Wednesday, June 30, 2010


Tuesday, June 29, 2010

I Need an Advance

I'm not feeling very thankful today.  I get sleepless and cranky when it's this hot, and Tinker-the-dog is also not feeling well - not sure if it's the heat, a sign of old age (she'll be 10 soon), something she ate, or a health issue, but she has pooped on the living room rug at least once a day since Saturday.  I feel like I'm way back here, and the feeling was made stronger by the fact that Elfe spent the time between breakfast and leaving for school/work this morning wandering around the house saying "oh, crap! oh, crap!"  I guess I have to be a little more careful with my language...

I have that stuck in the not-so-rosy past feeling in other ways too.  I'm struggling a bit financially, while several people around me seem to be moving on up, and I still haven't made any kind of progress or peace with my unbloggable situation.

Usually I try to be thankful for things in the here-and-now, but today I feel like I can only manage some thankfulness for things in the future.  I need an advance from the thankfulness bank, if you will.

  • This week, I will be really thankful when Tinker either stops pooping on the rug or the vet figures out what the problem is at our appointment Friday morning.
  • This week I will also be really thankful when it finally rains and the temperature returns to something not so steamy.
  • This week I will also be really thankful for the three-day weekend, especially since I am taking a break from the Farmers' Market for the first time in a month.
What will you be thankful for this week?

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Weekly Reading List 6-27-2010

Elfe and I recently passed the 6-month mark as a family - we arrived in Boston on December 26th, 2009.  I've got some thoughts on this but just haven't been able to sit down and put it all into words yet...look for a post about how six months is forever in the next couple of days.  In the meantime, here are a few other posts I thought you might like to read:

A new way to give back from Amy at Learning to Liv.

A spectacular post from Claudia called My Children are Not Educational Toys - I hope she writes more about this!

From PEAR, Ten Steps to Researching US Adoption Agencies and a report on how Ethiopia is in danger of becoming the new Guatemala with regards to international adoption.

Finally, a heads-up that Single Mothers by Choice has a new blog, with posts written by SMC members.

Now back to ruminating on that whole six months thing...

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

I've Got Your Back

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Village of Roslindale

I've now had my very own tent for selling photos and note cards at the Roslindale Village Farmers' Market for three Saturdays in a row, and so far it's been a good run!  I've sold two of my framed and matted photos, one matted photo, and tons of note card sets, and have gotten a lot of good feedback from people who stopped in to browse - the best was when someone asked if I taught photography classes anywhere because she wanted to learn how to take pictures like me.  One woman who bought one of the framed pieces on Saturday #2 came back on Saturday #3 and is thinking about buying another framed piece - keep your fingers crossed that she decides to go for it on Saturday #4.  Several people signed up for my newsletter, and I even had someone who bought a photo mounted under glass last fall at the Roslindale Open Studios recognize me and tell me how much she enjoys looking at it every day. 

I'm still working on fine-tuning my display, and I have some ideas for completely changing things around this Saturday.  The good news is that on Saturday #3 I finally mastered the art of setting up and breaking down the tent by myself, so now I have more energy- both mental and physical - to devote to the creative vibe inside the tent!  I am very thankful to the people who helped me get things set up and/or broken down on the first two Saturdays - some of them just random strangers passing through the park at the end of the market who saw me struggling and offered assistance.

I am also thankful that so far the weather has been in our favor.  Severe thunderstorms were predicted for Saturday #1, and the market manager emailed everyone the night before with her cell phone number in case anyone needed to cancel because of weather in the morning, and I almost decided to do just that when I woke up to gray skies and sporadic drizzles.  But I took a chance and it turned out to be a spectacular morning - hot and sunny - and the thunderstorms didn't roll in until later that afternoon when I was already taking a nap to recover from the morning!  There were a few more drizzles toward the end of the market on Saturday #2, and some strong winds on Saturday #3, but so far the weather gods seem to be smiling on us. 

Figuring out how to keep Elfe occupied has been the trickiest part of all this, though things have gotten progressively better.  I was probably not as patient with her as I should have been by the time Saturday #1 was over, and I have to keep reminding myself that I am really expecting a lot from her - we start packing up the car at 7AM, don't get home until 2:30 or 3 in the afternoon, and what we do in between is probably pretty boring for a not-quite-three-year-old.  I have a feeling that by the time the season is over, she'll be counting out change to customers and explaining where each photo was taken; my job is to just be patient and keep explaining what I want from her. 

Saturday #1 - Elfe attracting customers!

Saturday #3 - staying occupied with a book.
(Photo courtesy of Janice Williams)

Though I'm certainly thankful for everything that I mentioned above - sales, nice comments, help from strangers, good weather, the ongoing progress of my assistant-in-training - and I'm also thankful that I have this opportunity to make some extra money with Elfe by my side, what I really want to be thankful for this week is the village - literally - that has appeared just when I need it.  It would not at all be possible for me to do this with Elfe if it were not for these folks:
  • This week I am thankful to all the local friends who have stopped by the Farmers' Market to do their weekly shopping and say "hello" to me and Elfe.  And all of them have taken Elfe along with them to peruse the market and then brought her back to my tent afterward, giving both of us a little break to help us get through the day.
  • I am very thankful to my fellow Roslindale Arts Alliance members - Janice, Glenn, Kasey - who have each taken Elfe under their wing in one way or another and have helped me keep an eye on her for the duration of each market day. 
  • I am thankful to a whole host of other people - from the market manager to some of the volunteers helping out at the market to one or two other vendors and even to some patrons of the market - who have indulged Elfe's questions, brought back a hat that she left at another tent, let her "help" them with their work, treated her with respect, and just generally not reacted like I must be crazy to have her with me.  
As with most of this single-parent-to-a-toddler-by-adoption roller coaster ride that I've been on, bringing Elfe to the Farmers' Market with me has been a lot harder than I expected it to be, but somehow people have appeared in our lives to make it just slightly easier enough to keep us both going.

Do you have a village to be thankful for this week?

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Father's Day is Different

Elfe doesn't really remember her mother, who passed away from malaria when Elfe was somewhere between 6 months and a year old (the time line is not entirely clear).  But she has very strong memories of her father, who she lived with until about 6 months before I arrived in Ethiopia, and talks about him almost daily. 

In some ways, the circumstances of Elfe's life before me are a perfect fit for our life together now.  Since she has no Daddy here in the US, she is completely free to talk about and love and miss her Daddy in Ethiopia without feeling like she is betraying anyone here.  When she brings a photo from my birth family visit to pre-school to hang on the Family Board, no one needs any further explanation when she points out her Mommy, her Nanny, her Daddy, and her siblings in the photo.  She talks about all of us (and Tinker-the-dog) as her family, and I encourage her to do so.

And when Elfe tells her version of the story of her adoption, it makes sense:  "My mommy in Ethiopia got sick and went up to the sky so I needed a new Mommy."  It might bring tears to your eyes, but it's not confusing.  Edited to add: It's pretty straight-forward - she needed a new Mommy, and got me; she didn't need a new Daddy, and didn't get one. 

On the other hand, the fact that Elfe has what looks on the surface like a traditional family makes it even harder to explain the facts of adoption to her.

The first time Elfe asked why her father couldn't come here to live with us (it was one of her very first "why" questions), I told her he didn't have money for the airplane.  At some point that explanation didn't satisfy her, so I had to take it up a notch - I pulled out both of our passports (mine from the US, hers from Ethiopia) and explained all about visas and embassies and the Department of Homeland Security.  But a social worker at my adoption agency pointed out to me recently that a) it's going to be hard to top the intricacies of immigration policy once Elfe becomes unsatisfied with that explanation, and b) that's not really the reason, is it?  Her father really couldn't come and live with us even if he somehow scraped together money for a plane ticket and won the green card lottery.

There are other complications too.

Until recently, I thought I had no problem sharing the title of "parent" with anyone.  Then my mother started planning a christening for Elfe this summer at her parish church, and mentioned on a phone call this week that she was going to give the church the name of Elfe's father to put on the baptismal certificate.  I can see where that would make a certain amount of sense to her, just like it makes a certain amount of sense for Elfe to talk about her Mommy in Boston and her Daddy in Ethiopia, but something about it rubbed me the wrong way...I felt a defensive "but she's MINE" rise up inside myself...and I'm still trying to figure out what THAT was all about.

On Mother's Day, the adoption blogosphere is full of odes to birth mothers, and thoughtful posts on the complex set of emotions that can be, and should be, associated with raising another woman's child.  I certainly thought about Elfe's birth mother around that day, but it was in a very general and hypothetical kind of way; it's hard to have specific thoughts about someone you know so very little about.  Elfe rarely talks about her mother, and claims not to remember her at all.  I don't even know what she might have looked like, especially since Elfe looks exactly like her father.

Father's Day is different, both in the larger adoption world - almost no one writes odes to birth fathers or expresses complicated emotions about raising another man's child - and here in our little home.  I met Elfe's father.  I promised him I would make sure she always had everything she needs, and that I would help her remember him and Ethiopia.  He's part of my family now, even though I'm not sure I will ever see or hear from him again. 

I couldn't figure out an appropriate way to honor him today, so I didn't even bring up the fact of Father's Day to Elfe.  We talked about him this weekend about as much as we usually do, and watched part of the video of my meeting with him in Ethiopia, which we do every week or two, always at Elfe's request.  Elfe pretended to talk to him on the cell phone a few times over the weekend, which she does every couple of days.  Late last week she started a new bedtime routine, in which she pretends to take an airplane to Ethiopia by herself, goes into her bedroom closet for her "visit" with her father, and then comes home to Boston on the airplane and says "Mommy, I missed you!"  In other words, just another couple of days around here.

I planned to write that I hoped to find a better way to honor Elfe's father before the next Father's Day, but now that I've re-read the previous paragraph, I think everything we have been doing on a daily basis really is the right way to honor him.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Fish Market Tree

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Summer Celebrations

Elfe's birthday is in July, and I've been stressing about it for the last several weeks.

She's obsessed with birthdays.  She's seen a lot of birthday celebrations at pre-school already in the last few months, and every time she sees a cake she asks me if it's a birthday cake.  And more importantly, is it HER birthday cake?  I've said "no, your birthday is in July" so many times in response that now she goes around spontaneously telling random people "my birthday is in July!"

We went to a barbecue last weekend, and when the hostess brought out a cake for dessert, Elfe's eyes lit up and she convinced everyone to sing the Happy Birthday song for her.

To practice.

Because, you know, her birthday is in July, and you have to be prepared well in advance for these things.

So, obviously, Elfe is expecting a cake and some singing for her birthday.  The fact that she doesn't actually like any kind of cake is causing me some minor stress, but the larger stress factor is that I just don't feel up to orchestrating a kids' birthday party right now...the cleaning, the preparing, the expense...I come close to hyperventilating every time I think about it.

Enter the birthday fairy, my friend Blanche.

Blanche left me a voicemail message yesterday asking if it would be okay if she hosted a birthday part for Elfe.  She was the barbecue hostess, and apparently she and another friend started planning a whole birthday extravaganza the moment Elfe and I left the barbecue; all that was left to do was find out if I was actually available on the date they wanted to have it!

  • This week I am extremely thankful to Blanche for taking most of the birthday stress completely off my plate.
  • I am also thankful to my mother, who as of yesterday is planning a christening for Elfe in August at her parish church.  This is also something that has been causing me a bit of stress lately, for various reasons that I may post about at another time, but now I don't have to worry about anything except sending out the invitations!
  • I am very thankful that everything worked out so that both of these celebrations can happen around my ambitious Farmers' Market/Open Studio schedule for the summer and fall.  I'm even going to arrange to take a mini-vacation around the weekend of the christening, I just have to work out some of the details.
Do you have any summer plans to be thankful for this week?

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Weekly Reading List 6-13-2010

After last week's complete cop-out (though I'm sure most of you didn't mind what I posted instead...), I'm back this week with a TON of links!  So put on your reading glasses and dive right in...

I really liked Thoughts on Happiness at Chronicles of Munchkin Land because her thoughts on the happiness and/or sadness of adoption as a birthmother are pretty dang close to my thoughts on the happiness and/or sadness of adoption as an adoptive mother.

I am really loving a new blog I came across, Coloring Between the Lines - this post called White Mind may give you an idea of why I like it so much.

Maybe you've heard by now about the bi-racial girl who was removed from an Advanced Placement class (where she was the only child of color) and sent to a regular class because - brace yourself - the teacher couldn't deal with the scent of the girl's hair product?  Here are several posts tackling this story from all the various angles:

Jack & Jill Politics also has the story of a US citizen, born in Puerto Rico, who was held by police in Chicago for three days because they didn't believe he was in the country legally - even after he produced a birth certificate!

And if that last link has you thinking about Arizona, here's another story that will have you shaking your head: a school mural in Arizona that caused a controversy because the children in the mural - based on ACTUAL children who go to the school - were deemed too brown!

Here's an important post at Resist Racism called Market Forces: "Anti-racism is about action.  Not about warm and fuzzy words and feelings.  Not about how you believe that all people are created equal.  It’s about all people being treated equally."

I wish I had something happy and up-beat to leave you with, but the best I can do is this humorous take on the uproar over President Obama's calm response to the BP oil spill in the gulf.  

Have a great week everyone!

    Friday, June 11, 2010

    Memories and Questions

    A couple of weeks ago, I was making dinner and Elfe was standing on a step-stool next to me, watching, as she often does.

    And then, as she also often does, she reached across one boiling pot to point into the other boiling pot and ask "what's that?"

    So I did what I often do at that point - I yelled "stop! no! HOT! don't touch!"

    But then she asked "why?" and I did something I had never done before.  I explained, "If you touch something hot on the stove, it will burn you and it will hurt and it will leave an ugly mark on your skin."

    That got her attention in a way nothing else I've said in that situation ever has.  She got quiet and thoughtful.  And then she said "Oh!" and squinched her lips over to one side so she could point to a place on the side of her mouth.

    A place that doesn't have a mark on it anymore, but if you go back and look at her referral picture you will definitely see a small scar.  Yes, that one there on her right, your left, in that picture

    Dinner preparations were put on hold so we could have a whole conversation about how she got that little scar from being burned by a cooking fire in Ethiopia, which then led to looking at all the other little scars she still has on other parts of her body and trying to coax her into remembering and/or telling me about how she got each of them. 

    These kinds of random but vivid memories pop up unexpectedly all the time.  Early on, Elfe came across a picture of a millipede in a book and became extremely agitated, pointing at her wrist and then back at the millipede.  Through a combination of charades and simple words and looking at other pictures, I finally pieced together that she was bitten on the wrist by something - she was very clear that it wasn't a snake, but couldn't tell me more than that - that it happened near a tree while she was by herself but that other people came to help her and pulled the thing off her arm.  There's no scar for that one, as far as I can tell, and I still don't know exactly what it was that bit her, but it was clearly an unforgettable experience for her!

    I am extremely grateful for these vivid memories, and consider it one of the advantages of adopting an older child instead of an infant.  I'm also extremely grateful that Elfe is highly expressive and good at communicating, so that even before she had very much English I was able to learn a lot about her life in Ethiopia before me.

    But I can't be entirely sure that what I've learned is true.  She's at an age where kids typically make stuff up anyway, and also at an age when memories are hard to hold on to.  Sometimes she'll spin me an elaborate story about Ethiopia with lots of very specific details, and I start to think it must be something that really happened - until she throws in that Tinker-the-dog was there, or that her Ethiopian family then got into their "new blue car" and drove away.  Then I can't tell if the whole thing was made up, or if it was all real except for the last detail that couldn't possibly be true, or if the answer is somewhere in the middle. 

    My adoption agency tells people to ask as many questions as they want when meeting birth family, and to not feel worried about offending anyone by asking certain questions that wouldn't ordinarily feel polite to us; it will probably be your one and only chance to get answers to those questions.  I really tried to heed that advice, and still ended up not asking one or two questions that I now feel like I should have.  But even if I had pushed through any lingering inhibitions and asked all the questions I could possibly think of, there still would have been questions that I didn't even know I needed to ask until Elfe and I got to know each other better.

    If I had it to do over again, I would ask a generic question like "can you tell me about anything that you think Elfe might have vivid memories of?"  And if I could meet him again today, I would ask Elfe's birth father:

    • Do you really own a horse and did you take Elfe to the doctor on the horse?
    • Did you really kill a hyena with a spear and then cut it up so everyone could eat it?
    • Did your house really fall down and then you built a new one?
    • Did something happen to Elfe's feet so that she stayed in bed for a long time and had to use sticks to walk, as she one time insisted to me?
    • What was it that bit her on the wrist?
    • Did Elfe really have hair all the way down to her waist before they cut it off at the orphanage? And did she really take care of it herself without any help, as she insists she did?
    There will probably be other questions that come up as time goes by and Elfe has more random and vivid memories sparked by things that happen here.  I don't know if I will ever really know as much about her early life as I would like, but I hope I can preserve some of her memories for her so that she still has them for the rest of her life.

    Wednesday, June 9, 2010

    Cattle Crossing

    Tuesday, June 8, 2010


    I'm's my own fault really, just haven't been going to bed early here's a little drive-by thankfulness and then I'm going to sleep!

    • This week I am very thankful for the generosity of this family - who will be carrying a packet of photos for Elfe's father with them when they visit the birth family of their own two children next week!
    • I am extremely thankful that I had the opportunity to meet Elfe's family in Ethiopia and will be able to maintain a form of contact with them for as long as possible  I do not ever want her to forget them!
    • I am also very thankful that after some red tape, dead-ends, and general frustration, I have finally found some help for an unbloggable issue that has been worrying me since February...the issue is not resolved, and may not ever be, but it feels so much better to have a professional on my team to help deal with it!
    Okay, technically I am going BACK to sleep now - I fell asleep earlier while laying on the bed with Elfe waiting for her to fall asleep.  But I will definitely read your comments about what you are thankful for this the morning!

    Sunday, June 6, 2010

    Butterfly Moods

    It's weekly reading time, and I have to admit...I got nothing.

    I'm hoping you'll forgive me if I offer you these:

    Thursday, June 3, 2010

    June is Joyful

    At the end of June, Elfe and I will have been together as a family for six months, and I'll have had six months of single-parenting practice under my belt.

    It will also be the end of the grace period I declared back in March, the time I gave myself to slowly get back up to speed so I could start setting and achieving some big goals for the rest of the year.

    Thinking about all this, it seemed like my theme for June should be something related to gaining momentum, or laying the final brick in the foundation, or wrapping up all the loose ends I hadn't gotten around to yet...but none of those ideas really inspired me in any way, shape, or form.  Nothing I tried on as a theme seemed to fit the way I wanted it to, but I couldn't figure out what was missing.

    It finally hit me when I read a post by a friend with a private blog (I think you will know who you are).  Her post made me realize that I have gotten pretty good at DOING motherhood.  I've figured out various ways to multi-task and manage the logistics of being a single mother; my house is relatively clean, the laundry is done, I recently caught up on paying my bills, the plants are all watered (and I only lost one to neglect), Tinker-the-dog gets out for a daily walk, and somehow I am able to find something to pack in Elfe's lunch box every day for school.  I'm even blogging on a regular basis, adding items to my Etsy shop (and have had several sales), and started a new entrepreneurial adventure recently.

    But there's not a whole lot of JOY in all that DOING. 

    For the month of June, I am going to take a break from thinking and analyzing, strategizing and planning, so I can celebrate all of the small daily accomplishments.  I'm going to find some JOY every single day, no matter how much I am DOING or even NOT DOING.  In fact, joy will have absolutely nothing to do with doing this month!

    I'm going to start my joyful month by finally defining success as suggested by Kristine back in February, and it looks like this:

    My Favorite Day - by Elfe, age almost-three

    My favorite day starts with dancing
    to the best song that comes on the radio
    while we are sitting at the table eating oatmeal
    (and bacon on Sundays)
    and then I help Mommy and
    Mommy helps me
    until we can give each other a high-five
    and say
    Good job!
    before I brush my teeth and we read
    either three short books or one long one
    and then talk about the time Mommy and Nanny and Elfe
    rode on an airplane all together
    and just before I fall asleep we plan
    how we will do it all over again

    I hope you will join me in being joyful this month!

    Wednesday, June 2, 2010

    Building in Addis Ababa

    Tuesday, June 1, 2010

    Living on a Busy Street has its Advantages After All

    Last Wednesday night, Elfe and I were sound asleep when I heard the front door buzzer go off.  What the hell, I must be for the unit next to mine.

    Then the buzzer went off again, which caused Tinker-the-dog to start barking, which caused me to say a not-so-nice word.  This time I thought it must be some teenagers playing a prank.

    The third time the buzzer went off, and the dog barked, I also heard pounding on the front door and people yelling outside.  I looked at the clock; it was just past 1AM.  I started thinking maybe someone was in trouble outside and needed help, so I got out of bed to look out the front windows. 

    And saw flames shooting out of the third floor porch right above me.

    "Elfe, wake up!  We have to get out of the house!"

    It had been hot and humid when we went to bed earlier, so Elfe was sleeping in her pajama top and I was in a long T-shirt.  I turned the lights on in the bedroom and told her to put her pajama bottoms back on while I went hunting for some sweat pants and my flip-flops.  By the time I had the leash on Tinker-the-dog, Elfe was dressed and I grabbed her, my keys, and my cell phone on the way out the door.  I wasn't going to take the time to call 911 from inside a burning house, but I thought I might have to call once we got outside.

    Just as we came out of the door to my unit - with me shouting "wake up" as loudly as I could to alert the other neighbors - two police officers were coming up the stairs from the first floor (found out later that they busted through the front door to get into the building).  They took a step back when they saw Tinker coming at them, then waved my little group past them as they went on to pound on the door next to mine and continue up to the third floor (also found out later that this piece of timing saved my unit door from being broken down by the firefighters when they arrived - one of the officers told me he remembered seeing the dog so vividly that he was able to tell the firefighters that my unit was definitely empty and they left it alone; a couple of the other neighbors ended up with busted locks and door frames).

    Once we got outside, I saw two men I didn't recognize standing in front of the house, and they also jumped back when Tinker came barreling out the front door.  They shouted at me - "We rang the buzzers, we knocked on the door!" - and I just nodded and said "okay." I was a little too dazed to really understand.  Then I heard a city bus revving its engine and the two men yelled "hey!"  I turned my head to see the bus starting to pull away from the curb in front of the house next door.  The two men ran after the bus, jumped on, and rode away without a proper "thank you." 

    What I pieced together afterward is that they must have been passengers on the bus and seen the flames as the bus approached our house.  Apparently they got off the bus, rang all the buzzers and pounded on the front door to try to wake us all up.  They must have called 911 as well, because the fire engines arrived within a minute or two after the bus pulled away and the police were already on the scene. 

    • This week I am thankful that the people riding the bus at 1AM are the type of people who would go out of their way to actually DO something about a situation that called for action, and that this fire didn't start any later than it did - when the buses stop running - because if it had been left to burn until the smoke detectors inside the building could detect it...well, I don't actually want to think about what could have happened then.
    • I am also very thankful, again, to live in such a diverse city; our first responders included an Asian police man, a white police woman and a female paramedic, at least one Black firefighter and several Black police officers.  I know that seems like a small thing to be thankful for given what happened, but it was actually something I noticed and felt grateful for at the time - that Elfe was able to see all types of people being heroes, not just white men. 
    • I am very thankful that Elfe seemed to have no real sense of the possible danger we were in, and that she was just excited to see fire engines up close (and look! the ladders are going up!), and was proud of the fact that she put her pajama pants on all by herself even though they were inside out and backwards.  
    What are you thankful for this week?