Posts tagged Kristen Howerton

Love Hope

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On the final afternoon of our adoption trip to Ethiopia, we participated in a goodbye ceremony, after which we would be bringing Tariku home for good. Never again would we have to leave him.

By that time, I was beyond exhausted. My spirit of adventure was wearing thin and I was so ready to just be holding my baby in his green bedroom, surrounded by all my groovy baby shower swag. I wanted Whole Foods and clean water and my own sheets and not to have to wait three hours for everything or pass by burning trash every time I walked out the door

During the ceremony, the adoptive families held hands around the living room of the orphanage, while the nannies held the children in the center of the circle and said a few words about each of them. Tariku, looking wide-eyed and confused, wore a little traditional pantsuit, with an embroidered Ethiopian cross on the shirt. He clung to his favorite nanny Fantu.

A translator interpreted, as Fantu said, “Tariku is such a happy boy. He loves to dance when we sing to him. Every day he makes me laugh. You are very lucky. I will miss him. God bless you all.”

She handed him to me, with tears streaming down her cheeks.

Each child put their little hand in a tray of blue paint and left a handprint in a book swollen with pages and pages of these goodbyes. The ceremony was wonderful and moving and sad. At the end, the older children stood in a group and sang some traditional songs, as well as a rousing version of “Old MacDonald.”

E-I-E-I-O, they sang, as my heart fell into my stomach. A fancy grocery store? Nice sheets? I was such an asshole. Those smiling, singing kids were going to, once again in their lives, watch the babies leave with their forever families and then turn around and walk back upstairs to their row of cots.

When the plane left the ground the next day and Tariku was asleep in my arms, I took in a big gulp of air- my first real breath since I had seen his picture three months before. But as soon as the relief had settled into my bones, I felt an acute ache to return.

Our adoption gave us more than the family we were longing for; it also allowed us to experience our interconnectedness with people halfway around the globe, the permeability of the membranes between our lives. Since then, Scott and I have been trying to finagle a return trip. We often wonder- what can we do to work toward a world in which children are not orphaned by poverty? The answers are not always easy. Like a lot of people, we are sometimes overwhelmed and confused by the choices. How can we do the most good in a conscious and respectful way? Is there something we can do beyond writing a check? Is there some greater understanding we can gain, some more immediate action we can take?

Imagine how completely thrilled I was when an opportunity to do exactly this came and knocked on my door, in the form of an invitation to go on the Love Hope Storyteller Ethiopia Trip, with Help One Now. As soon as I learned more about this remarkable organization, I jumped at the chance. We leave in two weeks and I can barely wait.

Our group of artists, storytellers and influencers will have the opportunity to visit the town of Gunchire (Gun-CHEER-ee) in southern Ethiopia. In Gunchire, Help One Now is dedicated to work very close to my heart— orphan prevention. Using a sponsorship model, Help One Now is bringing aid to families who would otherwise be in danger of dissolving due to extreme poverty. Without help, the children of these families will wind up being more sweet faces next to the ones I saw singing at the orphanage.

We have a wildly exciting travel group, including my friend and hero, Rage Against the Minivan’s Kristen Howerton; author, house fixer-upper, rabble rouser and mom extraordinaire Jen Hatmaker; and the very lovely “Commander of Ducks,” Korie Robertson. I promise, we will not bore you!

I’m so excited to go back to the land that gave Scott and me our life’s greatest miracle and so captured our hearts in the process. I’m going to go meet the people of Gunchire and learn about the essential community development work happening there. I’ll be reporting back from the trenches the whole time. I hope you’ll come with me in spirit and hear their stories.

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#$%@ People Say To Transracial Families…

Kristen Howerton, Deborah Swisher and I got together with our clans one Sunday and made a little video about the #$%@ that gets said to us every day at the mall, the playground, heck, on our front yards! Being in a transracial family is a very visible way to walk through the world. I look at dumb remarks as a chance to advocate for adoption and to educate people who are usually well-intentioned, but insensitive. This video is in that same spirit. Plus, we had a blast making it. Hope you enjoy it. If you do, please circulate it!

Bloggy Playdate

Sunday we had a playdate with my blog-friend-turned-real-life-friend Kristen and her amazing brood.

The only danger of hanging out with Kristen is that I immediately want three more children. She and Mark are so graceful about the whole thing that it looks like a completely reasonable option. In reality, I got cold feet about a year and a half ago about our second adoption process and it’s been in limbo ever since. I actually touched base with the agency yesterday and asked them to keep our paperwork on hold for another six months.

I just don’t know, folks. I feel so inadequate most of the time, especially when faced with Tariku’s challenges and needs. I feel like I need to get a better handle on this mothering thing before I add another little being to the equation. But is that completely delusional? Will I ever feel like I have a handle on it? For now I’m checking the undecided box and just crashing the party of Kristen’s big family once in a while.

It’s definitely challenging and overwhelming for Tariku to be around more than one friend at a time. In all, I think he did beautifully. I really saw him trying to figure out how to participate and be kind.

The nice thing about hanging out with some of the other adoptive families I know is that there’s so much less explaining and apologizing to do. They get it. They get that my kid didn’t have parents for a while at a crucial time in his development. It has repercussions We’re working it out. We’re healing. We’re doing great, actually. But our version of doing great looks different that it does for kids who have had a typical attachment cycle in the first three years of life.

I’ve learned so much about all of this- attachment, adoption, parenting, faith, love, community- from my blogger friends. They’ve made me feel less alone on many desperately sad and scared nights. I’m not someone who generally goes to blogging conferences (yet), so it’s a special treat for me to hang out in the flesh with one of my fave blogging moms. One of my fave moms period.

Sometimes I question what I write on this blog. Does anyone really care about my kid’s day out at the beach? Am I engaged in a navel-gazing waste of time when I should be working on an article or another book? And then I remember why I do everything I do- books, plays, blogs, whatever- I do it to connect. And I’ve connected to so much that I value in my life through blogging. I was reminded of that on Sunday.

What You Can Do: Link

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A few weeks ago, my friend Kristen at Rage Against the Minivan blogged about actions all of us (particularly people who aren’t in a position to adopt) can take to address the global orphan crisis. I woke up thinking about it this morning so I thought I’d share the link to her amazing and solution-oriented post.

Here’s an excerpt:

I’ve written pretty passionately about the global orphan situation recently, and several commenters asked: “What can I do if I’m not in a position to adopt?”

I’m so glad you asked.

Adoption is not for everyone. Nor is it the answer to the world’s orphan crisis. In the best of circumstances, adoption creates a loving family for a child who has been orphaned. But it does not address the root causes of why a child has been abandoned or orphaned to begin with. It is a band-aid on a much larger problem. It is estimated that 99% of the world’s orphans will not be adopted. Adoption is an answer for some orphaned children . . . but not for most of them.

There are two sides to the orphan crisis: finding families for children without, and preserving families that are intact. Prevention is the side that is not addressed by adoption. If we profess to care about orphans, then we must care about the circumstances that lead children to be orphaned. If we care about adoption, then we must care about seeing less children enter orphanages to begin with…

Too Dorky For My Playlist

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After about ten years of working out to the 8 Mile soundtrack, my LA Marathon goal has finally inspired me to put a new workout playlist together. I’m not the kind of person who gets aggro and works out to death metal. I prefer to get extremely dorky and cheery. I thought I’d share with you my top ten. This goes out to all my fave running mom bloggers (Kristen, Christine, Tyler when you get back on your feet…).

A special holler to Jamie Ivey, who’s running the Chosen half-marathon for adoption this Saturday.

Warning: if you are allergic to eighties rollerskating music, major chords or show tunes, turn back now. That means you, honey.

1. “Don’t Stop Believin’” by Journey. Shameless inspiration.
2. “Milkshake” by Kelis. Makes me feel sassy about hauling my big tush around the track.
3. “Fire Woman” by The Cult. Oh Ian, how I loved thee back in the day. Hair extensions and all.
2. “Champion” by Kanye West. Obvious, but effective.
3. “Hey Ya” by Outcast. The perfect running beat.
4. “Bette Davis Eyes” by Kim Carnes. I like to picture roller skates on my feet.
5. “Let’s go Crazy” by Prince and the Revolution. Classic.
6. “Shiny Happy People” by REM. The cheerier the better.
7. “Riding on the Metro” by Berlin. Almost as good as a trip to Paris.
8. “Centerfold” by The J. Geils Band. Perhaps not as resonant if you never had the treat of seeing yourself in a magazine with a staple in your navel.
9. “Burnin’ for You” by Blue Oyster Cult. Reminds me of the juke box at a Jersey diner.
10. “Lose Yourself” by Eminem. No need to throw the baby out with the bathwater.

Optional mega dork selection:
1. “Defying Gravity” from the Wicked soundtrack. Did I just admit that?

Ragin’ With You, My Sister

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Besides having the best name in the world, Kristen Howerton’s blog, Rage Against the Minivan, is one of my adoption touchstones. They re-aired her appearance on The View today and her blog post about all the things she wishes she had said is a mind blower.

Here’s a tidbit:

I wanted to talk about the deficits that we will have as a white couple raising black children. I wanted to compare it to a single mom raising boys . . . how we will need help from others. I wanted to talk about how painful it can be as a parent to know that, while I can empathize, I will never fully understand my sons’ experiences as African Americans, or as transracial adoptees. I wanted to talk about how every adoptive parent needs to suck up their pride and admit that we can’t do it alone.

I wanted to talk about how much I have learned from reading the writings of adult adoptees, and how their experiences of loss and isolation inform me as a parent, and also break my heart.

I wanted to talk about the persistent question I hear asking why people adopt internationally instead of taking care of “our own kids” in the US. I wanted to talk about how every child, in every nation, is deserving of a family, not just American children. I wanted to say how petty I find this question.