Archive for May, 2010

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no Eddie

May 21, 2010

I just finally, finally, finally got an email from our excellent Adopt America Network worker. The good news Eddie’s workers have decided on another family for him. I’m thrilled that he’ll have a permanent home and really hope that it’s local to him so that he can be in touch with some of his siblings.

I have no idea where we go from here. I don’t know how I’ll feel. Right now it’s relief that we know what’s going on. It’s happiness for him that he’s got someone there to look out for him, because news had not been good on that front. (Right now it’s full awareness that if I have to hear about how “things happen for a reason and this must not have been the right time” I’m going to want to kick some ass.)

Okay, right now it’s that I’m a little bit weepy because Lee just called to ask how I was. We both feel the same way, relieved that he’s going somewhere. That’s the important point, not that we were judged again and found inadequate again. (And it doesn’t really feel that way to me, or not yet. I mean, we can be great people and still not be great FOR HIM, and that’s the part that matters.)

So anyway, we’re still doing something. I’m sad for the imaginary version of Eddie I had who would walk the dog with us and play sports at the local school and eat at our dining room table, but I’m happier that the flesh-and-blood version is getting a permanent home. I hope so much that it will be good for him. And maybe someday there will be someone for us, but at least I’ll eventually go home tonight to the same good, loving home I left this morning. We’ll have each other and we’ll be fine. I hope with all my heart that Eddie will, too.

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on not traveling, but also reunions

May 20, 2010

Lee did NOT in fact travel for her relative’s funeral last weekend. Instead — after a day or so of trying to get on a new flight after major malfunction with her original plan — I got her to myself and we attended our neighbor’s memorial service. (And word to the wise: don’t put your antidepressants in your checked luggage; you may end up spending several days at home while they travel the country without you.)

And I found out today that there’s not going to be a long-term overseas job option for me or for anyone else. There might be an opportunity to travel for a few weeks of the year, maybe a week or two semiannually. I’m actually relieved to hear this, as I really wanted the option to change up my job a bit, but on the other hand I love our home life and don’t want to miss out on too much here. (And since I’m into parentheticals, please note that I haven’t mentioned whether we’ll be parenting Eddie because I have no idea yet; I guess we’ll find out tomorrow.)

But because of this lack of travel, we have other plans for, um, travel. We’ll be taking advantage of the long weekend a week from now to visit Lee’s biological mother, Leah. Basically since my relationship with Lee began, I’ve been subtly and sometimes unsubtly pushing her to be kinder to Leah, to listen to what the other side of the story she was raised with might be. While Lee still feels that any kindness to Leah is an act of betrayal to her now-deceased adoptive mother, she’s made huge strides in understanding and accepting Leah. So now we’ll get to see Leah in her own home, since I don’t think Lee has seen her in about a decade. I’m really excited about this because (at least on the phone) Leah and I get along well, and the bonus is that Leah’s younger daughter, who hasn’t previously had a pseudonym here, will also be able to be there for part of the weekend. We have big plans to keep active at times so things aren’t awkward, but I think there will also be lots of time for me to see in person how Lee’s smile is like her sister’s (which I’ve seen in photos from their visit two years ago and from their childhood) and to let Lee and Leah maybe resolve some of the stress and strain that has plagued them for all these years.

We’re also still in close contact with Lee’s bio half-sister on her biodad’s side, Shasta. Shasta’s daughter Kara turns 12 (I think; she lied on her facebook age and so I’m not sure whether she’s been 12 all year or will be 12 now, and so I just avoided the issue of age when buying her a card!) next week. She’s going to get to spend some time with Shasta and Shasta’s sister (through her mother, so not one of Lee’s blood siblings, and in fact white on both sides of the family) who lives with Shasta now. We sent a card with a very small amount of money, a t-shirt from the college where Lee teaches, and a set of photos that show us and our household — animals and the location. That way, if Kara ends up living with us eventually she’ll have had a head start on visualizing our life, but if she hasn’t she’s not holding anything that would make the grandmother who’s raising her feel threatened by what we’ve sent. It’s a fine line, and we don’t know Kara as well as we’d like to, but we’ve also only known of her for a few months, and it’s sort of amazing to think about all that’s happened in that time.

The last mother/daughter team in our lives is Lee’s student who recently had her baby taken into state custody. We think the child is now living with the student’s ex’s mom, but since the social workers who had the student sign papers didn’t give her copies of those papers, there’s no way to be sure yet. Lee got the student to see a counselor and is doing all she can to help this girl stay stable and do what she can to keep focused on getting her case resolved in a positive way. It really speaks well of her that her first thought after being released from jail was not that she should go out and drown her sorrows but that she’d better get caught up on her schoolwork so she could show she was making an effort there. And she is making an effort, so I hope there will be a payoff for her there.

Lee’s teaching has gotten her in contact with students who are homeless, whose apartments burn down, whose spouses have died during the term, who are considering arranged marriages to hide their sexual orientations, who are getting food stamps to cover their expenses because being on the school sports team keeps them from being able to have a job. (Okay, some of those categories only include one student I know of, but several have included more than one and there may well be more of the others.) Right now, I’m really proud of the sympathy and support she’s showing to this current student. Because Lee’s understanding of her own story is that she was left alone as a baby, it really impresses me that she’s willing to help this student who left her own baby alone get things together so she can have custody of her baby again. I can’t exactly tell Lee this directly, but I think it’s connected to the way she’s forgiving and re-understanding Leah as the years go by.

I think this kind of opening of her heart works in both directions. It’s because she met Dawn‘s daughter’s first mom Pennie that she started having more sympathy for other first mothers and not seeing them through the lens she saw Leah thanks to the stories she was told by her paternal grandmother/adoptive mother. That’s also made it easier to talk to Rowan and LeeLee about their own prior families in a way that was supportive of them. And now she’s able to call Leah on Mothers’ Day and now visit her in her own home, which she hasn’t done since childhood. Things are changing, and I think they’re changing in a good way. I think it’s thanks to blogs, too, and I’m so grateful for that. Whatever else happens, we’re better off in so many ways than we were when we began this process. I remain grateful for that and excited about wherever our travels take us.

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backward/forward

May 19, 2010

According to our AAN worker, the workers in Eddie’s state have agreed to give us their decision by the end of the week. So, yeah, that’s all I know. (And, being me, I wonder whether if they haven’t made a decision by Friday they’ll just boot us on principle and to stick with the schedule, but as usual I have no idea how things really work.)

Sunday marked two years since my first post here. It’s not something I’d bring up around Lee, who’s been getting frustrated that we’ve been at this for two years with no child, especially since I always point out that no, no, it hasn’t been two years yet. And it hasn’t! But it’s been two years since I called the state and said we were interested. Then we spent the rest of that calendar year taking our classes and getting our homestudy written. Then in the next calendar year, we were approved and we were offered a chance to go forward with Ezra (then 6) and decided we couldn’t comfortably meet his needs. We also got to spend time with Rowan (15), who didn’t want to be adopted but is still a part of our lives. In the middle of all of this, we finally got to read our homestudy and realized it was pretty wretched and full of errors but sent it on to Adopt America Network anyway in hopes that they could find a match for us from another state. That’s pretty much where we are now, except that we’re now open as a foster home, something I wish I’d pushed Lee to do at first since we’d have had parenting practice too.

Yesterday I was in a sort of negative mood after reading a blog that annoys me written by someone else who’s waited a long time and hasn’t been matched yet. I mean, it’s easy for me to see reasons why her family might not look like a good placement. It’s easy for me to see that for Lee and me, too. I mean, of course I think we have good qualities that outweigh things like that we’ve both dealt with depression and that I’ve been in an abusive relationship and Lee has changed jobs a lot of times. I don’t know. I think we were really good with Rowan, gave him what he needed and could handle at the time. I know it’s because our homestudy update says that that we’re now a more compelling option for workers hoping to place a child. We no longer just look like weirdo losers whose homestudy social worker hadn’t mastered her native English. I guess.

Maybe if we’re not chosen for Eddie it will be a relief. We’ll still have Lee’s niece Kara perhaps needing a home, but in my sulkiness last night I was able to think about what it would be like to turn the second bedroom back into a room that’s mine, where I can write and rest without the noise of the ever-present television, where I can take my books out of the basement and put them back on the built-ins…. Except of course if we’re not parenting, Lee’s going to want to sell the house and leave (and she wants me to take the temporary foreign job offer if it comes regardless of what else happens in our life, which is not what I’m inclined to do). Giving up on parenting when we hit Lee’s October deadline is not going to resolve anything or change anything for us in a bigger sense.

I guess I’m scared a bit to have all these possibilities. I’m still optimistic. I’m still basically convinced that we’ll hear a yes from Eddie’s state (which is, in itself, scary!) and that we’ll go with that. I still think we could do a great job, that we’ve become better people and better partners through this process and that we have a strong foundation for growth. But I don’t know where this is all going any more than I did two years ago. Maybe that will change soon, but I just don’t know.

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looking for connections

May 12, 2010

I’ve had a lot banging around in my head lately and haven’t managed to make any of it cohere into a major post, so bits and pieces will end up here.

Lee and I have had a few more disagreements lately about whether “things happen for a reason,” though I think to some extent this is just becoming code for all our differences in attitude and belief. At any rate, there’s not a whole lot happening per se in our lives right now, but there are potentials. And there are reasons, though maybe not A Reason.

We haven’t heard any more about Eddie and don’t know whether a meeting about us was held last week or not. Our AAN worker is trying to get information, but neither she nor his recruiting worker (through Wendy’s Wonderful Kids) have been able to get any answers from the team involved. I’m choosing not to take this as a dismissal or a negative sign, but it’s not as encouraging as when messages were being relayed to us regularly.

Lee leaves tomorrow for the West coast, where she’ll be at her great-aunt’s funeral. (She says cousin; the relationship is complicated even without the intrafamily adoption, but the details don’t much matter and are pseudonymized anyway.) She’ll be doing a reading at the funeral service Saturday but on Sunday will get to go to our church’s mother church, where the founder of our church network presides.

I’ll be on funeral duty Saturday, too, as our neighbor who had been in a hospice program for the last few months and dying by degrees for long before that finally did die on Mothers’ Day. I went over to the house where she’d lived with her daughter and son-in-law and their daughter (whose birthday will also be Saturday) and brought a plant for their lovely garden and then Lee showed up and the four or us sat around all evening talking. This memorial service should be very upbeat, as this was a woman who inspired everyone she met and used the time when she knew she was dying to make sure all of us knew how much she loved us.

That neighbor’s name was Leah, the same as Lee’s birthmom. It’s Eddie’s birthmom’s name too. I’m not saying that’s true For A Reason, but it’s true and it’s a connection Lee feels strongly. For the first time ever, she called her mother Leah on Mothers’ Day, said “I love you!” and everything, meant it. She ended up calling back a day later to check that everything was okay where Leah lives in Tornado Alley. Lee partly credits our neighbor Leah for redeeming the name for her, making it easy to have a Leah she could love until she was able to actually love her own Leah and mean that.

Lee says I’m the one who broke down the barriers she’d put up to keep herself separated from her birthmother Leah. She still thinks her adoptive mother, her mom, would have been appalled and offended by this offering of love at Mothers’ Day. I want to believe that’s not the case, that by the time her son Richie (Lee’s biodad) got near the end of his life and his behaviors had escalated to the point where he put one of his own siblings in danger, she’d have realized that he wasn’t always the good guy. Lee’s convinced not, though, and I don’t get to write the story of her experience or her adoption. I’ve already maybe pushed her more than I should have, though it’s had some good results and she understands things differently than she ever did before.

This was another Mothers’ Day when Lee’s youngest bio-half-sibling Shasta didn’t see her 12-year-old daughter Kara, who’s in Shasta’s mother’s custody. Shasta is more and more convinced that things in that household are not going to improve and that her daughter is going to end up in foster care. If that happens, Shasta’s going to make sure the social workers hear ASAP that she has a sister who has an active foster home, which by state policy should push us to the top of the list as a resource for Kara even though we’re not living in-state. And then Shasta will comply with her case plan and be able to regain custody of Kara. Or that’s the hope, at least. Many things could go wrong with that plan but many things are already going wrong in Kara’s current placement and she deserves better. She and Lee have been chatting on facebook and she really does seem like a great kid.

Our worry, though, is that if we’re selected for Eddie, we won’t want to just say that we give up any interest in Kara. It would be way less than ideal to be transitioning a permanent child into our home at the same time we might be bringing Kara in temporarily while Shasta gets her rights back, but we don’t want to drop our willingness to do either thing just because the other might happen. But we have a two-bedroom house right now, so the worst-case scenario is that Lee and I would have to sleep on a fold-out couch in the living room while the two kids would have the two bedrooms upstairs. This is actually doable and would let us keep tabs on them pretty well thanks to the creaky floors, but all of this is way off in potential futures and so I’m not going to be worried about it. Yet.

And much of what’s been muddling me is related to what’s in John Raible’s recent presentation on adoption by LGBT folks. We’re already a visible family by nature of being an interracial same-sex couple, as far as I know the only one in town. Any child in our home will be parented transracially by at least one of us, will thus be extra visible as “other” for that reason. I have absolutely no qualms about bringing Kara into that situation — she’s had to live with other relatives and if she has to live with Aunt Lee and Aunt Lee’s partner Thorn, so be it — and she’d actually be living in a family with someone else who’s black instead of with her one white grandparent. But to put that on another child is difficult, which is why I’m glad it sounds like Eddie would have some say if it got to that point. I think our visibility as gay was one thing that made Rowan uneasy with us (though, as in many things, he was of two minds about it) and I’m glad he, too, had the right to say that we weren’t what he wanted.

Anyway, I’m thinking again about all these things. I’ll be going to church on my own on Sunday, probably, and I’ll be comfortable there even if I am the only atheist and maybe the only white person there. I’ve put in a lot of work not to be accepted but just to do what I felt I could do to be helpful (being there every first Friday of the month to help serve food to people who need a meal, showing up reliably to tutor the kids) and kept on coming. I want to write more about this, and maybe I will after Sunday. For now, though, these are enough snippets and I’d rather be with my partner before she leaves than writing all these things online.

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the family we have

May 5, 2010

No news on Eddie yet. I don’t know whether the staffing actually is taking place this week or whether it’s been rescheduled. I’m choosing not to push our AAN worker about this both because I know she’ll let us know as soon as she knows anything and because I don’t want to encourage Lee to fret about how nothing gets done in a timely manner. Once Lee brings that up on her own, she can contact our worker! What we’ve decided to do in this in-between time is start couples’ counseling. We’ve had our individual counselors over the years, but it seems like a good idea to do some extra work to stabilize us now if there’s some chance that our balance will be shifting this summer.

I’d been planning to have my parents and brothers and brothers’ girlfriends over to our house for Mothers’ Day, since most family events seem to happen at my parents’ instead. That was a great plan, but the youngest brother decided he needs to be driven back to college on Sunday to prepare for his summer job and then on Saturday the oldest brother and his girlfriend have rollerderby obligations starting in the early afternoon and the middle brother is working until late afternoon. Friday is the first Friday of the month, when I go with people from church to serve food to the hungry. So I guess the good news is that my mother thinks this is hilarious and we’re completely off the hook in terms of having to clean/cook/host and yet we still get the credit for organizing festivities!

On Lee’s side of things, a great-aunt of hers died recently (though not unexpectedly) and is being buried on the West Coast in a week. This is the woman Lee called on the night of Obama’s election to marvel at how far the country has come, a woman who was involved in desegregation efforts in their hometown that eventually led to massive change. Lee found a good price on a flight, so she’ll get to go out and see some relatives she hasn’t seen in years and years. If it were back in her (booooooring and depressing, according to her) hometown I have a feeling she wouldn’t have been so inclined to go, but this seems like a good fit and having a little trip should tide her over to finish off the term at school in good spirits.

There’s a lot of drama among Lee’s birthdad’s children right now, which I mostly don’t want to discuss since I’m an outsider and it’s not my story. The second child (oldest boy) is trying to prove his status and love by trying to push the siblings he’s just met into doing what he thinks they should be doing with their lives, which is not getting him the results he wants. He’s heartbroken by the idea that Lee was adopted (even though it was by their shared paternal grandparents) and feels that he should have protected her, which doesn’t make much sense since he’s at least five years younger than she is. This means her adoption still causes pain and confusion on both sides of her first family, though everyone involved thinks her story has had a happy ending.

I could say a lot more about that (and about the difficulties of sibling relationships among adults who hadn’t previously known each other, especially given the substance abuse histories involved with their families) but I’ll just leave it for now. Lee let me read an email she wrote to that brother and in it she talked about how she’d always considered her adoption wholly positive and necessary but that in the last year or so has started to realize it’s more complicated. She says that this is due to my influence (true, because it’s been easier for me to have the hard conversations with her biomom Leah) but I’m just grateful she’s able to make sense of her story in a nuanced way that makes more room for her to become a parent in a healthy way. We’re still hoping to visit Leah this summer, and I think that should be a very positive and healing experience for both of them.

Life is good and I’m optimistic. This has not generally been true of me, but I’m liking it. We grilled out for the first time last night and I have tons of weeding to do, but the weather is lovely and I’m about to go tutor the children from church for the last time this school year. Summer is coming, changes are coming, and I’m looking forward to that.

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