But my brain is too tired to write anything that has to make sense. I have this long list of things to blog about but I can't handle that either, right now, so here's some entirely random, stream-of-consciousness from me. Move over, Jack Kerouac.
Church this morning--it was our fourth week at the new church. When we appeared the first week everyone was all welcoming and asking how we found the place. The truth is, I knew more about it than half the welcomers, because I did hard-core Internet research to find the perfect church in Chicago long before we even moved. We just didn't get it together enough to get there on a Sunday until this month. A bit of a New Year's thing to get up and go.
Even Cole loves the place, which is remarkable, seeing as church has never meant much of anything to her before and God means even less. But as far as family activities go, she is all for it. As for uber-churchy me, I can say (and did, after only two weeks' attendance) that it's the best church I've ever been to, hands down. And I have loved other places in the past, and been very involved in lots of other places.
Here's why I love it:
It has a serious number of members who are not white. I don't mean, "oh look, how nice, a Negro!" I mean, it's a truly racially mixed church. Roughly, I'd guess it's about 40% Black, 40% white and 20% other--lots of Latina/o, some South Asian, lots of mixed-race people, etc. Nat has plenty of places to look for grown-up Black role models and young Black peers, adopted, transracially adopted, born into their families, with two same-sex parents, with single parents, etc. etc. etc. (Selina too, of course, but she's too little to notice yet.)
That brings me to the fact that maybe 20% of the membership is queer. The rector is a gay, long-partnered white man who spent many years in D.C. so he and I reminisce. There's never a drop-the-bomb moment of worrying that the person I'm talking to will suddenly feel weird to find out I'm a lesbian as there often is pretty much everywhere else in life. I mean, any given person may not realize that I'm a lesbian, but they take it for granted that plenty of people in the pews around them will be. No biggie.
It answers to my idea of the perfectly Episcopal church. That is, it's full of lovely liturgical tradition, but not stuffy in the least. Lots of processing and bell-ringing and music and candles and kids and adults in various states of vestiture and yet the altar is a round table in the middle of the sanctuary/nave with pews coming off of it like wheel spokes. It just shouts "the table of God's people!" through design. It's theatre-in-the-round, which has always been a favorite of mine, but I've never seen it in a church.
For Epiphany, about two dozen golden stars and a mess of golden streamers are hanging from the vaulted ceiling to just above the altar. Nat found this immediately captivating. So did I. Tasteful, but contemporary and celebratory. I can't wait to see what they hang there throughout the rest of the year.
If you think I am dwelling an awful lot on the material aspects of the place, that's because I find my own spirituality and connection to the divine to be most aided by these kinds of sensory touchpoints. It's why I like the Episcopal Church in the first place. I consider it excellent theatre. I think church can be largely a matter of taste and this is mine. Finding a herd of people who share it and also find their connection to the divine through it makes for instant bonding and a basis for intimacy. So I trust we can grow to love the people there, too.
Which also reminds me that the music program is excellent. There's a new music director and he has wide-ranging eclectic taste and talents, so there's a great variety of music styles every Sunday. On MLK Sunday, though, we had a jazz trio do everything, including a special Duke Ellington piece. There are choirs for kids starting at Nat's age, so she can start learning to sing next Fall.
So far everyone has been super. People bent over backwards to welcome us and the kids and get us involved right away. It's got a warm glow to it. They serve an entire real meal after the service too, not just coffee and donuts. Today it was mini-veggie quiches and little make-it-yourself ham sandwiches on rolls. Sharing a real meal, not just stand-up food makes for a cozy environment in which to get to know people, I think. Plus, I'm usually so low on blood sugar by the end of the service it's all I can do not to faint on the way downstairs to the food.
Last week, as luck would have it, was the annual meeting to which I brought a big casserole of beans and rice for the potluck (Episcopalians who do potluck--the perfect blend of my Baptist childhood and my Episcopal present!). Thus I got to find out what the heck the church is up to as far as the neighborhood and the city and the world. The church is around the corner from the Obamas' old house and the prayers on the Sunday before the inauguration, named "our neighbor, Barack Obama" for a blessing. The church is quite entrenched in the neighborhood and does quite a bit of work to preserve its mixed-race, mixed-class character. it opens the doors to parents who need a place for kids to run around in the winter; many members are involved in a local project to protect the lower-income neighbors from displacement due to gentrification (and the possible upcoming Olympics, should Chicago get them); many members walk to church from homes nearby. (We drive 40 minutes all the way across town.)
Get this. They do Montessori Sunday School for the kids. Who's ever even heard of such a thing? They call it "Godly Play" and it's totally awesome. Nat picked up the rug and the routine immediately. She likes the sand box with little Bible characters (to make scenes in the desert!) the best. You can also get a baby doll in a Christening gown, pour water into a little bowl and baptize her. It slays me. Who thought this up? I am so impressed.
That's everything I can think of for now. Sunday is everyone's favorite day now. Nat had a tantrum and didn't want to leave this morning. That's how awesome fun it is.
1) I am horrified by the dearth of generosity expressed by some of the commenters on this post at Strollerderby about the Sudanese woman living currently in Laurel, Maryland, with six-week old quintuplets and virtually on her own in caring for them.
2) If you'd like to contribute to my fundraiser for this new and very overwhelmed mama, buy some jewelry. I will donate all proceeds from my jewelry sales between now and Sunday to the folks taking a collection for her at the church in Maryland.
Of course, you can send them cash yourself, but I don't have any spare cash to send and if you'd like a necklace anyway, this way, we all win! (I win by reducing my inventory, which I'm slowly trying to sell off before starting any new projects.)
P.S. On an unrelated note, OMG, those babies are so precious! The photos are giving me major baby lust. (Repeat to self ten times: "feedings around the clock every two hours, feedings around the clock every two hours, feedings around the clock every two hours...")
Hey folks, Cole was in the car en route to Wind-Driven Prairie Town during the inauguration and only heard it all on the radio. She'd like to watch the whole thing (versus 2-minute clips on youtube). ANybody know where we can get the whole ceremony online for her to watch?
Seriously, why do teenagers need to have exclusive romantic relationships or go on one-on-one dates (versus group outings)?
I'm not a prude, I don't think girls (and boys) who are sexually active at young ages are immoral. I just don't see the need and figure that focusing on other things at that age is probably all-around better for kids.
Disclaimer: Me, I didn't go on a "date" until my first semester of college. And I figure I turned out fine. Great even, as far as ultimate marriage and family life goes. So that's my bias.
O God of our many understandings, we pray that you will…
Bless us with tears – for a world in which over a billion people exist on less than a dollar a day, where young women from many lands are beaten and raped for wanting an education, and thousands die daily from malnutrition, malaria, and AIDS.
Bless us with anger – at discrimination, at home and abroad, against refugees and immigrants, women, people of color, gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.
Bless us with discomfort – at the easy, simplistic “answers” we’ve preferred to hear from our politicians, instead of the truth, about ourselves and the world, which we need to face if we are going to rise to the challenges of the future.
Bless us with patience – and the knowledge that none of what ails us will be “fixed” anytime soon, and the understanding that our new president is a human being, not a messiah.
Bless us with humility – open to understanding that our own needs must always be balanced with those of the world.
Bless us with freedom from mere tolerance – replacing it with a genuine respect andwarm embrace of our differences, and an understanding that in our diversity, we are stronger.
Bless us with compassion and generosity – remembering that every religion’s God judges us by the way we care for the most vulnerable in the human community, whether across town or across the world.
And God, we give you thanks for your child Barack, as he assumes the office of President of the United States.
Give him wisdom beyond his years, and inspire him with Lincoln’s reconciling leadership style, President Kennedy’s ability to enlist our best efforts, and Dr. King’s dream of a nation for ALL the people.
Give him a quiet heart, for our Ship of State needs a steady, calm captain in these times.
Give him stirring words, for we will need to be inspired and motivated to make the personal and common sacrifices necessary to facing the challenges ahead.
Make him color-blind, reminding him of his own words that under his leadership, there will be neither red nor blue states, but the United States.
Help him remember his own oppression as a minority, drawing on that experience of discrimination, that he might seek to change the lives of those who are still its victims.
Give him the strength to find family time and privacy, and help him remember that even though he is president, a father only gets one shot at his daughters’ childhoods.
And please, God, keep him safe.We know we ask too much of our presidents, and we’re asking FAR too much of this one.We know the risk he and his wife are taking for all of us, and we implore you, O good and great God, to keep him safe.Hold him in the palm of your hand – that he might do the work we have called him to do, that he might find joy in this impossible calling, and that in the end, he might lead us as a nation to a place of integrity, prosperity and peace.
This is not as deep and thoughtful an issue or discussion, but my latest post at Strollerderby is adoption-related, in case anyone is interested. And Body Mass Index, which, interestingly enough, also came up at Dawn's recently.
Apparently, I heard the question wrong. Probably because the question I answered is more common and I'm used to getting that one. But here's some clarification from paragraphein:
...for me the question isn't "Why adopt even in an unethical system?" but rather "Why adopt at all?" Why invite all this pain and complexity in, on purpose? Because the pain and complexity is there even if it is (somehow) done 100% ethically.
For me it's not a question of ethics, it's a question of adoption itself.
I didn't realize that was the question, because it would never occur to me that the answer isn't obvious. My family is worth any amount of pain and complexity. I love my family. I love my children. The give me untold joy every single day. I am a great parent. We have a terrific family. The pain and complexity that would be a part of my children's lives--regardless of who adopted them, whether they were adopted or not, whether they grew up in the foster system--is something I am more than willing to help them navigate, teach them to understand and grow through and simply be here to comfort them when it is too overwhelming.
I do not discount any pain or complexity of adoption. In fact, my understanding of adoption's difficulties increases every day as I live it out. Would I go back and do a single thing differently with regard to my family-building choices? Never. I would do it all again. I may yet do it again (adopt) and if I do, it will be a situation with yet more pain and complexity because I am beginning to feel that as far as ethics go, the less desirable a child on the "adoption market," the more ethical the adoption (as a rule of thumb).
No matter how complex, how paradoxical, how painful, there is no way anyone will ever convince me that my family is not a gift--a gift to each of its members and a gift to the world in general. Yes, I am including my children's first family members in that assessment. I truly believe that placing their children with my partner and me was the best option available among a few pretty bad options for my children's mothers. (Okay, maybe not with my partner and me specifically, but with people like us--adoption in general, open adoption in general, adoptive parents with our philosophy of family more specifically--we aren't the only ones on the planet.)
Life is complex and painful and riddled with messes we couldn't have anticipated. Parenthood is complex and painful and riddled with messes. Any kind of family is a big disaster waiting to happen. Am I wrong here? Look at all the disfunction and difficulty in families everywhere--all kinds of families. To choose to become a parent is to invite, on purpose, suffering into your life.
Adoption doesn't have a corner on the complexity and pain market. It may have a rarer type of complexity and pain, since it is not common compared to biological family relationships, but if avoiding complexity and pain were on my agenda, I'd have to retire from life. I don't even know where I'd go to do that.
And much as I agree that lots and lots--perhaps even the majority--of adoptions are unnecessary, there are adoptions that are the best available option for the people involved. If some folks at least, didn't feel adoption's particular complexities were something they could handle, where would these people be?
I realize that too many people assume that every adopted child is a child saved from some terrible fate--even death. And I realize that is actually true only in a small minority of cases. In fact, that is a caveat here at Peter's Cross Station--adoption is very, very rarely about rescuing anyone from anything.
And yet, I do believe that adoption is needed. I do believe that work as we might to reduce adoption, to encourage and support women in crisis pregnancies to raise their babies, those women deserve the option to place their babies in adoption as truly as they deserve (and I fervently believe they do) the option to terminate a pregnancy.
Asking me why I would be willing to adopt in spite of the complexity and pain of adoption is, I feel, like asking a young, single mother why she would keep her child instead of placing it for adoption. That path has complexity and pain too. But a mother is a mother. Her child is her child. And that's my answer too.
Looks like the car, which we delivered tot he dealer, Monday, for pre-roadtrip servicing, has some unforeseen problems that require its longer stay in car hospital No inauguration for us. Cole is breathing a sigh of relief, having been worried sick about packing up her whole family and letting them drive off into this kind of weather. I'm just bummed we didn't take the car in sooner. But I suppose Cole is right.
Over at Dawn's, a conversation about adoption is going on largely between first mothers and adoptive mothers, but also some adoptees, infertile-but-not-adopting women, and others. And it is fabulous as conversations over there can be. You probably already know all about it. I was only just made aware because I have been shamefully blog-absent of late.
Anyway, I wanted to address some of the issues coming up over there on this blog, because I have a lot to say and because I feel a bit outside the mold of many adoption assumptions that fly around (reasonably, since the assumptions are based on majority experience) there. Better to give my thoughts their own space and not muddy things over there too much.
What a lot of the talk seems to be boiling down to is, "who in her right mind would adopt, if she knows how messy and unethical so much adoption is?" And there are subtle but real accusations flying about entitlement in adoptive mothers (yes, mothers and not fathers) who come to adoption via infertility, and how that entitlement perhaps blurs morality when adoption decisions are being made.
I find it interesting because A) I'm not infertile and B) although sometimes queers who parent or want to parent are accused of having an entitled (more often, the term "selfish" gets used) attitude, I didn't come to parenting out of an innate drive or burning desire, but more of a second thought after lots of pieces of my life fell into place in ways that would make parenting possible and perhaps desirable.
So I find it difficult to enter that fray of "infertile women are so sad that they can't have babies that they become viciously capable of stealing the babies of others." Maybe. I have heard women talk like that. You may remember that commenter on Strollerderby who said as much in so many words, last month. But I don't identify with that feeling and I don't feel defensive about adopting because "baby at all costs" was never part of my psyche.
I did learn a lot (though not nearly as much as I know now) about ethical problems in adoption before I adopted, but seeing as that burning desire was not blinding me, I don't have that excuse to have continued with our adoption.
So why did I, upon learning that adoption is fraught with ethical paradoxes, go ahead and do it anyway?
Partly, the answer is that I did it in a way I thought was as ethical as possible, and I've talked about that a good bit on this blog, though not for a while. Let me know if you want to hear more about it. Right now I want to focus on the other part.
Life is full of ethical paradoxes.
I can't think of any part of my life that is not an ethical paradox--my legal marriage (okay, only in two states, plus a half-dozen foreign countries, but still) in spite of my belief that legal marriage is immoral; my choice to live in more housing than I really need when others die of exposure in a sub-zero winter; likewise my overuse of hot, potable running water in my half-hour showers every morning; my choice to shop at Whole Paycheck even though they don't have a unionized workforce and fly in my organic grapes from thousands of miles; almost every parenting decision I make is full of shades of gray. That includes the decision to become a parent and the decision to adopt. Had I decided to give birth, that would have had its own set of paradoxical ethical challenges, as it would have required medical intervention and donor (or purchased, depending on my decisions) gametes.
The fact is, we can't keep our hands clean in this life. As far as I'm concerned anything short of "sell everything you have and give the money to the poor and come follow me" is a compromise. And I can hardly judge anyone else's tough decisions, given my own set of complexities.
Sometimes I hear from readers here and I get the impression they think my adoptions (or the agency we used) are perfect examples of perfect ethics. They are not. They are tangled and messy. You will not find a perfect agency or a perfect adoption, you will only be able to do the best you can to find an agency that's doing the best it can in an imperfect world full of truly screwed-up priorities and injustice.
I decided a long time ago that I needed to stop trying to keep my hands clean. Not because I wanted to give up on the ideal, but because it is impossible to keep your hands clean, and trying for that is a waste of energy. Do the best you can, then forgive yourself the rest and get to work making the world a better place. Instead of trying to keep my hands clean, I decided I would instead try to inhabit a space of resistance. As long as one is engaged in resisting, one is at least tossing something on the side of balance with all that mess that we humans live with.
We all have things we personally feel we couldn't live with. Then we have things we are willing to struggle through. Then there are the things that come up without warning or time to think and we do the best we can. I made my adoption decisions--in cooperation with Cole--based on the information I had, and the things I decided I could and couldn't live with. I could live with open adoption. I couldn't live with figuring out how to do the right thing by a child from another country and culture who had no notion--and probably never would--of who her first family was. This is not because domestic adoption is better than adoption from China. It's because given the ethical mess that both of them are, I felt I could live with and deal with one better than the other. Thank god there are parents who feel differently about that, because that's what the kids they adopt need.
Here's a story. Once our homestudy agency offered to show our profile to an expectant mom who was white, carrying the child of a Black, secret boyfriend. She had two (white) children already, but didn't want to raise the biracial one. Because of race. She wanted the baby to go away and be kept a secret from her friends and family. We said no thanks, don't show her our profile. We didn't feel up to dealing with the kind of specific pain that child would be facing. We didn't want that overt racism in our family (birth family=our family), even if we weren't in touch. And we wanted to be in touch.
Did that baby go on to be adopted? Yep. Under those circumstances. Will someone have to deal with that child's pain? Yep. Our hands are not clean just because we're not doing that particular job. But we didn't want that particular job. We have our hands full with our own adoption complications (and yes, they are legion).
Anyway, I've said before that not adopting does not keep anyone clean from the unethical aspects of adoption. In fact, the aspects of our adoptions that are the most ethically problematic are very large societal issues of racism, poverty and lack of healthcare access. We are no more culpable for those than anyone else in our socio-economic position, whether they adopted or not. Our children would not be living happily ever after with their loving mothers if we had not adopted them. In fact, not many of the children our agency places would be "saved" from adoption if the prospective parent supply dried up. I do think that might be true of the kinds of adoptions done by other agencies. I think far fewer healthy, white babies would be available for adoption, were there not a long line of monied prospective parents out there.
But now I'm getting off the topic I intended to stay on, so I will go to bed.
Bottom line: you can't stay clean in this life. But sometimes you can thoughtfully choose your messes.