amazing organizer and I'd bet our whole little group got these in the mail today. It's making me even more excited to go!

I've had these women in my life forever, more than 20 years, and I will not ever let go of them, not ever. I'm so lucky. Some of us have given birth with the support of another, three times actually. And we've moved each other dozens of times. We've cried over loss and gain and gains that felt like losses and losses that felt like gains. Our oldest children turn 18 in the next weeks and our youngest just started first grade. If we could find a way to live closer we would, right now we're about as far apart as you can be and still reside in the continental U.S. But it doesn't matter. Friends live in your heart.

The Sunday after next, as soon as I can leave church, I head to the airport, and catch up with them in San Fransisco. We've got just a few days, but it's better than nothing. And now that I've got my survival kit and since it's clear that I'm not going to lose 10 pounds before I go so my clothes all still fit, well....I'm pretty much all set to go! Pack my bags and wait by the door for the day to come, that's what I'll do!

What would we do without friends? I have no idea, and I have no intention of finding out. None.

The chant gets louder......GIRL'S TRIP! GIRL'S TRIP! GIRL'S TRIP!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Fearless Love and Faith

I'm fascinated; what's going on here? There is a lightness around me, I'm feeling all springy. Something is very, very different.

I think the fear is lifting. I know I had flashes of it on and off over the last six or seven years. It was fear that what, my husband would leave me? But then, at one point, I moved out from him for six months. Fear of what might happen when he went back to Korea? But he did go back, he went back for a week before I'd move back in with him. And he came back in great shape. I don't know what it is, honestly.

Maybe it's fearless love. Somehow something happened and now it can be a fearless love. I have faith again. He's home, all is well. We can begin the next adventure of our lives together.

Faith is a beautiful thing.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Parenting Tip Number 465

I've been just a little busy lately. You know, nothing much. Just that kind of RUNNING LIKE A MADWOMAN for the last few weeks. It's just the way it is when you work for a church. Fall is busy. There are a million details to attend to, and it's all urgent. I love my job, I'm happy to do the things that need to be done. But, I'd been so preoccupied that...

my house had become one of those GARBAGE HOUSES you see on tv!

I'm from a long line of fine working class folks, we just don't pay people to clean our houses. And we're trying to save for college for three boys. So to pay for a house cleaning makes sense in my adult brain, but I've not been able to DO it because my ancestor brain is completely opposed.

And my dear husband, and the organized one who lives here, is in Korea. I thought it might be nice if we had a house that looked like a house and not a transfer station when he got home. Thought it might be nice for him, but it's overwhelming for me! Completely overwhelming, to look at all the shoveling, um......I mean cleaning that there was to do.

So, I live with these good kids. Good young men. And they are willing to help. No, they don't always see the monument to the laundry gods that their clothes hamper sometimes becomes, and they don't see the clutter and dust and tortilla chip crumbs. They just don't. But if I draw a map and set up the GPS directions to the messes, well.....then they always are more than willing to do their part, or more than their part. And so I made a plan and they stepped up.

Here's the parenting tip part:

Got a big job to do? Make a plan. At 7pm I called to the far ends of the house "hey guys, we're gonna clean for a half hour starting at 7:30 and eat dinner at 8. Sound OK? "sure" "fine" "alright"

So at 7:35, I mean come on-- they're teenagers, we started cleaning. I laid out a list. Bathroom: mirror, sink, counter and toilet as well as floor. Living room; dusting, vacuuming, organizing and general crap removal. Front hall. Stairs. (why is it that the stairs become everyone's inbox in a two story house!?) And then, dinner.

It was a phenomenal success! Huge success. Our house is pretty clean! The mom who lives here feels pretty good. The young men like the order and the lack of layers of dust. And we had a nice dinner together after the cleaning, too.

Really friends; make your children clean with you. It's totally worth it. And what would have taken me two hours to do alone happened lickety split tonight in a half an hour. That really just rocks my world. Yes!

And just because my husband has been completely waylaid with standby travel plans in Korea doesn't mean it's not worth it to have cleaned the house. Nope. Last we heard he was going to fly direct from Seoul to Los Angeles on Korean Air. But from what I can gather he's delayed in Seoul (actually, the airport is in Incheon). Guess we'll just look for him when we see him coming. I can't wait.

And....the house is almost, kind of, if you don't look to closely......


Good News

My husband is coming home. It's all good.

Monday, September 21, 2009

The God Thing

Do you hear the screeching? EEeeeeeeeEEEEErrrrrrccchhhhHHHKKKkk!

Don't worry too much, it's just different parts of my life colliding. What? Religion and adoption and how each affects the other? Hoo boy, bring it on!

Or let me tell you what I think and feel, something more like that I guess.

Today on Harlow's Monkey, there was a link to a post from the "blog carnival" I was in this weekend (by the way; no rides OR cotton candy, I was robbed). It was this amazing kind of a list from "Peach" at "Neither Here Nor There" called 'Things I wish I'd Known"

What Jae Ran at Harlow's was struck by was the statement by Peach that her God would not have proscribed all this loss and all this pain so that she could be adopted.

Now I'm not going to speak for other people (Hey! I LOVE to try to do just that!) but I hear this! I really get this! I cannot believe in a God that would have as a part of the master plan all the pain I've had in the aftershocks of my husband's adoption. And I'm a minor player in this story! No way! This is not my God!

Yes, yes yes. I'm a strong and committed Unitarian Universalist. Our current beliefs teach us to value the inherent worth and dignity of all beings. And our history teaches us about a God of Universal salvation and the divine life of each being. My mother brought me up in our secular humanist Unitarian Universalist fellowship to be a good strong atheist. Sometimes I'm sure that she's as disappointed in my belief in some higher power as a Mormon mother would be in her daughter becoming a devout Wiccan, but she goes with it. Being a UU means you accept a lot of diverse opinions and beliefs. A LOT!

But no matter which of my life's beliefs I'm embracing, or even which of the "Great Teacher's" (that's what I call Jesus) beliefs we're talking about. None of it is supported by believing that God had a plan for a person that involved as much pain as the one transracial adoption that I'm close to has held. Really? God thought this whole thing up? I'm just not buying it.

The god of my knowledge is really just a huge glowing pile of love. Love of each other and self and our earth and our universe. Love that transcends the troubles of money and class and just powerfully bonds real people together in their real lives with real love. Abiding love. Really, how is anything more powerful than that? Nothing in my 40 some years ever has been. This love is huge! Have you ever sat in a room full of people and all focused your "god selves" in one place. Yes some people call this prayer, but whatever you call it, it's so powerful! It's so amazing! And it is so real, I've felt it.

This love-God-thing would not create the pain I've seen. It just wouldn't. Case closed.

And on a non-God note, I heard from my dear husband this morning. He called me at almost 24 hours to the minute from the time we left our home to go to the airport on Sunday. Man, getting to Korea takes a really long time. He'd been dropped off in the dark at the bus stop he needed but with no visible sign of the hotel....yes, at midnight. But he got to the hotel and checked in. He called as I was walking the little dog. And yes, he said all the right things to make me feel safe. Good job Dear Husband! You rock! He really does. You have no idea. ROCKS!

That right there is a pretty big "Thank you prayer" if I've ever heard one! Sure is.

Amen. Thank you. and oh yeah! AMEN!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Korea bound...

My husband left for Korea this morning. Between all the teen boys having to go a million different directions and the fact that I work for a church and today is Sunday, we almost missed it!

OK, not really. But it wasn't the only thing happening this morning, that's for sure.

Today I let the oldest drive his brothers all over the place. It's something I'm still getting used to, but I trust him and he's a good kid, and that accident he had a year ago was really good because it made him pay attention in a whole different way. Teenagers. Driving people around. How did THAT happen!? But there were soccer games at the same time as church. No dad around. We've hopped soccer teams so much we don't even know where anyone on the team lives, much less know them well enough to make them come pick our kid up. Nope. This one had to be an inside job. All family. And the oldest is almost 18. Almost a grown man. OK, again, how did this happen?

I'm having a Geritol moment here.

It's funny. This life is so strange. I want to talk all about my husband's trip and what he's doing and what it means. But it's his story to tell. I can only tell my story. Which of course is all Kudzu vined in with his! Tricky business.

As I was dumping all over, I mean talking with a friend today we were breaking down why it's still hard for me when my husband goes to Asia, even though so far this time I only have fear about it being hard. This time so far has just been freaking busy. But I think there's a physical fear, a memory of what's happened before. And there's some funky completely irrational stuff. When he first stated going to the adult adoptee events when we lived in Minnesota, even when he went to his very first KAAN conference in 2002, I remember thinking "please don't leave me because I'm white! I can't help it".

Now, with what I know about the profound white privilege I experience every day, I know that's a gigantic gloss over. Every day my husband experiences losses because of his race. To think that I shouldn't have any repercussions from being white is a white supremacist point of view. I know that, I've learned. And yet, even now while he's still in the air I find myself thinking "don't leave me because I'm white, I can't help it" I can't help thinking it. So, if he leaves me because I'm an insane and irrational person or because I'm completely a different religion than he is or because I will never, ever get rid of that box of antiques in the garage that drives him crazy, is that OK? "Oh well, if you're leaving me because I'm crazy, well then that's fine, as long as it isn't because I'm white then, okey fine."


I just don't want to lose him or our family. We have a good thing. It's not worth chucking overboard. And the white thing is just one piece of a very long string of story beads. OK, it's like a dozen of the beads, but it's sure as hell not the whole story.

Maybe there is some onsite spa that would let me stay for the next four days while we wait this thing out because OK, yeah. It's kind of scary. Just a little. You know, just a little.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

What No One Told Me About Adoption

I missed a "blog carnival" at Grown In My Heart with the topic "What No One Told Me About Adoption". OK, truth is I've never even heard of this blog or a blog carnival, but today when I checked in on "American Family", the post was fantastic. So I clicked along. Interesting stuff.

Of course, my experience with adoption is really different from those in the adoption triad. I'm not an adoptee or an adoptive parent or a first mother. I'm the wife of a transracially adopted man. But there are a whole lot of things that no one told me about adoption. We're on the front end of this movement to adopt transracially in some ways, maybe no one really had thought about it yet, and back in 1987 when I got married, there was no easy way for adoptee spouses to connect. Our experiences are probably very different anyway, but it's so good when we do connect to hear that in some ways, the journey is very much the same. So what do I wish I'd known?

Things I wish I'd known about being married to a TRA.

Race does matter, it just does. It's a part of identity and soul and how we all view the world.

As the white one, I'll never really understand what it's like to be a transracial adoptee. Never.

Coming to terms with his racial identity was the hardest thing my husband ever had to do, the pain was huge, bigger than huge and there was really nothing I could do but stand by and watch.

Gatherings for adult adoptees are dangerous places for committed relationships.

There is no support equal to that of other adult adoptees.

Having children who look like him has been a profound joy for husband. And for me.

Racism is everywhere. Everywhere.

Raising mixed race kids breaks your heart a little. Especially when they tell you that they feel like "freaks of nature". Even at Korean Culture camp, they don't fit in.

Looking like Keanu Reeves is a good thing for teenaged boys. Can you say "The Matrix?"

I wish someone had told me that I will never feel safe when my husband is in Asia. And did I mention he leaves for Korea tomorrow?

Celebrating Loving Day is very cool.

There is no support like knowing other spouses of transracial adoptees. And finding them is almost impossible.

We have a good life, we've built a good family. But my God, it was not easy, and for a while there it hurt so much that sometimes I had to breathe through it like labor pains. Sometimes I didn't even want to breathe through it.

We're off to buy trinkety gifts from Seattle for the people my husband will see in Korea. And we're going to try to stop picking fights with each other, which is what we always do before he takes a trip to Asia. It makes it easier for me to think about him coming home and telling me he wants a divorce. But he's not going to do that this time. I know he's not. We're a happy old married couple with crazy busy teenage boys and a nice little dog. We're so far past that crushing part of the journey it sometimes seems like it never really happened. But of course it did, and there's a bit of a PTSD kind of thing that happens when he heads off to Asia again. Maybe I'll do better this time. And maybe someday we'll even get to a point in time that it's not hard at all, that we just breeze right through. I hope so.

I really hope so.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Attention and it's deficit

I've joked with other Religious Educators about how to do this job and enjoy it, you have to have a nice sturdy case of ADD. That's me for sure, so come with me and follow the bouncing brain....

A voice from my childhood is gone! Mary from Peter, Paul and Mary died yesterday. Puff the Magic Dragon! I'm Leavin' on a Jet Plane (although I swear I thought it was I'm Leavin' I'M a Jet Plane) and Blowin' in the Wind! Oh, I remember being a little girl and riding around in the back seat of my mom's station wagon, hearing those songs. This was before the days of "always using seat belts" but my mom and I would practice. If she was going to crash, she'd yell "hit the deck" and I'd throw myself to the floor of the car, safe from flying out the windows. I remember practicing. "HIT THE DECK!" And I remember sliding around in the back seat when she'd go the "wervy way" to get downtown. Peter, Paul and Mary are the soundtrack to that movie of my childhood.

I found this picture of my oldest son Michael on the UUA website. He's calling the question on Peacemaking. Wow. Read more about what is happening as this picture was taken in the current issue of UU World.

This one: how is is possible that I just learned that Mary Pipher is a Unitarian Universalist. What? The author of Reviving Ophelia? I have read the book and been assigned the book in Psych classes and Women's Studies classes. It's a must read for all parents and people who work with teens, really. But I had no idea she was of my faith. Then, also in the current issue of UU World, there is this great article, and excerpt from her new book "Seeking Peace: Chronicles of the Worst Buddhist in the World". It's a fantastic piece, and I will buy the book. Don't know how I missed this, my Psychologist friend on the Religious Education Council knew she was UU. I read my UU World every month, but I've missed this! I'm glad to know it now.

Finally; my husband is going to Korea on Sunday. He's a Korean Adoptee, this is not just a pleasure trip. It's his last chance to go on his "fly free" benefit, but he's also going for a very specific reason. This is his story to tell, of course. But I'm already shuddering every time I think about it. Uhhhh! This is so much bigger than when the guys all went to Japan! I wish I could go with him, but how do you launch a church year and responsibly parent teen aged boys and up and hop across the ocean for a few days? Nope, one parent has to stay home and the Religious Educator cannot just step out. Too bad, so sad. I have to figure out how to really use skype. Or just wait til he comes home, maybe that's a better idea.

The brain bounces on.....walk the dog in the woods so we can smell the forest smells, get the youngest to school, do work work work, drive into the office, meet with teachers, mop the floor (what janitors?), make dinner, clean up dinner, do the laundry, do the dishes. This is a full life. And it really is good.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Deep Peace

I have set aside one hour to do housework this afternoon. The house is an absolute disaster, I mean really, who has time to CLEAN when there's all this important work to be done to make church happen "voila" like it's easy as pie!? Not me!

But we searched for 20 minutes for an missing athletic bag this morning. It's so much easier to function in a tidy house, and this house looks like a hurricane hit it. Followed by twisters. And wind. And maybe a garbage truck exploded.

So, I'm going to go get out my mop bucket and my shovel, but first I just have to say:

My husband quit his job. His job that makes him travel all the time. We won't fly for free but he'll work four miles from home with a start time and an end time and vacations and WEEKENDS off! Praise be to a good government job. This is good news.

And my Aunt Kathy died, my dad's sister. I loved her. She was always very good to me. I really wish I'd gone to see her one more time. But my friend Jen said at least she died on the same day as Patrick Swayze, so she can dance all the way to heaven. That image makes me smile!

Last, I'm praying a wicked fierce prayer today for a friend who heard news, but it wasn't the good news she hoped for. It wasn't bad news, it's just "more tests" news. Time to bring on the prayer that holds a glowing white light all around the loved one, and it swirls in the energy of everything that passes by, swirls in the deep peace of all of creation. It heals and soothes and fills all. I have a couple of people that I'm holding in prayer, actually. It's big, this deep prayer thing. Kind of takes it out of you. But that's OK, I can't think of another thing that needs my energy more today, than people I care about. Not one thing.

The messy house can wait.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

The First Sunday

OK, well it's not really the very first Sunday ever. And it's not like I work for a congregation in the far north who doesn't meet all summer, because you really must make the most of every day of the summer in the far north. We've been meeting all summer, all along, there's not a real break. But still, it was the first Sunday.

Today was the first official Sunday of the 2009-2010 year in children's ministry at the congregation I serve. And it make sense that we wait to launch the real-deal programs until after Labor Day; we had a huge crowd! There were more children and youth at church today than we've ever had before. We held our first Water Communion service, just with the children. And we did a beautiful Story for All Ages using the book "Water Dance".

I am deeply blessed to have work I love, with children that I absolutely adore, and colleagues who are marvelous. I had three meetings after church, left my house at 7:30 AM and finished my meetings at 8 PM. Even for an extrovert, that's a lot! Then I went to a friend's birthday party.

But I'm still smiling. Tired. OK, exhausted, but happy to be doing what I do, with the people who share the space and time with me. We create beautiful stuff right there in the old Masonic Temple. It's good.

After our Water Communion, our kids made chalices, walked a labryinth, and ate a good soup lunch together. It's such good, and real stuff. Such a wonderful thing, this community. I am deeply blessed to be right here in this very moment of time. Deeply blessed.


I am going to bed!

Blessings to All!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Sad News

Today when my husband logged on to his computer, the top story on CNN reported that the Guatemalan army had taken babies from families to be adopted internationally. They were refering specifically to abductions that happened back in the 70s and 80s.

He just shook his head. "Yep." he's an adult TRA (transracial adoptee) and while we know enough of his personal story to know this isn't what happened to him, it's hard for him to hear. It's hard for us to hear.

Every morning I read blogs for my news, I mean, after CNN reported gun shots from someone saying over a radio "bang bang bang" I think it confirms that sometimes news organizations exaggerate. One of the blogs I read every morning is Harlow's Monkey, which has stories like the one on CNN more often than you'd think. He just shakes his head at me "are you trying to make me angry every single morning?". So I don't think that CNN is blowing this story out of proportion. Unfortunately, I think we'll just begin to hear more and more about the ugly parts of the transracial and transnational adoption industry.

My question is, what do we DO once the ugly bits are really known? How do we help the families who are in place, dealing with this horrible mess. Other people can figure out how to deal with the adoption industry. I want to help with the families that are affected by adoption. Families like mine. Yes, the adoptee in our family is an adult, but we dealt with some of the same issues that I think will affect families with children who are adoptees. Surely if those children are adult children, some of the issues will be the same. What do you do when the people you love are in pain? When the stories don't match what you've always understood to be the truth? With wave after wave of new and increasingly painful feelings?

I don't have the answers, but at least, I've already asked the questions myself.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Defying Gravity

**pant pant pant**

I feel like my little dog Noodles on a run......."hey! my little legs can't keep up here!"

Oh, there is so much to do! SO much to do! If you attend a church, please go up to the people who work there this Sunday and say "wow, you look great for not sleeping for the last three weeks!"

I always think of course it will never all come together! No way. Impossible. What? I'm sorry, the children are going to have to sit quietly with their hands folded in their laps because we're not really ready to launch classes this Sunday! Too bad so sad.

It always does come together in the end. We figure it all out. And it is good.

And just because I work for the best congregation on the planet, no one complained at all when I got a chance to practiacally STEAL a pair of tickets to Wicked and missed a board meeting.

WICKED. It was wicked-good!

Sunday Sunday Sunday Sunday. I'll just keep chanting it. And keep holding those images of our children and youth in my heart. It's all good. We do this work so that children can know that they are good and whole just as they are, right this minute. And we do this work so that when bad things happen, and bad things always do happen, our children have tools to help them cope. And we do this work so that our children become spiritually grounded people who have a deep sense of peace and love; no not when they grow up, but RIGHT NOW and for all their lives long.

We do this work because it is good. And you know, good work is often hard work. Yes it is! Yes it is.

And hey, you look really good for not sleeping for the past three weeks!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Feeding the Masses

I like to feed groups of people, big groups of people, huge groups of people. Just in the past three days, I think you could say that I've cooked for 120 people. For real, no lie, and it's not even an exaggeration, I don't think so anyway.

At our church we've been offering soup lunches for a couple of years. It began with a Coming of Age service project called "What Could be Better Than Soup?" and just rolled from there. But really, I began doing soup lunches years and years ago at the Minnesota Valley UU Fellowship when I was the activities chair. It's a great way to build community. And a great way for families with young children to feed their kids BEFORE the hungry monster hits. Love that. Eat together. It's a really good thing.

So, this year I've committed to putting on a soup lunch every first Sunday of the month. I work for this great church who has no building and no way to get together in a big group any time but on Sunday without-- **ZAP** incurring at least $100 in fees just for meeting. So, we'll feed them. And if people throw money in a bowl to help us pay for stuff for the Religious Education ministry, well then yippy skippy, I'm happy!

On Sunday I'd committed the Religious Education Council to serving lunch, but-ha! no one was really around to help. So I made the soup and bought the bread. The middle schoolers on site on Sunday helped me assemble the basil and purple beans that turn green when you cook them and the rest of the soup ingredients. The guys in my family agreed to serve while I blackmailed, I mean recruited, families to actually register their children for classes this year. We served at least 40 people beef barley and bean barley soup. Psssht. So easy! Soup. That's only one pot! Add 6 loaves of bread and two sticks of butter and tickety-boo, you've fed a hall full of people.

Then yesterday we had a big huge 13th birthday party planned for our youngest. We were going to be at a local park that has a volley ball court and a basketball court and a tennis court as well as a great little dock on a nice little lake. We were bringing kayaks and inflatable boats and many hot dogs and hamburgers. But sometimes we forget that we live in Seattle and that when fall starts in pours on us all for weeks at a time.

By 10am we'd called and emailed everyone: no park! Our house! Ignore all dust! Come early, stay late but come to the house. You know the minute we did this the sun came out. But oh well, it was really windy and very, very wet. And our "birthday" parties are never just seven kids and a cake. His birthday is at the END of the summer, which means that all brothers are bored to death, and must make the most of any upcoming activity, including a little brother party. So there are finely crafted video invitations, and big fancy theme parties with elaborate treasure hunts designed by the treasure master (that's the eldest). And all the kids bring their whole families and whoever is hanging out at their house when they leave to come on over.

Come on! We're homeschoolers! These are BIG families! With lots of people hanging out! The party was huge. It might have been 40, but it really might have been a grand total of 50 people here if you count babies and young adults and the quick stops by some family members. At one point I felt like I was on a pinball machine running through my kitchen. Boing-boing-boing! Bouncing off people! We had a huge pan of cheezy noodles and a million dogs and burgers with a monster batch of hummus and as many chips as a grocery cart could carry, topped by a cooler full of discount soda. I spent most of the time at the counter cutting up more watermelon and opening a can of baked beans or slicing pickles to top the burgers. Yes! JUST where I wanted to be!

Then tonight we had our youth group dinner where we feed the homeless teens. The last time we served dinner there one of the teens asked for pasta with alfredo sauce and broccoli. She really wanted to be sure there was broccoli in the sauce. So today I went to Cash and Carry, the local restaurant supply store, and bought marinara and alfredo and meatballs and chopped lettuce and of course; broccoli. It was your typical flatbed cart full of supplies. We were making a pasta bar! No biggie, I'm used to it. We arrived at Orion Center at 5, FAST put water on to boil and ran around like crazy making the salad and marina and meatballs and meatless meat balls and baking the par baked bread. There were only three of us tonight. We had to do the hustle!

But we did it. We could tell from the minute we walked in that it was going to be a big group, and it was. Every table was completely full. All the chairs were taken. I don't think we've ever seen such a crowd in our two years of working there every month. We used every last noodle and every last meat meatball. Almost a whole sheet cake was gone and three cases of soda and a whole box if jaw breakers that I'd bought on a little impulse were gone. Yes. Isn't that just what you want? Youth who really need to feel special to, you know, take a box of jaw breakers and eat some fine alfredo with fresh parmesan? Yes. That is what I want. It's just what I want. Yes.

It's funny. For someone who desperately struggles with this awful disordered eating that makes me believe that food is love, I sure enjoy feeding huge crowds of people. I love it, I really do. I love that I can do it. And in some ways it really is healing. Food really can be good. This is a sort of proof.

And I wonder, did I miss my call? Am I really destined to be......a....caterer?!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Parenting Tip No. Five

When you choose a place to live, if you have school aged children, be sure you have chosen an area with some significant wealth so that your local schools will be good schools.

Now please, don't freak out on me. It's true. We all know it. If you live in a poor area, your schools are more than likely to be poor schools. If you live in a rich area, your schools will have good art rooms and fine computer labs and teachers who fight to get into those classrooms.

In our years we've had both.

When we moved across the country and to the house we live in now six years ago, it was at the height of the absolute destruction of my marriage. My husband had just come to terms with being an Asian man, a transracially adopted man, a Korean Adoptee, or rather, he was in the throes of that process. We'd decided to get divorced, decided not to, gone through absolute hell and then, as any two completely insane people would do; decided to move across the country together. Really, it was both of our inner wise selves saying "get the hell out of here, go start over, NOW!" But at the time I can't say I was totally in touch with that wisdom.

When we pulled up in front of our home I told the realtor "No, we don't even have to look at this house, I don't want to live here. It's like a neighborhood from the movie 'The Truman Show' no way. Let's see the next one." And we did. We saw a bunch of homes, and then my husband said "let's just see that two story, just to see what they look like inside" so we came back and the minute we walked in the door, I knew he'd want it. It's nice, open, vaulted ceilings. A fine house. I figured we wouldn't be here six months much less long enough to have school districts or the lack of a yard or basement matter. "Fine, let's buy it"

Now you know, of COURSE this is the house we've lived in the longest of any our homes. Six years so far. It's that damn Karma Fairy that Meg Barnhouse is always talking about. "Hooo ho! Think you've got it figured out, do you? Well, here you GO!" wham.

Three years ago when our oldest betrayed all sensiblity, or um, I mean decided to stop going to our little homeschool school and go to a real high school, the school district with the attendance line that is two houses to the south let him in. I said the right thing to the principal's secretary or waved the right test scores or they'd had good experience with homeschoolers or something and he got in. People were shocked. This school NEVER let any out-of-district kids in. But they let him in, and they let him in again for his sophomore year. He lettered twice, went to dances. took great pottery and web design classes. Had fun.

He had a perfect GPA and was an excellent student, and then he came to his senses or um, I mean decided that seven hours a day of classes was a crazy idea and decided to take advantage of the state paid early college program in Washington called "Running Start" and get a start on college classes instead of being a Junior. Good thing, because the nice rich, I mean um, well funded district to the south got too full and wouldn't let him in for the next year. Fine, our little homeschool school welcomed him back to "administer" his Running Start years with a big hug, all was well.

Then our middle son lost his mind, um, I mean decided to go to high school (what, have they never SEEN those high school movies? Come on!). There were no other options, it was the local high school for him. "Oh well" we thought, the oldest didn't really learn a lot in high school that he hadn't already had at our little school. He always said that in high school he'd read some books, learned some math and had a good web design class. No biggie.

But oh my gosh, the difference three miles can make! We actually live closer to the school that's not in our district. But they are a thousand miles apart. The campus of the school our middle son goes to is dirty. The classes don't assume you can afford a calculator much less a programable TI four million or whatever it's called. There is no demand to go out and buy exactly the right composition book (which I searched ALL OVER the city for, and finally found for about $20 for the oldest). There is an assumption that things at home may not be rosy, which I fully support, I think it's good. But the books coming home are books that any library would deem "unlendable". The text books are ancient, and I'm not talking dead sea scrolls ancient. The halls are, frankly, kind of scary and any student bringing a bandana to school is immediately expelled.

We are not in freakin' Kansas any more, Toto.

Why is this OK? Why is it acceptable for a rich district to have clean, neat schools with new textbooks and a nice performing arts center while three miles away a poor district has a performing arts center that was last new before every current parent of students was born and every book is at least a decade old? How is this right? How is this just?

Now I'm not so worried about my kid. He has almost enough credits to be a Junior this year, although they were kind enough to let him be "called" a freshman and be with his age peers. And we seem to have done some good service to the karma fairy because we've gotten an absolute saint of a counselor who thought to tell Peter that the Cross Country team goes to state every year and is coached by the honors history teacher. Bless you Ms. Lumsden; he LOVES the Cross Country team.

But what about the kids who don't have 12 credits already? What about the kids who didn't read Moby Dick last year with the best english and history teacher who ever walked the earth. What about the kids who didn't learn math and science from a woman who will most cerainly come to their grad party as well as their wedding and who has known (and, shhhh....ADORED) them from third grade til now. What about those kids? How does it feel to go to a school with a couryard filled with leaves and trash from the last fifteen years? Where everyone has kind of given up?

Don't even talk to me about the fact that the country club and golf course and entire golf community is very nearly across the street from this school, but that the attendace area for the "good" school swerves violently to include them.

How is this fair? How is this just? What is wrong with this system?

It is not fair, it is not just and nearly everything is wrong with our system of funding schools.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Quiet, so quiet

Our home is never quiet. Except when everyone is gone of course, and even then the little parakeet constantly talks to the bird who lives in the mirror, so there is always some chatter. I spend most of my days in the kitchen. There's the prep-cook-clean cycle for all the meals, and I spend a lot of time working from home, no matter how I arrange desks and office spaces in the house, the kitchen table is usually in service somehow, the laptop often perched on the island to be easily reached.

I also listen to the radio pretty much constantly; public radio. The cycle of my days is shaped by it. It's a habit I learned from my parents who listened to "The Good Neighbor: WCCO" for my entire childhood. We heard agriculture reports and the crop prices were always freatured. So I'm used to radio chatter. I can easliy tune it out when I'm concentrating, and pick it back up when my task is a mindless one. So while I cook or wash dishes, I'm always kind of engaged in whatever's happening in the little radio world.

Fridays are our pizza night. It's my attempt to give some shape and order to the days as we go through all these transitions. And my big huge teenage sons love it. Last night I was at the island making the crust from our favorite dough recipe. But there was no radio, it was totally quiet.

Our middle son started high school this week, and he got some actual homework. Of course he came to the kitchen table to do it. There was a math packet that was supposed to be done over the summer; we've discovered when you transfer into a new school you never, ever get all the information you should have, so he had to do the packet in a few days instead of over the whole summer. And there is freshman reading to be done; Oliver Twist--of course! There are 25 elements to be memorized for chemistry and the six charachteristics of a "Lindbergh Eagle". He had piles stacked on the table, he needed to concentrate. He could not listen to "This American Life" and do this work. No way.


I spread a little pinch of flour on the board, sprinkled corn meal over it and rolled a ball of dough in circles. The dough was still a little cold, so I held my hands over the dough ball to warm it. My son worked. People walked through. Small bits of conversation began and ended "what about the rain, is it going to rain all week end?" "Uh oh, what about mowing the neigbor's lawn?" "What about the party at the park on Monday?" "Did you get pepperoni?" "Can I eat all the doughnuts?" The dough pulled out to a nice round.

I like the quiet.

I think we all liked it.

When we had about five pizzas ready we all came to the table, we had to fight a little about just who was responsible for the calculus book on the table; the person who got it or the person who needed it, but after that we all sat down. My husband came in from one last car repair in the garage, the youngest left his "Mythbusters" marathon from the other room, our oldest got off the phone with the girlfriend. The pizza was delicious. The company some of the finest around. I often cannot believe my profound good fortune; to have such fine men to share my life.

After the pizza we piled into the living room to watch "Seventeen Again". The boys had all seen it on the plane to Japan, but they had really liked it, said we should see it, so even given all our hesitation about a Zach Epheron movie, we did. It was adorable; some of their generation, some of ours. And the adults in the room really did laugh out loud, a lot.

I know that eventually pizza nights will include fewer people, and eventually may mean the old foggies going out to Delancey's instead of cooking at home. And maybe after that, there will be girlfriends and wives and maybe a few extra dogs. Maybe many, many years from now there will be grandchildren. And it will not be quiet at all. But for this week, for this one time, it couldn't have been better.

So quiet.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

And, friends, I invite you now to worshp

Or at least to worship committee. Or as we call it at my congregation: Sunday Services Committee. I got to attend my first Sunday Services Committee meeting. For a while now their meetings and the Relgious Education Council meetings were on the same night of the month. One time we met together, and that was nice, I think we even sang together. I always figure there is nothing you can't overcome if you can sing together.

Not that it's been an adversarial relationship, not at all. There is overlap, and we have the same goals in mind. It's good.

But tonight was mind blowing for me.

This is a diverse group of adults, none of them with children in the church now, or really, ever. So when the agenda item came to me and the upcoming FIVE Multi Gen services I'd requested, I was a little worried. Did they want me to defend the services? Did they want me to single handedly plan them all? Did they want me to march myself right out onto the roof of the masonic temple we rent and repent for my sins of wanting little ones in the service?

NO! No. they wanted to hear what I thought, and to share what they knew. And they thought that of course all of our people should worship together regularly. Little and big, younger and older. All of us.

It brings tears to my eyes all over again.

They want what I want, what our kids need, what our families are hungry for. Of course they do. Good people all, fine people who know in their bones that this free faith can be the thing that some of our kids may just hang onto when life throws them really fast pitches and curve balls and worse.

Those kids need to sit in worship and be together and learn what happens after we sing them out. They need to feel the immense love during the prayer, and the joy during the song and the reverence during the meditation. Of course they can; they do all the time. We can trust it. It's real and it's good.

I serve a church who knows this all to be true and is fervently working to make it happen.

May it be so. Amen.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

September 1st, 2009

It feels like while I was taking a nap, summer up and left for the beach. It's cold, the leaves are turning, the school busses are waking sleeping homeschoolers, the teachers are picketing.


And I am ready for it. I love summer and the warm days and moving my home office out to the patio. I love the light lasting long into the evenings, and camping and having my kids around for more of every day.

But I am ready for some structure. This year our oldest will be at the community college for his senior year of high school, and his sophomore year of college. Our middle son will be at the local high school for his freshman year of high school; he's already spent a week on the Cross Country team. And our youngest will be the only child from our family at our little homeschool-school. For years our week was centered around our homeschool school, and now, while we'll all still spend time there, we're more away than we are there. It will be a really different experience.

So, now it's the start of the transitions. Summer to fall, highschool tomorrow, little school next week and the week after that; college. In that time frame we have Ingathering and water communion at church, and if our 30 kids on an August Sunday with a guest minister are any guide, we're going to be absolutely busting out of our classrooms. Not that we have any classrooms, but if we did, well then we would.

And I am ready. Let's have a day of the week for this and a day of the week for that. Let's have work hours that have a start and a stop and not an "every moment humanly possible" feel! Let's eat soup and stew and bake homemade bread. And let's grab all the things that have been waiting to be taken out of their wrapping paper. Let's move it all to the front and do the things we mean to do and be the people we mean to be.

It's almost time. Let's go.