I had another short trip to Washington DC last week and had a chance to visit my friends Noelle, Paul, Aidan and Keira in Charlottesville over the weekend. It was a fun pre-Halloween fall weekend with the kids. We cheered Keira on in her baseball game—she did a great job and got the game ball! She’s the only girl on her team but that didn’t seem to phase either her or the little boys on the team which is refreshing to see. Aidan and I got a chance to hang together on Sunday while Keira went to a birthday party and instead of hanging out with a gaggle of six year old roller skating girls, we had a fun time having frozen yogurt and watching a local hockey team play at the local ice rink. It was one of those beautiful fall weekends, where the weather is crisp, pumpkins are out on porches and the kids are already amped up for Halloween, waiting for the big day and anticipating their candy loot. We went out to a farm outside of town for apple picking and a hayride and then came home and made an apple pie and caramel apples. The kids showed me their Halloween costumes — a doctor and a (mad) scientist, like their Mom and Dad!—and we watched The Great Pumpkin (my favorite Peanuts show!). Aidan and Keira and both unbelievably sweet and I’m so glad that despite the long distance between us, I’ve been able to have a relationship with them and watch them grow up. Keira is just such a cutie. She fell in love with Bodhi when they visited here in April and so I had sent her a stuffed Bodhi after their trip. When I arrived last Friday, she had left stuffed Bodhi on my pillow and let me know that she wanted him to sleep with me because she thought I’d be missing my Bodhi. Stuffed Bodhi was out constant companion all weekend. So sweet. Aidan is my godson and of all the kids in my life, he has a special place in my heart. It still amazes me to think that not so long ago, he was just a little peanut of a baby, especially seeing how much he’s grown. He’s in middle school now and while he’s a big kid physically for 10 years old but still so sweet and innocent. He’s shocked when he hears other kids cuss (and in fact, uses the word “cuss”) and misbehave. He doesn’t yet have a smartphone and is not even so into video games and the most important thing on his mind is sports. And I’m grateful that he still thinks I’m pretty cool, despite the fact that I’m totally clueless about sports! He’s still talking about the Warriors game I took him to when they visited in April, despite the fact that they lost the game and we were in the nose-bleed way, way upper deck seats. Those tickets (as expensive as they were at the time) feel totally worth it. Aidan got kind of obsessed with my FitBit over the weekend and insisted on wearing it most of the weekend while running around. It turned out to be my most active weekend in a while (ha ha!). He tried to convince me that he was “helping me” get to my step goals and I should leave the FitBit behind with him. Oh how I wish that somehow delegating exercise could be an option!
I’m from New England and one of the things I miss about living there is autumn. In some ways, fall can’t help but be a downer. Summer is over, the days are getting darker and colder and winter looms. But, in New England, the consolation prize is the exploding kaleidoscope of colors that nature treats us to before winding down for winter. It’s a bit harder to appreciate the change of seasons here in the Bay Area—the changes are more subtle. We don’t have the colorful falls, hot sultry days of summer, burst of daffodils and tulips welcoming spring, or snow. Instead, we have the hills changing color from bright green in the spring (when we have a rainy winter!) to golden yellow as the summer comes and fog creeps in over the summer, to make August one of the colder months, a notable difference to hot humid east coast August. Winter is not much of a winter here. The days and nights get colder in winter and natives here will complain bitterly about how cold it is, but I usually can still get away with wearing sandals and a fleece most of the winter. I don’t really miss New England snow (you can always drive to Tahoe!) or the sizzling humid summers. But, ah, fall colors—I do miss those. They remind me of home and family. Still, I’ve gotten used to fall in the Bay Area and last weekend I had a lovely fall weekend. Saturday night I joined friends for a sunset cruise on San Francisco Bay. It was a perfect night—not too cold, perfectly clear—uncharacteristically so for foggy San Francisco Bay. A friend of mine organizes this outing every year. And its more than just a cruise. Think picnic/potluck on the Bay, with table cloths, delicious food, wine combined with amazing 360 degree views from the Bay—San Francisco in the distance, the East Bay, Sausalito, Alcatraz and Angel Islands and of course, the Golden Gate Bridge. We cruised from Tiburon harbor just before sunset and with the water being so calm, the captain added the special treat of taking us out under the Golden Gate Bridge. Anyone who knows me, knows how much I love the Golden Gate Bridge. It takes my breath away whenever I see. I will even redirect my travel just to go over the bridge. It’s become symbolic to me not only of the city I love but of my life here, which I don’t take for granted. Every time I see it I am filled with awe and gratitude. Gratitude for being able to live in such a wonderful place. Well, seeing it from the vantage of below, with the moon above, the lights twinkling was just incredibly special. What a great night. On Sunday, I met up with Victoria and Luis and their kids Eleanor and Sebastian for an apple picking outing. We started with breakfast in Capitola, near Santa Cruz on the beach and then found a great apple orchard in Watsonville. We had a great time. Eleanor is now almost four and is turning into such a great kid–so engaged and fun and such a wonderful big sister to her little brother. And Sebastian is just such a sweetheart and the apple of my eye (forgive the bad apple pun!)—he just makes my heart melt every time I see him. He’s not quite talking yet but you can just tell that when he starts talking, that kid is going to have a lot to tell you! I’d say that the kids weren’t so enthralled with the apple picking part, but the tractor ride, apple popsicles and chasing the farm chicken through the orchard were big hits! It was a lot of fun and now I’m off to make some applesauce today from my load of apples.
I just got back from a two week work trip to Washington DC and New York, for a series of meetings and conferences. Although I was looking forward to some of the conferences and seeing colleagues and friends, this felt like a long trip and part of me was dreading it too. As much as I love travelling, lately I’ve been in nesting mode and find myself just wanting to hang out at home rather than hauling around luggage between hotels and cities. All that said, it wound up being a fun trip. Best of all, I had a bit of free time in between work events and so managed to squeeze in a few visits with old friends from grad school. While in DC, I visited with my friend Noelle and her kids Aidan and Keira again. It was a short trip, but we managed to play a rousing game of Monopoly. (As an aside, can you believe there’s a version of Monopoly now where Park Place, Marvin Gardens and the other properties have been replaced by online “properties” like Yahoo and Disney! And the silver show show and top hat that you move around the board is now an Angry Bird. Boy did I feel old fashioned!). Keira was very proud of her stuffed Bodhi, which I had given her after her visit in April, where she fell in love with my Bodhi (the real one!). After DC, I was in New York City for the weekend. I visited with my friend Jen her daughter, another Kira! Jen, Noelle and I were best buds in grad school. I was so struck by how much their Keira/Kira’s look and act like them — little Jen and Noelle “mini-me’s!” Check out the old photo below of the three of us on vacation in Spain while in grad school (circa 1998?) and the pictures of each of their girls. Guess which kid and Mom go together?
I also got to see my friends Zemer and Coleen and their “mini-me’s” Benjamin and Lena. We spent a nice Sunday exploring the Chelsea and lower east side. We had a nice walk on The High Line, visited the new Whitney Museum of American Art and got to experience the all-plant “I can’t believe it’s not meat” Impossible Burger at Momofuku. Not to mention ice cream and cupcakes to round out the day. It was a really fun Sunday.
There was something so lovely about seeing these friends who I first got to know when we were in our 20s, as parents with kids, families and accomplished careers. I love seeing them with their little “mini-me’s” and getting to know their kids, though truthfully, these moments are also bittersweet. There’s a part of me , when seeing friends and their kids all together, that does get a bit sad and wistful for a child of my own. I have friends who have told me that they worried that it must be hard to spend time with them and their kids, that it might make me sad. And some who have worried about inviting me to events with lots of kids and parents, like birthday parties, wondering whether I might feel uncomfortable. I feel lucky to have friends who are so thoughtful and considerate about my feelings but what I tell them all is that I really don’t want people worrying about me and certainly, don’t want friends to think they should avoid exposing me to their kids. Being with kids of course reminds of what I’m missing and longing for. I’d be lying if I said that sometimes it doesn’t hurt. But that’s not the overwhelming feeling. I don’t want to spend my life or this time waiting in a child-free bubble. More often when I’m having fun with your kids and seeing you being great parents, I’m reminded, in a positive way, of why all of this effort, angst and waiting is going to be worth it. Being with your kids is actually motivating and confirming of what I know in my heart to be true, that I want a child as the center of my world too. It reminds me of how much I love kids and what a great Mom I am going to strive to be. I’ve found that one of the hardest things about this adoption waiting limbo is keeping it feeling real and tangible. After you get past the point of all the research, forms, interviews, putting together websites and letters and the like, it feels like there’s just time and waiting. You spend time updating websites and checking your phone and email accounts hoping for a call, but as the days and weeks and months go by, its become harder and harder to feel that this is all real and that something is happening while I’m here in waiting. For me, spending time with kids, my friends and their families has honestly been a lifeline in this waiting limbo. Being around your kids has kept me sane and feeling connected and has given me hope and inspiration.
I should say that I know from conversations with other waiting adoptive parents that not everyone feels this way about being around kids. Some parents-in-waiting do find it painful to be around kids and do avoid situations with kids or families. While that’s not been true for me, I certainly respect those feelings and can see where they come from. What I would say as advice to folks who have friends who are waiting to adopt (or for that matter, friends who are trying to conceive and grow their family in other ways) is that the best approach is just to ask your friend what they prefer. You can ask them how they are doing. Ask them whether being with your kids makes them uncomfortable. Ask them how you can help and support them. Don’t be afraid to bring up the issue. Trust me, your asking and bringing up the issue won’t be anymore of a reminder or trigger than not asking, and more likely, they will appreciate your thinking of them.
Wow! It’s been awhile since I’ve had a stork sighting and this week suddenly storks are everywhere! There’s a new animated movie called Storks and the ads are everywhere I look. I’m in NYC this week and I even rode in a yellow cab with a big Storks movie banner on its roof. I’m taking this as a good sign…
This week Bodhi and I celebrated his birthday. Bodhi got a birthday dog cookie and a new chew toy which he promptly chewed to bits and we took a sunset walk at Point Isabel, one of our favorite local dog parks. It’s actually more accurate to say that this is our anniversary, since I don’t know Bodhi’s real birthday and I count back to the day we found each other at the local animal rescue. That was three years ago and I always wonder who rescued who. The day I met Bodhi, I was just coming off of a few difficult and stressful weeks culminating in one day that just felt shattering. I had been dealing with some very disappointing news and was feeling very sad, alone and regretful. I remember crying a lot that night. But after that dark night, when I woke that morning, something in me said “today’s the day you find your dog.” I had been thinking about getting a dog for sometime, starting around the time my Mom died, a few years back. But somehow the timing and situation never seemed right. But that morning was fate. I woke up drove over to the rescue to get there when they opened and there he was, this little guy curled up in his bed, looking up at me with his big brown eyes. I knew he was “the one” instantly. Bodhi is named after the Bodhi tree, the tree under which the Buddha found enlightenment. I often joke that Bodhi was meant to be my little enlightened zen dog. Well, I’m not sure if “zen” is a word that anyone who’s met this little dynamo would use to describe him, but he has, in many ways, brought some touch of enlightenment to my life. Through Bodhi, I’ve learned to let go, slow down and be more present and in the moment. I used to rush when I walked and bolt out the door for work every morning. Bodhi is a sniffer and every blade of grass and every dog he encounters is worthy of a sniff. With him, the world just slows down and I pay attention more to the little things. With Bodhi, I never come home in a bad mood. Any stress or worry I’m carrying around melts away when I open the front door and there is this little guy wagging his tail madly, bouncing up and down, so happy to see me. I’ve learned that dog people are great people. I’ve met so many interesting, kind and generous people at dog parks and on walks. People who love their little furballs are generally good people. Bodhi’s taught me about being a kinder and more open person, to look on the bright side. To trust more and judge less. Or as the bumper sticker on my car says “Wag more, bark less.” Bodhi holds no grudges or regrets. For Bodhi, every day is a new day and every walk is a new adventure. Most of all, I’ve learned about the expansiveness of love. Bodhi loves everyone. Well, everyone except postmen, UPS truck drivers and squirrels. I love Bodhi with all my heart. He makes me smile and laugh every day and has brought more joy to my life than I could have ever anticipated. I can’t imagine my life without this fifteen pound fuzz ball and am so glad he came into my life when he did. Bodhi has been my constant companion throughout this adoption process. Going through the adoption process really tests your personal resilience and your willingness to believe. Whether you’re in a couple or single, it’s a tough process, but going through this alone, as a single person, is just particularly hard and can feel terribly lonely, even with my many lovely friends and supporters rooting me on. But having this little guy to cuddle and love and seeing how much he loves me has helped me not feel so alone. Stepping into the adoption process is a giant leap of faith. You place all your bets on hope and luck and the faith that somewhere out there, there is a child waiting for you. It’s a lot to believe in and hope for but knowing that Bodhi and I found one another just when our time was right, helps me believe that this, too, will work out and that someday Bodhi and I will both have a new baby at home to love.
Check out some of my favorite photos of Bodhi. I’m totally biased, of course, but I think he’s just the cutest dog ever!
It’s funny how sometimes the universe speaks to you in mysterious ways. Yesterday, I had two unexpected experiences where I feel like I really learned something about the value of openness and vulnerability.
For the first incident, it was the end of my day and I was chatting on the phone with a work colleague who I know fairly well and consider a friendly acquaintance. I hadn’t seen her in quite a while and we were catching up, mostly about work related things, with a bit of professional gossip thrown in. We were checking in a bit on how we were doing work-wise and personally, but I hadn’t intended to tell her about my adoption plans. My adoption journey is something that I haven’t shared with many people in my professional life. I’ve kept this part of my life private, sharing it selectively. It’s not at all about shame or fear or worry about potential repercussions for my career, but more just because I am naturally a very private person. Key people at work are in the know about my adoption plans and they are very supportive, but I try hard to keep my private life separate from my professional. It’s a level of balance that works for me. So back to the conversation with this work friend, from catching up about professional stuff and changes in her work life, we drifted into the realm of more personal and then there came a moment where it just seemed right to open up about my adoption plans. She herself adopted her son and is a single Mom, so I think that had something to do with it. I’ve also been recently feeling more and more stressed and anxious about being in this “waiting limbo” and somehow, I think I just needed to unload with someone who would understand, where I could be vulnerable and open up. We ended up talking for ages. The office cleared out, lights went dark and there we were still talking and soon I was crying on the phone—and somehow this was a much needed catharsis for the stress that I had been carrying around. It was a really good conversation, uplifting and reassuring when I needed it.We talked about adoption and being a single Mom, about the parts that are hard and the parts that open your heart. And remarkably this letting go, opening up and being vulnerable when I didn’t expect it or plan it, managed to put me more at ease than I’ve felt in a long while.
The second experience happened right after, on my way home. I was waiting for my train and was scrolling through Facebook and my eye caught on a post from a friend that mentioned adoption. I’m not sure why this friend posted about adoption. I don’t know whether there’s a personal connection but she’s a pretty prolific poster about all sorts of things. The post was titled “Shame is sticky“and was from a blog written by a woman named Marci Glass. In it Marci tells her her adoption story–having been placed for adoption as child 48 years ago, finding and trying to reconnect with her birthmother but being rebuffed, and now trying to come to terms with the situation that her birthmother does not want to reconnect.
I found myself just so struck and moved by Marci’s blog post, this random post that popped up on Facebook page on a night I was feeling vulnerable and open. She writes so honestly about her longing and sadness, and hers is a moving and heart-breaking story. She makes very clear that the heartbreak she feels is not because of the adoption which she respects and expresses gratitude for, but rather the heartbreak comes from the loss and shame that she feels in her mother’s decision not to be open to meeting her. She writes:
I completely support her decision in 1968 to place me for adoption. I am, quite literally, the woman I am today because of that decision, and I am so grateful she gave me life and gave me up…I am quite certain that shame is at the root of why she won’t meet me now…for my birthmother, shame appears to have silenced her and is keeping her from speaking to me and speaking to her family about me. As I am navigating the discovery of my own story, I’m learning how “sticky” shame is in my life. I do not feel shame about being adopted. It’s been a gift in my life. I do not feel shame for having been born. Yet as I navigate the places her shame requests my silence, I feel her shame trying to cloud over my life too, making me feel that I can’t claim my story, trying to keep me from asking questions, meeting my family, etc.
In what she writes, you could really feel the hurt child, even now, so many decades on. And It really reinforced for me what it feels like not only for the child who is adopted but for the adult that child becomes. It made me think again about what I would want for my own child, what I would want them to be able to know about where they came from and how I would want them to feel good about themselves and their story, the history I would want them to have access to and the family they are always going to be part of in some way. Her story became even more poignant when I learned, scrolling through her blog to an earlier post (a post about her conflicted views on Mothers Day) that not only was she adopted, but she also placed a son for adoption when she was a college student. She talks about her relationship with her first born son (whom she placed in an open adoption and has remained in contact with) and writes about him with such obvious pride and love. She tells us that she later married and had two more sons, who also have been able to get to know first born son. She talks about how placing her first son for adoption — a decision she does not regret— has made her a better, more devoted mother to her other sons. And so, she really lives both sides—as a child who was adopted and a mother who placed her child for adoption.
After reading Marci’s story and her experiences, from both sides, it made me even more committed to wanting to insure that my child will have the opportunity and the gift of knowing his/her family history and birthparents. I know you can’t always control what happens but it made me even more committed to doing my part to approach our mutual adoption story with openness. Reading Marci’s story and feeling vicariously, through her, her birthmother’s shame also made me even more sympathetic to how hard all this is for the mothers who give birth and place their children for adoption. I’m really grateful to have stumbled on her blog (thanks, Universe and Facebook!) and Marci’s story. I hope you too have a chance to read her blog. Her openness and her willingness to be so honest, vulnerable and open in putting this all out there has been a real gift of insight for me—here from a stranger who whose post randomly wound up in my Facebook feed.
Last week was a really busy week at work, and I was feeling pretty bedraggled by the time Friday rolled around. Having been away quite a lot this summer, I was glad to have a weekend at home, just hanging out and seeing friends. It turned out to be a great weekend, just the sort of ordinary but extraordinary weekend that I love. Friday night I had a friend from grad school visiting who I hadn’t seen in a really long time. We hadn’t seen it each other for years somehow and it was really fun to reconnect, catch up and reminisce on where life had taken us. We took Bodhi out for a walk and had Indian food in my neighborhood. Saturday, I met up with my friend Judy for a hike with Bodhi at Point Pinole and lunch at my local neighborhood beer garden. Bodhi loves Judy and he got to lap up the attention and treats, not to mention an outing to one of his favorite hiking trails. Saturday evening, my friends John and Lisa came over for dinner—take-out sushi and my favorite Strauss chocolate ice cream for dessert. Bodhi got to beg some more treats from John and Lisa and test out a few more laps for snuggling. (Let’s just say it was a good weekend for Bodhi too!). Sunday I met a friend for brunch in San Francisco and then spent some time in the garden, potting some new plants and plotting out a landscaping project I have been dreaming about. I even managed to get in a short nap on the hammock and caught the sunset with Bodhi on our evening walk tonight. It’s been a pretty great weekend.
My friend Noelle just sent me a story that her daughter Keira (6) wrote after their family trip to visit me in April. My favorite part (which had me baffled for a bit) was the “I saw popes that were my favorite color Orange.” Hmmm. Berkeley and San Francisco have their share of eccentric sites but I didn’t remember any orange popes. But then I realized that we saw lots of the orange California poppies on one of our hikes!