The first step is to penetrate the clouds of deceit and distortion and learn the truth about the world,
then to organize and act to change it. That's never been impossible and never been easy. ~Noam Chomsky

Friday, July 29, 2011


There's all this...stuff...going on in our home right now. Good and bad stuff. Complicated twisty turny stuff.

In the midst of it all I received my last SH.APE magazine.
Several years ago, in an epic poor decision making moment, J and I agreed to buy a subscription from this dear teenage door to door salesman. J is a huge sucker for these young salesmen. Which I find sweet and endearing. It's a recipe for neither of us being able to say no.

Anyway, we agreed to this subscription, it was super cheap, and ever since then we've had a lovely stock of SH.APE magazines sitting next to our toilet.

So yesterday I was looking at my last magazine and the cover was hidden by a big announcement stating "THIS IS YOUR LAST CHANCE TO RENEW & SAVE BEFORE SERVICE INTERRUPTION." Naturally I took this as a moment to stop and quite seriously consider whether or not I need to renew.

Flipping through the magazine I realized that there was not one headline, not one article, not even one word that I found relevant to my life right now. Honestly who reads this stuff?

"Banish the Breakup Blues: Put down the ice cream and soothe your soul the healthy way." Sure. Like anyone suffering through a breakup is going to want to read SH.APE magazine or listen to its advice.

"Stilleto Survival Guide." I didn't think anyone outside of Se.x and the City actually wore those.

"415 calories burned while cutting your lawn with a HAND-POWERED mower." What is a hand-powered mower?? There must be better and more technologically relevant ways to burn 415 calories!

"Move over surfing, stand-up paddling is taking over." Sure. I'll get right on that.

My favorite section: Shape Your Life Women in Action. A guide for Shaking things up. Sounded promising. But these are the categories of advice: "unleash a new you", "bust an entertainment rut", and "become miss popularity." That's exactly what I need: a total makeover, the stress of hosting huge parties at my house, and the pressure of trying to be the most popular woman in the room.

A.udrina P.atridge was the featured interviewee. She is a reality tv star. She wants us to know that she only washes her hair twice each week but it still looks shiny and perfect, she "plays" instead of working out, and when she really wants to splurge she eats frozen yogurt with lots of fruit....

Here are some other topics covered in this issue: how to get a better fake glow, lip stain that will last 8 hours, how to squeeze in a workout but not a shower, and how to assess whether or not your dog is overweight.

The verdict? Not renewing the subscription. And keeping SH.APE as a bathroom-only read. ;)


Thursday, July 28, 2011

I've been trying to think of how to say this...

I didn't write the post to whip up a storm of controversy or discussion. Although that's not a bad thing.
I wrote it because it was in my heart and memory.

I think, and this could just be speculation, that despite food and sponsorship, this woman desperately wants to relinquish her son. She's come to the very edge and that was the decision she wanted to make. But because he wasn't desireable in the eyes of the orphanage, he was not received for adoption.

I so get both sides of this. I get it that family preservation should be encouraged as a first response. And I get that the orphanage director feared raising this little boy. But I also saw the desperation of the mother, her desire to give him something else, hopefully something better. She walked away with money for food but her face said she hadn't found her answer.

Thank you to everyone who offered up sponsorship. I haven't gotten back to any of you. I'm concerned about linking you with the orphanage's family preservation program right now. They haven't gotten back to me in response to my questions. So for now we'll wait. If there comes a time when I feel confident that I can connect you with a great program, or even one of you with Dani's sponsorship, I'll be in touch.


Monday, July 11, 2011

The Birthmother: The thin line between relinquishment and abandonment

The story I'm about to tell is already 40 days old.
It took place during my search for Ariam's birthmother in a town about 40 minutes outside of Addis Ababa.
My van, filled with key players related to Ariam's story that I had gathered for the day, stopped at the small office of the local ministry of women's affairs. As things generally play out when I'm in Ethiopia (or anywhere in east Africa), I didn't have a clue what was going on.

Maybe I wish I had said no. Maybe I wish I had stayed in the van. But I don't have the option of going back and changing anything about that day.


I watched a mother try to relinquish her son today. I watched him reach up a small hand and hold it to the back of her neck. I watched her reach back reflexively to cover his little fingers, accustomed to their pattern of touch. She didn't realize that while her words said "I need to give him up" her actions said "but I love him, I do."

I watched a mother come to the end of her road, no longer able to walk the path of caring for a son with such obvious challenges ahead.

She stood outside the office door, summoned for her consultation. For an hour the women around her discussed, analyzed, negotiated. Sometimes they would close their circle of voices and leave her on the outside and other times the circle would open and she'd be called back in.

Would some money for medicine help? What about sponsorship? Could the orphanage director take him?

When the final pronouncement was made it was a no. Nobody would take the little boy with Down Syndrome because there would only be a life in an orphanage - no family would want to adopt him.

I watched a mother crack wide open. For just a minute the flood of fear burst through her composed exterior. She bent over double and I recognized that reflex our body does before it gets sick. Wracking sobs, the cries of a heartbroken widow, a scared and tired young mother who has carried her love on her back for two years but who can't walk a step further with him.

I wonder silently if she has seen other children adopted and has a daydream for Dani - that he will go to another country where she could imagine that he was living and thriving. Or if she has not thought about adoption at all and just needs to say a final goodbye, no matter what happens after.

She begs. I watch a mother beg. She's unwrapped him from her back and shifts him from arm to arm while she cries and alternates between holding him out and holding him close. After an hour of discussion, she stands straight, she closes her expression. She wraps him back onto her back and readies herself to leave.

It is clear to all from her words (they say she said "I just want to leave him here, go far far away and never look back") that he will be left. Maybe tonight, maybe a week, or maybe a year from now. But he will be left and he doesn't even know it. With innocence he has giggled through this soul altering crisis today. He doesn't know he will be left, but we do.

Pardon her expression - she was sniffing back tears. She wasn't trying to look so angry as far as I could tell.


This little boy's name is Dani (Daniel.) He was born with Down Syndrome to a mother who has a 6 year old daughter and who recently lost her husband. She is very obviously depressed. The ministry officials say she is "disturbed" but I think they mean depressed. Or maybe they do mean mentally disturbed. I think I would be if I were in her position.

Her husband died, she ran out of money and medicine and brought Dani to relinquish him. The orphanage director I was with was asked to bring her two social workers to the ministry's office to discuss the situation. Her pronouncement was that "there are no adoptive parents who would want this child." They are seeking a sponsor for the family. If you are reading this and feel so moved please leave me a comment. I think sponsorship is about $35/month. The orphanage director is funding the sponsorship for now but her funding is limited. Long term support will be needed if the mother does not abandon Dani.

I asked if sponsorship would make the difference between family preservation and abandonment in this case and they are unsure. Efforts will be made. But the consensus was that most likely the child will be left.

It is one of the biggest tragedies in international adoption - that the children who could most benefit from an adoptive family in a resource rich country like the U.S. will most likely not be the ones who get adopted. When I told the orphanage director that I thought some families in the U.S. might be interested in adopting a child with Down Syndrome she looked shocked and skeptical. That has not been her experience. Our daughter was the only child she's ever seen adopted after being diagnosed with a medical need. She could not take Dani and risk having to raise him in her orphanage for 18+ years.

So he will be left at the doors of the ministry most likely. Because apparently that is what happens in cases like this. And I have no idea what will happen to him then.  I assume he will disappear over time. Or he will remain with his birth mother and disappear over time unless she gets a lot more support to keep him and care for him.

I'm asked often how I feel about Ethiopian adoptions. I really have no answers, only complicated stories.

*It was agreed by all that I would take photos and post them online. The photos above don't quite capture the situation but I could not bring myself to photograph some of the more intense moments.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Just Too Much

Do you ever feel like you have so much to say that you just don't know where to start?
I feel overwhelmed with everything that's happened since June 1st.

We searched for Ariam's birth family. And we found something. A lot of things. But it wasn't what we expected and it has sort of turned my world upside down. How to write about that while protecting my daughter's privacy?

I watched a mother try to relinquish her 2 year old son with Down's Syndrome. I watched her heart break. How to write about that?

I am uncertain if we can/should/could/would ever adopt from Ethiopia again. How to write about that?

I spent a weekend with other blogging mamas. I giggled in a hotel room until well after my bedtime. It was fantastic. I guess I could write about it, but the first three topics nag at me and prevent me from writing anything happy or flippant

Cassidy is gone and there is a 38 pound furry liver and white hole in our home.

Summer feels like it's halfway over.

Ariam is turning 2. But not really. Because really she's already 2. Easy enough to deal with this year but how to explain that in the future??

We went to the 4th of July picnic at the Ethiopian church in our town. It was amazing. Ariam was amazing. She loves injera. She loves Ethiopians. She loves bouncy houses. It's so much fun to watch her have fun.

Up, down. Up, down. Emotions all over the place.
There's something else kind of big brewing but I think it's another topic I just can't post about until there is some resolution. Hopefully in the next couple of weeks.

And that is my "it's all just too much" post for today. Tell you all, but telling nothing really.
If it weren't for the first couple of topics I'd probably just launch into some nice stories about our summer. So how do you handle that when you absolutely have to blog about something serious but cannot find the words to start?