Thursday, 31 December 2015

Writing Poetry on New Year's Eve

It's done and I can't think what to tell you.
I'm somehow less
Than before.
It hasn't gotten better, but worse.
But it hasn't only gotten worse, but also better.
I don't feel like raising a glass
And thanking the year that has come and gone.
I don't feel like showing the world
That I am polished, enlightened, serene.
I don't feel like subtly asking you to admire me
And how far I have come
How much I have grown and learned.

The illusion of charmingly imperfect perfection.
A show for an audience barely watching.
And quite forgetful.

It's done now and I feel a vague disquiet.
The thought that someday
It will be better,
This grounding and necessary, determined hope that I will be better.

There's a lot I refuse to accept.
I don't buy for example, this bland notion that our best is good enough.
That our failures are somehow ok because we have done the best we could.
I won't lower my eyes, my expectations and hide behind this platitude.

Because we know.
When we have done the best we could.
It heats our blood
And breaks our hearts.
It grinds our bones to dust.
We know it without needing to be told.

I want to say to myself.
To you,
To anyone.
Your best isn't always going to be good enough
This is just the truth.
A plain, hard, simple truth
Written in your frozen breath on a car window.
Held in your manicured hands.
Tucked away in your bold, beating heart.
Strewn like colorful petals across ice.
Etched in sparkling frost.

Yes, you are loved and lovely
And sometimes you are good and sometimes you are kind and sometimes not.
There is enough hope here under the waning moon to encompass everything you are.
Everything you want to be.
But the best we can do and be is not always enough.

I see my refection in the mirror.
The truth of it in my eyes.
For all my reasonable, diplomatic talk,
My fear of confrontation,
I'm comfortable
Being uncomfortable.
The darkness of my eyes tells me so.

I won't run from you
But I might leave your foundations in shards
Of light and of truth.
Let's see what the new year brings...

Welcome 2016.

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

The Ghost in The Quiet

The work of quiet hours
Stretches on before me.
I, who could not keep you.
Who could not hold a ghost.
All smoke and mirrors.

Bare branches that claw and pull.

Drag me back to the quiet hours
Where I will be dull and sit in the dark
And stare at my own reflection
On the frosty window pane
And hear the clatter inside my head
And know it is a kind of Hell
That there is no quiet here.
That you are a spirit by my side.

Who won't let me rest.
Who won't let me alone in my quiet hours.

Friday, 27 November 2015

You Come From Love

You come from love.

We are dancing in circles, my son and I.

I am singing a verse from a song he has always loved, even when he was a baby.

The book of love has music in it, in fact it's where music come from...

He holds my hands tighter and smiles a smile that covers his entire face.

Then being silly I change the words "The book of love has William in it, in fact it's where William comes from..."

And I look at him laughing "Do you come from the book of love?  I think you do!"

He laughs and I say to him more seriously "You do come from love.  Remember that."

You come from love.

My thoughts flash backward to several years ago. My husband and I are sitting in a quiet, dim conference room, chairs in a semi circle, many couples there with us.  So many expressions on so many faces.  Overwhelm.  Grief.  Struggle.  Strength.  The air is heavy with anxiety.  Some women are crying.  Many of them are brought here by heartbreaking situations.  Many are bowed under the weight of indescribable grief.

The attention is focused on a woman at the front of the room asking us to think about what we will do if we learn that the child we adopt is a result of violence or rape.  Will we be honest with them?  What will we say?  How will we say it?

It's too much.  It's too heavy.  The air is too still. 

And who knows?  Who knows?  Who knows what they will say in this situation?

Some children are a result of love and some of violence and some of indifference.

Today as I looked at my son and asked him jokingly if he came from love, I suddenly felt the truth of it in my heart.  Of course he comes from love.  Of course he does.  I don't know if he is the result of a loving relationship between his biological mother and father but I know he comes from love.

Every fiber of his being was created in love.  Knit together in his mother's womb with the deepest, greatest, purest, most eternal love.  Created in the brilliance of the love of the Heavenly Father.

My sons, I promise you, you come from love.

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

All That We Lack


My mom told me once that each night as my four siblings and I were growing up she would pray at the end of the day that Mother Mary would make up for any lacking she may have experienced that day as a mother.  That if there were any failings in her mothering that Mary would make up for them with the perfection of her motherly love.

I find this concept so beautiful and reassuring.  Although I have always had a deep love for Mary, since becoming a mother myself, my devotion to her has grown in so many ways.

When we were in Canada this past summer, we met and spoke with a woman from Sri Lanka.  I thought nothing of it until later, when W and I were snuggling reading a story before bed that night.  I shut the book and he asked me in a quiet, tentative voice "Mommy?  Today I saw that other mommy didn't I?"  At first I was couldn't think what he meant.  "The mommy from Sri Lanka.  I saw her today.  She looks just like me."  I said "Oh sweetie, that woman was just a friend.  She does come from Sri Lanka but she isn't your Sri Lankan mommy."  He considered this for a moment and then asked "But where is she then?"  And then the words that you always know will come someday but not usually at 6 years old "Why didn't she want me?  Do you think she misses me?  Do you think she cries for me?  Does she love me?"

I was glad the room was dark because I could feel tears filling my own eyes.  I willed my voice to remain calm and steady and tried to answer as best I could "W, she did want you very much and I know that she loves you and misses you everyday.  She couldn't keep you there though so now you are here with us, in our family and we are so glad.  We love you so much."

"But why do you want me?"

Why do you want me?  How does anyone answer this question sufficiently?  If it were a teenager or an adult asking, there is so much more one can say, so many complex things that can be explained and spoken of and understood but answering a young child is different.      

I chose the simplest way and said "We want you because we love you and you are a part of our family.  We couldn't imagine life without you.  We will always want you.  Forever."

I wondered later, are these the questions that will follow him through his life as he grows?  My heart felt heavy and sad.  Not because he had asked about his biological mother but because my own explanations are so inadequate.  I've thought about these things for years but I have no perfect answers.  

After I had tucked him in and walked down the stairs, I sat out on the porch swing and remembered Mary.  This was something I could entrust to her.  She is my mother and the mother of us all so I asked her to especially be a mother to my little son whose heart is full of questions.  That she would make up for in him, everything that I can't provide, everything that this world can't provide.

We are so fallible.  The world so imperfect.  Love, so willing but also so complex, so fraught with pain at times.

When W asks these questions, I know I am not responsible for this lack in his life, I am not lacking, but something is.  A loss that is deep and primal is being mixed with something beautiful and spiritual.  This to me is the essence of adoption.  Loss and gain.

It is a deeply spiritual bond.  A forging.  I believe we are spiritually and eternally bound, not only to our two children, but to their families and their ancestors as well.  This bond is imperfection made beautiful.  Made perfect in the desire to love.

In human love, there is always failure and imperfection.  In my own love, there will always be imperfections, places my love isn't able to heal or to reach or places I am not willing or able to go.  There will be times I fail. 

So I entrust my children to God's perfect love and to the perfect love of Mary, Mother of Jesus and to the love of her husband, Saint Joseph, an adoptive father himself.

I pray that they make up for all the ways this world and the people in it and love itself, are lacking.

Thursday, 29 October 2015

Looking For You

I'm in the mood for haunting.
The places I once went.
A bench. A room. A street...
Rubbing hands together in the cold night air.
Turning the coat collar up.
Dressing all in black.

I'm in the mood for contemplating
Blazing lights from pretty windows
Up and down the boulevard.
Faces at the glass
That stare blank into the night.
Reminding me how we stare
Blankly past others
Treat them as if they were ghosts
Invisible in the wake of our own light.

I'm in the mood for pretending
I am
Rootless and forgotten.
A faint trace of something that is lacking.
Left holding the fort alone.
I want to tell you
My heart might be pure but
Do not invite me in.

I'm in the mood for wandering.
Back and forth and lost.
In the mood for wishing and a million sunlit smiles.

But the night is dark and dangerous.
There is no helpless laughter.
No joyful creasing eyes...
Where are you?
Where did you go?
Are you on the bench?  Are you at the window?
Are you blazing light?  Are you insubstantial?
Am I just looking past you?  Are you all alone?

Thursday, 22 October 2015

5 Things That We Didn't Expect When Adopting Internationally

Aside from the long-awaited referral call, for many families that choose to adopt internationally, the journey to another country to meet and legally adopt their new addition is one of the most exciting parts of the entire adoption journey.

It certainly was for us.  It's a thrilling, dizzying time of preparations made at breakneck speed. It's easy to get caught up in the excitement of traveling to an exotic destination and the joyful anticipation of finally meeting the new baby or child.

In many cases, the adoptive family doesn't have much time between the Big Call and the Big Trip.  In our first adoption, we traveled to Sri Lanka a mere two weeks after getting the call that told us the sex and age of our child.  It's easy to get carried away with planning for the upcoming journey because throughout the whole adoption process, adoptive parents are left with little control.  All the control we imagine we have over our lives, in terms of privacy, finances, timing, is stripped away until we realize somewhat painfully, that we are powerless, dependent.  Then along comes this trip.  Once again we have control.  We can buy tickets, get vaccinations, give notice at work, pack our bags, decorate a nursery, celebrate with family and friends because for the first time in years, we have something concrete in our lives!

It is thrilling and breath-taking and wonderfully exciting, don't get me wrong.  It's an adventure.  Like any adventure however, on our journeys to meet our children, we didn't really know what to expect and surprise of all surprises, we didn't really have any control.

Here are five things we didn't expect (but perhaps should have) when we traveled to our children's birth countries to adopt.

1)  That it's not a vacation.

My husband and I are travelers at heart and normally would have tried to soak up all we could in these fascinating, vibrant places, but these trips were not vacations and we weren't tourists.   We were there for a reason and that reason was so all encompassing that it blocked out almost everything else for us.  This isn't to say we didn't have some amazing experiences like riding elephants, visiting beautiful temples, and eating altogether too much incredible fish curry and fresh mango.  We did have the chance to do some things that our guide suggested but the whole focus of our trip, the uncertainty of whether we would actually be allowed to adopt the baby we were visiting every day and coming to love, put our minds into "one track" mode.  That mode was basic survival mode, catching moments of wonder where we could but mainly concentrating on the task at hand, adoption.

2) That it's tough.

We were overwhelmed.  Our days were a mixture of stomach churning stress and mindless vegging out.  The two kind of balanced each other out.  We started almost every morning by smiling at each other over breakfast, squeezing each others hands and saying "We can get through this, remember, we've been through worse."  This wasn't because we had bad attitudes, rather the opposite.  We were positively acknowledging that this was tough and draining but we knew with all our hearts, it was also worth it.   We usually ended our days collapsed on the hotel bed, ordering room service with good Sri Lankan beer.  We were happy but we were exhausted.

3) That we were traveling to a country in recovery.

Many of the countries people adopt from are recovering in some way from some form of trauma.  We knew that Sri Lanka's 30 year civil war had ended only four months before our arrival but knowing it intellectually and seeing the evidence of it before our eyes was a different experience for us.  We were unprepared for the guards with machine guns outside the hotel or for check points or for having our taxi driver point out bullet holes in the wall where people had been executed as though it was just another sight to see.

4) That we would love it so intensely.

We weren't prepared for the intensity of the feelings we experienced for our children's birth countries.  We feel that these places are a part of us, that they are knitted into our souls. The pride and love we feel for these countries is as strong as what we feel for our own lands.

5) That Not Everyone Will Approve Of International Adoption

Our instinct was to excitedly tell people we met that we were spending time in their country because we were adopting a child.  We learned fairly quickly however not to announce that this in casual conversation.  While many people had positive reactions, some people did not and the idea of a child being taken out of his or her country by foreigners upset them.

Everyone will have their own unique experiences with this.  This is simply ours.  The two trips we have taken to bring our children home have been the most exciting we've experienced.  So if you are preparing for an adoption journey, God speed.  It is worth every hurdle and challenge!

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

The Closing of October

I walked by an old house today.
The yard was full of trees.
The trees were full of birds.
Singing.  Glorious.  Chaotic.
And I thought how strange
That they should sing
With so much soul
So much relish
At the closing of October.

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Shadow Places

Sometimes I don't want to tell you big things.
I want to drown
In the comfortable, the known, the light.
I want to shut my eyes and hide in plain sight.
I've been a ghost
And I've felt at ease in the lull.  The silence.  The no-man's land of pain.
I've gone outside and no one has seen me.
I've knocked on the glass and waited to be let in.
I've smiled and spoken
And passed through time
Lingered all the places
You once saw me.
You have a memory of a girl with a scribbled in guidebook.
A tired girl sitting on a bench along the Rhine on a cool September night.
A shadowy glimpse of a girl walking away feeling as light as the air.

Sometimes I dream of time moving backward
To city fountains and light reflecting on black water and smoky night cafes.

Forward to all the things we would never have expected in a million years.
To spirits outside the doors and in the water and black heavy skies and sudden flashes of brilliance.
Destruction and radiance all over the place.

What happened?  What went right for you?  What went wrong?

Sometimes I have nothing to say.  Nothing to tell you or anyone.

Then sometimes I want to only tell you the big things.
I lose all patience with the little things.
I want loss.

I want to overthrow all the gods of falseness and the little white lies we worship.
I want to leave their temples in ruins
And forget them forever.

I want to tell you something.
I've had enough of being someone
I just barely recognize.

I am going to sit and stare at the stars,
Stand on sand and listen to the ocean,
Lie on the grass like I did when I was a child
Until I recall who I am.

Thursday, 1 October 2015

The Cringe Worthy Poet

Oh dear.  You see, I've been writing poetry and creative prose since I was around 13.  I can't imagine who my influences were at the time aside from the flowery, romantic British poets we learned about in English class.  I often used slightly old fashioned, ornamented phrasing  in my poems and bizarre rhyme schemes that made sense only in my head.  But I took myself and my writing quite seriously.  If you had asked me at 14 what I wanted to be I would have said a writer.  Actually I would have said a penniless writer because that is just how seriously I took it.  I didn't just want to write, I wasn't going to be a writer unless I could be some tragic obscure figure, suffering and starving for my art.  It just wouldn't be worth it otherwise.

At the age of 14, I went off to a Catholic girls boarding school and wore a uniform every day and I met writer friends.  We purposely did things that proved we were writers like dye our hair fiery red or cut it very short or wear old man's pants we found for a couple of dollars at second hand shops.  Of course these pants we only wore after school hours when it wasn't necessary to wear our navy blue kilts and crisp white shirts.  Once we even had a weekend away from the school and daringly went to a poetry reading in a smoky cafe.  We liked obscure artsy things.  To be fair though, we also did write.

This is on my mind now because I hadn't really looked at my earlier writing for years and recently decided to pull them all out and give all that brilliance a dust off.  I don't keep much but I had kept binders and journals and scribblers full of words.  In my mind, they were quite good.  In reality, as I read, I found myself blushing, cringing and laughing to myself in a mildly embarrassed way, eyes darting nervously around the room to make sure no one was there.  My first instinct was to rid my life of the evidence.  Throwing it away would be dangerous...burning it perhaps would be wiser.  But then rather fondly, I began to think what if I had never written these things at all?  There is no doubt they were very poor pieces but we have to start somewhere.  If I would never have written them then maybe I would simply have never written at all.

My point is, we need to write bad things we think are worthy and decent at the time.  They are the stepping stones that lead us forward, into the practice of writing something halfway decent, something that doesn't embarrass us and then lastly after a very long time, perhaps if we grow and learn and stretch, we write something we are truly proud of.  Nobody starts off excellent and as much as writing is a talent, it is an extremely difficult discipline as well.

So here's to hundreds of crappy poems.  They were intensely felt but poorly executed.  They have their place in my life too. 

(I am not saying I am past the cringe worthy stage anytime soon, but I am giving it a go at least!) :)

Saturday, 26 September 2015

The Big Boy in the Stroller

Artist: Mary Cassatt

Last year just a month or two after adopting and coming home from Chile with our second son, I ran into an acquaintance at the grocery store.  I found our encounter a little bit funny and a little bit bizarre.

Sometimes it's not really what people say but the way they say it that's odd.  Then again, a lot of the time, it is what they say.  She saw me pushing C in a stroller and stopped to talk with me.  But social graces were rather lacking I'm afraid.  She greeted me abruptly and asked me who this child was which is a valid question in a way.  I proudly introduced my new son to her and said we had just brought him home from Chile a couple of months ago.  I thought congratulations were in order personally. ;)  However, she stared at him and asked dubiously "Your son?  This is your son?  You aren't just taking care of him for someone?"  Excellent question.  It's always best to make sure that someone isn't just trying to pass off a random child as their newly adopted one.  I assured her that yes, he really was my son!  I was sure of it!  She stared at me for a moment and then charmingly said "It always seems strange to me to see such a large child being pushed in a stroller."  Ah yes.  Exactly what we'd been speaking about right?  I can see how this could greatly concern someone.  I didn't feel the need to explain my reasons for pushing this large child in a stroller to her though so I settled for smiling at her and ending the conversation by wishing her a slightly amused lovely day and walking away.

I notice that this stroller issue is indeed a pressing one though.  Occasionally people have wondered aloud as we pass why "a big boy like that" isn't walking on his own!  Like we're celebrities!  I especially like that generally this isn't actually asked to me directly, just in my hearing.  That'll show me. ;)  Forget the current crisis in Europe, forget the current scandal with Planned Parenthood, this large-child-in-stroller thing is really everyone's business.

I keep thinking I will address these people who never address me directly.  That I should thank them for their concern.  I never do though.  Of course my reasons for this are nobody's business.  I do wonder sometimes though if just to give them a little pause, I should tell them that this large boy in the stroller was so ill he was hospitalized for the first year of his life, didn't walk until he was after two, and in the first information we received about him, they said there was a chance he may need to spend his life in a wheelchair.  It just goes to show you never know so why in the world bother judging such an insignificant thing like a kid in a stroller?

Little C can walk almost perfectly now though.

The thing is though that even if there is no reason whatsoever for a bigger child to be in a stroller, or not to be speaking perfectly by a certain age, etc., etc., really who cares?  There are many things in a child's life and about a child's development that outsiders know nothing about.  This is an important thing to remember.  One I may write about again. :)

Allow children to be children.  Allow them to be who they are.  They'll grow up soon enough. 

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

The Girl Who Used to Write Poetry On Trains

This past July marked eleven years that I've lived here in Norway.

Each anniversary spurs me to mull over the years that stretch between the first and the latest.

There's been a lot of life in between meeting a group of wild, friendly Norwegians on a white Icelandic night in the wilderness at 2 something in the morning at the age of 18 and sitting here now, 16 years later, in a city I never imagined living in all those years ago when I traveled and lived for months out of a big backpack with the slogan "War is not healthy for children and other living things" on it. Always was a bit of an idealist. ;)

Some of those years were friendship, some were love, some were heartbreak.
Always this knowledge that in a lot of ways I am still that girl I was at 18...waking up to write poetry on night trains that spun me across these beautiful Northern countries, collecting cool, misty Scandinavian days and nights in my mind, confident and optimistic because living was an adventure and if I met any challenges along the way, well, wasn't that what made the good stories?  Wasn't that what laughter was for?  To deal with the hard things? 

This knowledge that I am still the woman I was at 24, leaving Manitoba on a sweltering July morning and knowing somehow that I wouldn't be going home this time. Then getting engaged a month later, and married just over a month after that.

But then I catch myself, shake my head and think, I am not that girl, that woman, at all. Who WAS she? Why was she so confident?

11 years of everything. 11 years of complexity: becoming, undoing, learning, regressing, loving, despair, light, darkness, journeys to far corners of the Earth to bring together the family God had in mind for us.

Sometimes I am amazed and sometimes honestly, a little bit tired when I think of the distances we had to go to for "regular" things...for a family.

A beautiful baby boy handed to me by his weeping mother on a dirty side street in Colombo. People stopping what they were doing to stare at us, at the picture we made: the screaming baby, the sobbing mother, the nuns holding her to keep her from collapsing on the road, and us...feeling so wrong, just so indescribably wrong in the heavy tropical heat, holding this piece of all of our hearts.

Then five years later, a laughing judge in a courtroom in Chili saying in rapid Spanish that we would have parental rights straight away and us, bewildered, walking away from the courtroom with an almost three year old son we'd known for three very short days. It was terrifying and good. Just like that, suddenly ours. We were and were not ready. But this time people were laughing, kissing our cheeks in congratulations. This time no one's heart was breaking. It was as different as night from day.

But after so many years of interviews that leave a person with almost nothing of their own, the question that tags along behind me like a child tugging on a mother's sweater is: Are you really good enough? Are you? Are you? Are you?

So sometimes it feels like a lot of the time in these years has been spent fighting so hard, proving something to someone, proving we can do this thing, we promise, not really ever free from scrutiny, yet also as a dear friend wrote in a photo caption earlier, these are the "happy days". Maybe also the happy years? It seems as good a description as any for these years that can't be neatly labeled because no word can really sum up anything, let alone the way it feels to live a life.

Maybe it is much more simple than I imagine and these, all these days, simply are the happy days because they are my days.

It's been a long and a short 11 years here in Norway.   Grueling in a lot of ways.  There have been so many lessons.  So many surprises. 

Maybe there is not much more to say but that they've held everything.  They've held all the love in the world. Shattering and healing such a multitude of things...

Sunday, 6 September 2015

Sunshine From Mexico

Fabiola from Mexico has a blog where she writes of the beauty, the tastes, the warmth and vibrancy, the all encompassing color and joy of life in Mexico.  Real Mexico. Beneath the touristy, sanitized veneer of expensive resorts.  Apart from all the frightening violence portrayed in the media.  Her goal is to acquaint us with what it really means to live in her beautiful country.

 Even sun-starved as I am, I have never been tempted to go to the resorts so popular in Mexico, but "the heart of Mexico", this indescribable something, this something wilder than I am familiar with, something authentic, now that is something my restless soul can get a feel for.

Two of my favorite books are set in Mexico.  The Power and the Glory and The Lacuna.  They sparked my interest intensely.  So I was drawn in by Fabiola's writing from the start.  In her writing, I can see myself there.  Somewhere in the heart and heat of Mexico.  Maybe one day I will go there and invite myself to stay but in the meantime, I would really like to say gracias to Fabiola for thinking of me when it came to the Sunshine Award!

These are the rules:
Thank the blogger who nominated you and link back to them.
List the rules and put the picture on your blog.
Answer the questions.
Nominate other bloggers and notify them.
Come up with questions for them.

Fabiola's questions for me are:

Why did you start your blog?

I have always written.  But of course more privately than blogging.  Blogging is like a journal but for an audience. :)  I made the switch from private scribbling to public blogging in 2007 when my husband and I embarked on our first adoption.  It was a way for me to process the enormity of my emotions and the intensity of what we were experiencing then.

How do you find inspiration for your posts?
I just write and see what comes out. :)

What do you like most about blogging?

Writing.  And the incredible connections formed with like-minded people I would otherwise not have had the honor of knowing

What is your biggest challenge as a blogger?

Good question.  I don't know.  Figuring out the technical things...I am not very tech savvy.

What motivates you to keep blogging?

 I want to keep writing and I could do that without blogging but at the same time, I enjoy interaction and the sharpening of skills that interacting with other writers can provide.

What do you do in your free time?

Many things.:)  I love to read, go on long walks, sit in the sunshine, go for coffee with friends, relax at home with my family, travel.

Who is the most important person in your life?

My husband.

What is number one on your bucket list?

I have so many things on my list but I suppose at the moment my number one thing is to travel with my family back to Sri Lanka in the next three years.  I want my oldest son to experience it for the first time (in his conscious memory) as an innocent, eager child, whose eyes are truly open to the beauty and wonder there, before a more adult mindset sets in and he perhaps would travel back with a mind more confused by all the great questions adoption raises in a person.  I want him to experience it with joy so that his associations with it are joyful and positive.

What would a perfect day be for you?

A day with no expectations from anyone else.

What is a motto or quote you live by?

I try to live by Mother Teresa's idea that we can not all do great things but we can do small things with great love.  This philosophy means that the smallest task becomes of the utmost importance when done with a loving heart...washing dishes, changing a diaper, buying groceries.  It all matters intensely the spirit with which we do things.  At the same time, large deeds are meaningless without love.  Success in any area means nothing if it was not achieved with love.  So I try to live by this idea of the greatness of small acts but I rarely succeed.

What will you do when your blog makes it big?

I don't know. :)  I hope to write all my life but I am not super concerned about my blog making it big.:)

Now I would like to nominate four other bloggers. :)

Sheena at
Indu at
Lidia at
Alicia at

My questions for you if you would like to answer them are:

Are you an introvert or an extrovert?
Where in the world are you most drawn to?
What characteristic in others do you like most?
What characteristic in others do you like least?
What area in your own life are you seeking to grow in?
Do you have a daily routine?  
Since this is a sunshine award, what things bring light and sunshine into your day? :)


Wednesday, 2 September 2015

The Prairies That Whisper To Me

(My brother Sean takes stunning pictures of the prairies.)

Fall. The sharp bite in the air.  The crisp sunshine.  The days so perfectly outlined they dazzle with their brilliance.  I always claim to love summer and I do, who doesn't after all, but fall is more satisfying to my soul.  It has a different depth to it than the light, carefree days of summer.   I love the vivid colors, the scents of pumpkin spice, cinnamon, wood smoke mingling in the air. I also find it a spiritually deep season.  Somber and profound.  Embracing both death and life.  Allowing us to do the same.

Autumn is all memory.  Sense memory.  Memory in the heart and the blood.

It's autumn in Canada that I love.   Where I come from though, the air fairly crackles with aliveness.  Everything is dying all around us but it's such a gorgeous celebration of life.  A dazzling, festive good bye.  Everything exploding with color, with flavor, everything beginning to settle in, preparing for the long winter ahead.

Last autumn was the first one in eleven years that I had been in Canada during the fall.  I was home for my sister's wedding.  From the moment that I stepped out of the airport, I was hit with a homesickness so intense that I felt at a loss to explain it.  Everything whispered to me.  The stark black fields asked me "How can you bear this?  How do you bear being away from this place?  Why did you go?  Come back."  And the thing is to others not from the prairies, these fields would be ugly.  They weren't the gold of summer.  But I've been home often in the suffocating heat of summer when the fields are golden with wheat, brilliant yellow with canola blossoms, periwinkle blue with flax flowers.  I looked and saw beauty but I never heard their voices in my heart.  Maybe fall is so stark, such a contradiction of vividness and barrenness.  Stark enough that I can hear my own hearts longings more clearly.

You need a certain depth of character and imagination to find beauty in the prairies.  To those who don't know how to look, it is easily dismissed as boring.  It doesn't have the drama of mountains or waterfalls.  It has the endless sky though.  It has this.  That you can stand underneath this sky and see forever.  You can stand anywhere on a pitch black night and see all the stars.  In the winter, the sky will dance for you.  Even in the summer some nights, you will see the northern lights.  And you can't imagine how you can breathe.  The beauty of the prairies is subtle and soul soothing.  You need to look to see it otherwise you will miss it.

You will miss the open, open prairies.  You will miss the sky.  You will miss knowing your own soul in the midst of it all.  You will miss so much.

Sunday, 30 August 2015

Refreshingly Insulting

When I was home in Canada this past May my brother gave me a brilliant book for Mother's Day.

An emotionally moving story about the beauty, sacrifices, and joys of motherhood you ask?  A deeply poignant narrative concerning the preciousness of the mother\ child bond?  A collection of inspiring tales illustrating the unique gift each child is and brings?

No, the book he gave me is called "I Am Better Than Your Kids" by Maddox.

The introduction begins:

"Several years ago, I was waiting in a coworker's cubicle when I noticed the drawings she had on display and I told her they sucked.  She gasped and said 'They were made by my four year old nephew!' So I elaborated, 'Well your nephew sucks at drawing.'  I decided then that kids had gotten a free pass for far too long.  So on my website, I proceeded to to grade a handful of children's art along with some pointed but fair criticism.  The response was overwhelming."

The entire book is children's drawings, graded and commented on by Maddox.  I sit down with this book and literally do laugh out loud.  I don't just quietly and insincerely "lol" inside my head, I laugh, I giggle, snort maybe.  It's no doubt very attractive.  This book is refreshing.  And offensive.  And refreshing!  After so much preciousness out there regarding the raising of modern children, that everything a child does should be affirmed, celebrated, cherished forever and ever and that children themselves should be protected, pampered, coddled and shielded from anything even remotely not sunshine and rainbows, this was just a balm to the soul.

It's hilarious, unique, and yes, most certainly, somewhat offensive if you are the sort inclined to take offense wherever you can.

But the man makes some thought provoking points.  More bits and pieces from the intro:

'The two most dangerous words in the English language are 'good job'.  It's a quick little lie that parents tell their kids to encourage them to keep trying.  Parents are afraid that if they tell their kids the truth, the will get discouraged and stop drawing.  So what?  Since when is every kid supposed to be able to draw?  Think about your own life for a moment, of all the people you know, how many of them are artists professionally?  How many of them do something even related to art?  For most people, that number is zero.

At a certain point, no amount of encouragement will make someone any better at art.  Just as no amount of encouragement alone can make someone an airline pilot, engineer or heart surgeon.  So why art?  Why is this the one discipline that parents feel necessary to push upon their kids?

All this superfluous praise is making the world a duller place.  The phrase 'good job' is the reason we don't have any Mozarts or Beethovens today."

Whether you agree or not, it's an interesting point of view and a challenging one.  I am definitely guilty of " superfluous praise" and I doubt that will change. :)  It's my nature.  I would never look at child's drawing and say it was crap, although it doesn't stop me from enjoying this hugely insulting book wholeheartedly.  I get a kick out of his candor.  

But I wouldn't want him critiquing anything of mine.

My son was late to drawing and because I do love art myself, I admit, I encouraged him to draw and I am so glad I did! This is a self portrait drawn by my son.  Obviously he has nothing to worry about.

 (If you want a good laugh, I recommend finding this book ASAP.)

Friday, 28 August 2015

Are You Good Enough To Be a Mother?

For a few years, during our second adoption process, I chose to step back from writing temporarily.

To go off the radar awhile.  I was tired, deeply weary, of having to defend and explain my choices and decisions at every turn to everyone.

After so many years of intense examination and scrutiny, I wanted to live a more private life. Although I share a lot when I write and occasionally on social media, I am always in control of what I share and therein lies the difference.

I think sometimes people find it difficult to understand that going through an adoption process shines a spotlight into every area of one's life.  Areas we haven't thought about in years.  Details we'd rather have kept private. Choices we aren't proud of, choices we are. 

As prospective adoptive parents we are allowed to keep nothing for ourselves. 

The gritty details and realities of marriages are laid bare, written down, and passed along through the ranks where they will be read by numerous discerning people who know us only by what they will read in the reports.

There are questions like: How often do you fight?  What about?  In what ways do you fight?  Slam doors?  Yell?  What do you wish you could change about your spouse?  What does he do that exasperates you? 

Then there the details of our lives before marriage.  Our childhoods.  Education.  Moral and religious beliefs.  Family histories,  Prior relationships.  Everything is held up to the light for closer inspection.  A professional person often meeting the hopeful adoptive parent for the first time, holding a pen and a clipboard, asking questions that really translate to: Are you worthy?  Are you good enough?  Are you fit to be a parent?   

Until we no longer really know.  We just sit there, smiling desperately at these people with all the power and hope they think we are good enough to do this thing that most other people are able to do without much prior consideration.

The fact is that after years of interviews with people from child services, lawyers, doctors and psychologists all watching our faces for signs of discomfort as we speak, all examining body language, the way we communicate with our partner, choice of clothing (yes, this was actually in one of our psychological evaluations), it is natural to begin to feel uncertain of oneself and ones abilities in a way most parents never do.

Biological parents are not asked to justify their desire to have a child.  As prospective adoptive parents, we are asked to justify this desire. 

Why do you want to have a child?  And our answer must not be selfish, it mustn't be anything along the lines of just longing for a child.  Nothing that simple.  I invite you to consider this for a moment. 

What answer could a person possibly give that would hold up in court?  Because in the case of adoptive parents, the answer we give actually must hold up in court.

I don't believe biological parents should be asked to justify their decision to have a child, that's not what I am saying so please don't misunderstand me.  I do think though about how different it would be if everyone had to do this.  If before having a child, people had to be interviewed extensively for years.  Anticipating every scenario.  Planning a course of action for everything that could possibly go wrong in a child's life and always aware that someone out there who didn't know you at all, had the power to say no, this will never happen for you based on any number of reasons.

I read a book about adoption explaining it like this (in my own words), that on paper, in order to be allowed to adopt, one must be perfect.  The perfect mother, father, couple...  

We are expected to know exactly what we would do as a parent long before we ever are actually parents.  We must ace the test.  Be perfect on paper, perfect in theory.  But how can anybody ever be that perfect in reality?

So when the reality of motherhood (or parenthood) is presented and we are naturally not perfect, we feel fear, guilt in an intense way because we promised, we begged for this chance to be a mother.  We fought and fought and fought for it. 

It is easy to be burdened by the pressure of being expected to be so flawless and many people are not aware of this, but post adoption depression is common as reality sets in and life with an adopted child is often not as picturesque and perfect as we've been led to expect and as we see that it is impossible to be as perfect as we have hoped to be.

I am a perfectionist myself which means I am under no illusion that I am perfect.  I am simply  trying to explain the way that one's confidence can be undermined and the way this can make a person wary of scrutiny and more defensive than one otherwise might have been. 

It can take a long time sometimes years, to recover.  To get one's confidence back.  To stop feeling desperate and defensive.  To stop feeling what we had to prove ourselves worthy for years of having, could be taken from you in the blink of an eye.

Adoptive parents need grace too.  It can take a long time to regain a sense of normalcy after adoption.

An understanding that we are both worthy and not worthy.  Just like any other parent out there.

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

"Just Not A Dog Person..." Thoughts on the Death of a Pet

We stood in a barn, laughing as eager Border Collie puppies jumped around our feet.  I even laughed as one nipped a hole through the bottom of my new dress.  That sort of stuff didn't bother me then.  It wasn't hard for us to choose one.  We chose the one that hung quietly back from the others, the one who looked a little bit sad.  We took her home.  We called her Tia.

It was mid August.  We'd just returned from a scorching summer in Manitoba.  We didn't know yet how we would need this dog.  That just a week later things would fall apart.  Our lives would be disrupted in one of those scenarios that lead people to think in terms of before and after.  That all this would happen and we would be ultimately left alone in our suffering but that she would be there.

Just one week after getting Tia, we learned that we would not be able to have children.  Not maybe, not it could be difficult, but never.  And that word fell so hard and unexpectedly into our lives that for years it broke everything it landed on.

It felt like devastation.  And life a great waste land yet there in the middle of it all was this energetic, crazy puppy who demanded our attention.  She didn't take the place of child, that's not the way my mind works.  But she did something.  Over time, she helped us heal.

Tia was a beautiful dog, extremely gentle and loving but a typical puppy and I remember losing my patience with her almost daily.  Her rope would get tangled around the trees again and I would stalk out to the backyard angrily to undo her tangles for what felt like the millionth time.  She would race around the house, her nails scratching the floor and I would care.  I don't remember half the things she did that made my life so trying but I remember the frustration I felt even though I loved her so much.  Please don't imagine all this meant I didn't, I just found my patience being tried daily and I was the one who came up wanting.  Struggling with grief, anger, and this boundless emptiness inside myself, I felt I couldn't love her the way I wanted to although I did love her in my imperfect way.

I remember sitting with a group of friends saying ruefully, trying to be vaguely humorous, "We just got a puppy...and I tell you, she's no cat!" Sigh.  "I am just NOT a dog person..."

However, as time passed and she became better trained and calmed down and was a comfort in our lives.  She brought joy and laughter back into our hearts.  Even as this was true, I began to take her for-granted.  I began to put off long walks in favor of shorter ones so I could get other things done.  Unimportant things.  I began not to really notice her in the mornings as she waited at the bottom of the stairs for us when we came down from our bedroom.

The morning she died was one such morning.  I remember we woke up, my husband took her for a walk.  I walked into the kitchen to get a coffee.  I heard a crash and a yell "No!" and I ran outside and there was Tia lying motionless on the road.  I couldn't see through my tears.  It broke our hearts again.  We picked her up, stared stunned at the woman in the car who was crying too saying she was so so sorry, carried her to the car to drive her to the vet, praying somehow maybe we were wrong and she was alive.  I didn't care about the blood on my clothes.  I guess that moment I went back to not being bothered by stuff like that.

The funny thing is, in a bizarre coincidence, the night before she was killed, my husband and I watched "Marley and Me".  I lay on the couch and at the end said "Oh my goodness, that was sooooo sad!!  I am so glad we get to keep Tia for many more years!" (Because she was just two then.)
Tia jumped in my lap, something she never did, and I laughed and said "Quick, take a picture!  I guess she loves me!"

But the next morning I didn't even see her.  I walked right past her without noticing her.  A lot of things were more important.  Maybe like getting a coffee and checking Facebook.

And she died.  And the sadness was intense.  More than I would have ever expected.  And I discovered that for Tia, I was a "dog person".

I Can't Keep Myself Safe

August is leaving me.  Not with the richness of bright gold wheat fields, the ones of my childhood.  Not with the dense late summer heat and shimmering dry dust of prairie roads at summer's end.  Not with deep...unbelievably deep...low blue skies that hang over everything green and golden and already aching with nostalgia.

Instead it is battering my windows and doors.  Bruising the hollyhocks in my garden.  Sending everything running for cover.  Black skies and pelting rain, that sort that looks like it would hurt bare skin upon contact.  While I prefer sunshine, another, more honest part of me perhaps, doesn't mind.  Relishes violence and unpredictability in nature.

It's strange, isn't it? It's hard to understand. To know sometimes. Beyond a doubt, without question, that life...this a blessing, a gift, an undefinable thing. And we're often hopeless at it.

When I sit on a sun warmed rock on a cool fall day staring at the sea, feeling the noise of it pounding in my ears. Chaos echoing chaos. Chaos calming chaos. I know. I want to see the waves break against the rocks, I want to witness more power, and at the core of me, I want to see some sort of glorious unimaginable destruction. It would please would answer some sort of obscure question in me to see it all fall to pieces. It would help me know that things can break outside myself too. And this great hope. This great great great hope is that somehow, I wouldn't be hopeless at living.

These questions are my constant, life-long companions: what am I growing toward? Who am I becoming?

They are positive, strength infusing things. They keep me from running in circles, from stagnation, from feeling hopeless.

I want to strip away the useless, the negative, the fear and dishonesty in my life.  I want grand adventures and difficult pilgrimages.  I want to break apart and be forged back together with gold.

I think how it would be so much easier to physically set out on a spiritual journey. To visit a place of solitude and reflection. To take up a backpack and make a difficult pilgrimage across narrow mountain roads. To be taught. To pray and meditate and focus. To go away and come back changed.

It's harder to change in a familiar place. It takes discipline to get out of your own bed each morning and think "Today I am going to learn and grow. Right here where I am. Because this is the option I have open to me right now." Examining the soul is always challenging and often unsettling. It can certainly be unpleasant at times. The alternative is to go though life blindly, always distracted, never achieving awareness or questioning yourself. Never growing. (I believe there are people who go through their lives never growing or stretching themselves.)

This morning I read the words "tranquility and order" and it put me in mind of how our longings so often conflict. On the surface at least.  I pray for lives of "tranquility and order" for our family and especially for my sons as they grow.  I desire it for myself.  Yet I also fight hard against settling mindlessly for a socially acceptable way of living, fight against conforming for the sake of peace.  At the same time as I desire tranquility, order and peace, I desire newness, healthy destruction of concepts and ideas that are not life giving yet are often unchallenged.  I need a certain sort of challenge.  I need some fire and I always crave change.

In the end, I don't believe these things do contradict each other.  There is no tranquility in settling or never being challenged.  There is no peace in giving in or up.  There is no peace in agreeing with others under the false impression that agree-ability and niceness will safeguard ones peace.  There is no peace in quietly shutting the door on yourself, deciding no one will ever really see you, your heart, your passions, your fears.  There is no order in remaining safe out of fear of change.

There is no safety period.
I can't keep myself safe.
By conforming.  By fitting in.  By avoiding conflict.  By telling white lies.  By being "nice" (such a bland word).

And because I can't possibly keep myself safe, I must take greater risks.  I don't mean jumping off cliffs or running through traffic hoping I don't get hit.  The risks I mean are far greater..  I must risk being honest, must risk, not changing myself, but becoming myself fully.

At the core of myself, I know who I am.  I am worth the risks I'll take.

Saturday, 22 August 2015

Visiting Graveyards

“Everyone in this house
has gray hair, walks with a cane,
visits the graveyard." -Basho

I pass it almost everyday as I walk in the evening. My eyes drink in the exuberant green, the first strands of color staining the spirit drinks this beauty in like it is parched.  It seems my soul has been asleep.  Been elsewhere for some time.  It feels as though the essence of me has not really been where my body has been...

Have my eyes been shut?  Why?  I shake my head and see.  And curiously, it dawns on me, I have looked and looked for so long but I have not really seen.  If we were talking about a color, I would pause maybe, try to explain that the green was so rich and so vivid, I felt like I should touch it, run my fingers through the feathery grass as I would have done if I'd been a child.  That the pink in the sky was soft and delicate, so delicate I thought the strength of it should break my heart.  Do you understand what I mean?  My eyes are parched and they are the window to my parched soul.  This all brings to mind the thought that I would move through these years like a ghost, if I could choose.  But I see you don't know what I mean...  I am all spirit.  I am all soul.  I am all color and yearning.  I am distant from myself, homesick for my own heart.

It would seem the remedy for this is a gentle falling backward, into forgotten things.  Forgotten things like the colors of the earth and sky, the cool fresh air, my thirsty eyes.  A graceful diminishing.  Late summer sweetness.  Autumn leaves.  The things I need.  The things I need...

I pass the graveyard almost everyday.

A quiet meeting place of memories and souls and once beautiful people who never imagined growing old.  Secrets buried with broken hearts, the placing of dirt over hopes and dreams. A turning to.  A turning away  The knowledge that nothing can ever stay.

Ah, here you are, your face, my heart.

I am young.  I've been younger.  I visit all sorts of graveyards after dark.