Friday, December 21, 2007

Comfort food


The holidays seem to be about food in my family.  We have all kinds of traditions with food standing front and center.  Homemade peanut butter cups, Quality street candy, gingerbread men & houses, sweet potato casserole, gum drop tree...  I could go on and on.  In a sense, the ritual brings comfort, a knowlege of what's to come and the conviction that we are family.  This is what our family does.  We always do this.  

When my son came home last week from university,  I wanted his first meal to bring him comfort.  I wanted him to know that I loved him and missed him and I would show him through one of his favorite meals.  I served beef stew.  I personally love the smell of the beef stewing throughout the afternoon, and then the homemade bread that I serve with it.  Ah...  comfort... familiarity... home.

We have now received 3 months of updates from our orphanage.  I have loved each one and our hearts are becoming softer and more anxious each month to complete our family circle.  Peterson & Gaëlle don't know our family traditions.  Our comforting food smells and tastes are completely foreign to them.  I doubt my first meal served to them will be beef stew.  It might involve homemade bread; that seems to satisfy almost anybody.  But the food that spells comfort to us will shout "outsider" to them.  

It's just a small matter really, but it makes me sad to know that the things which bring me comfort will initially bring confusion and isolation to Peterson & Gaëlle.  I pray that we will be sensitive and understanding and that our family will embrace some of the things that bring us all comfort and healing.  

December updates



We received the updates a little early in the month because of the Christmas holidays.  It's always good to see Peterson & Gaëlle looking healthy and content.  

Friday, December 14, 2007

The Book of Negroes


I always love it when a book whets my curiosity; when I'm fascinated enough to go on a search for more tidbits of truth and knowledge.  The Book of Negroes (Canadian Edition)
by Lawrence Hill is such a novel.  I could use words like mesmerizing and compelling to describe his narrative about a young girl's journey from Africa to the US and Nova Scotia, back to Africa and ending in England. The harsh reality of the slave trade and the desperate conditions in Birchtown, Nova Scotia are plainly recorded in previous works but Hill brings together details of historical fact through the 
courage of his main character, Aminata Diallo.

In particular, I was curious about "The Book of Negroes".  Yes, it does exist.  This was a hand written book of all the blacks leaving New York City after the American Revolution on British ships.  Some of those leaving were still in chains, slaves of wealthy loyalists.  However, there were those who had gained their freedom fighting on the side of the British.  Information can be found here.  

Saturday, December 1, 2007

November update in December

We just love this picture of Gaëlle. She looks so happy and full of life. She looks so healthy and is clearly growing. I have been waiting to post because we don't have an update for Peterson yet. Hopefully soon.

Thanksgiving joys





I haven't seen my son since we dropped him off at university August 14. He has been doing so well and he seems to love his experience, but we miss him so much. Finally we got to see him. He had a week off for Thanksgiving and so we all met up at my mom and dad's. Not only our family, but my brother and wife, and sister and family. A lot of people in one small house, but a great time.


New trick

This is not huge earth shattering news. But I can now add the accent to Gaëlle's name without going through a lot of hassle. I searched French accents and came up with the shortcut. About time. To get the 2 dots above the "e" just hit ALT and then 137. So simple. I'm posting this here so I won't forget. In case I ever want more, here is the page.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Our first package



We sent our first package to Gaëlle & Peterson last week. We really don't know how much they have been told about us. I'm kind of assuming they don't know anything and this will be their first introduction to us. The only thing the orphanage recommended was a photo album. We took our family photos and some of our town along with a picture of the kids playing in snow, and had each page laminated. Then we had the pages coil bound. I was really pleased with the results and think the album will be durable. Plus it can be added to if anybody at the orphanage is willing to thread new pages on. We included a doll and t-shirt for Gaëlle. Peterson will receive a t-shirt, soccer ball, and beaver stuffed animal. I also wrote small notes for each one. I'm praying it will be well received and their hearts will start to open to the idea of their new forever family.

Noel




Hurrican Noel plowed through our area Saturday, November 3. Which just happened to be my birthday. Fortunately, it didn't do major damage here in NS like it did in the Caribbean. On Sunday we took a drive along with all the other ambulance chasers to see the after effects. Again, fortunately we didn't see anything spectacular. But it was a beautiful day to just be outside. These photos were all taken at Blue Rock, a picturesque fishing village.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

October updates




Our very first update from our orphanage. Things have been busy for them lately, what with a hurricane and all. However, they did have time for pictures and hopefully next month we'll receive a more personalized update. But for now pictures are fine. Here, Gaëlle is playing with the music instruments and partying hardy. Peterson is spending time looking at books and doing crafts.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Tell me why

I had this series of books when I was a kid, but this isn't the right cover. Well, it's got to be the right cover for some kids, but not this one. I can't describe the cover but I will know it when I see it and this isn't right. Unfortunately the books didn't make it past my childhood but I still love to ask the question, "Tell me why...?"

Tell me why some days I run and feel as though I could go on forever, and other days I feel as though I'm moving through molasses. (translation: Today I had a great run.)

Tell me why dogs try to eat their own poop and try to lick up their own vomit. (translation: This would be an ongoing question in the life of a dog owner.)

Tell me why some puppet performances, with the same puppeteers and the same routine, run smoothly and others fall apart from the get go. (translation: Today's puppet show was one disaster after another.)

Tell me why I am thinking about selling CTMH. (translation: I am going to sell CTMH for 3 months and see how it goes.)

Tell me why teens ask difficult, brutally challenging, seemingly unanswerable questions. ( translation: I have 3 teens of my own and 1 more living with us during the week.)

Tell me why I find highly recommended books flat and a bit of a disappointment. (translation: I've been working my way through River Rising and I think I'm about to bail.)

Well, I guess that's about all the questions for tonight. I'll let my brain cells have a bit of a break from the heavy stuff.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Mountains Beyond Mountains

Anthropologist, doctor, infectious disease specialist, professor, husband, father, co-founder of health project.... and the list goes on. Mountains Beyond Mountains: Healing the World: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer
,
by Tracy Kidder tells the incredible story of a single man and how his passion transforms the world.

I've been bothered lately by the force of pragmatism in the world. Nobody seems to have ideals which withstand the ravages of life. Not only does Dr. Paul Farmer have high ideals and expectations, he lives them even in the face of extreme adversity.

He visits Haiti as a young man trying to decide the direction his education will take. Does he follow his passion of anthropology or his passion for medicine. He decides that he can't separate the disciplines and his love for all things Haitian is entwined in the mix.

Kidder spends quite a bit of time with Farmer as he goes back and forth between Haiti, the US and eventually other health projects around the world. He obviously spends a considerable amount of time talking with him and Kidder leaves us with the impression that he comes to know and respect Farmer immensely. Unfortunately, as a reader, I still don't think I come close to knowing the intricacies of such a complex person. However, I admire him and his devotion to his passions.
Paul Farmer is dedicated to providing medical service and resources to the poor. During a discussion on political correctness he and some friends discuss the importance of appearance.
The goofiness of radicals thinking they have to dress in Guatemalan peasant clothes. The poor don't want you to look like them. They want you to dress in a suit and go get them food and water.
Because of his ability to see the large picture and his success with major health projects, he is pressured to give up his Haitian practice and concentrate on the big issues of world health. However, he says that he hears the voice of a Haitian saying, "My child is dying." He seems to need both outlets, big health projects and rural Haitian clinic.

I don't agree with all of Dr. Paul Farmer's philosophies, but I found myself challenged by his life choices. I admire his refusal to see "common sense" when dealing with poor Haitians. He believes that they deserve the best he and the world can give. He doesn't need to be practical in parceling out resources, he just has to save lives. One man has changed the world.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Comeback


My reading choices of late have been somewhat similar. I'm reading about Haiti, adoption, or family relationships. This one falls in the relationship category. Comeback: A Mother and Daughter's Journey Through Hell and Back
by Claire & Mia Fontaine is painful and excruciatingly honest. I don't know how a mother and daughter could so graphically share and communicate their journey, but they did.

So often when I read a long and painful narrative, it feels as though important details have been left out. This story flows seamlessly from the first attempt by Mia to run away from home, to the final yet tentative reunion, and manages to include background information tying everything together.

Even after reading their story and knowing the trauma of abuse, I still can't understand such intense pain that creates this need and desire in Mia to leave the ones she loves the most and destroy herself in the process. I've always been from the camp that love can solve a multitude of problems. Good therapy is the answer. It sounds like Mia had good therapy and intense love and it wasn't enough.

This especially weighs on my mind as we look to the addition of Peterson and Gaëlle. There will be pain in their background that love and good therapy may not be able to conquer. My prayer is that the ultimate healer will hold them in His hands and cover their wounds with His unfailing love and mercy. I also pray that I will have the strength and the wisdom of Claire to fight for my children to the ends of the earth.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Welcome Gaëlle and Peterson



It's hard to believe this day is finally here, but today we officially accepted a referral for 2 kids. We received the proposal on Thursday and then kept on going for our anniversary get away. What an incredible time. We had uninterrupted time together to really talk and discuss what was on our minds. I'm so thankful for that because this whole thing was so emotional for me.

We sat down in Halifax Public Gardens and looked everything over. The emotions just rolled over me. Unbelievable! We are going to have 2 more kids. And they are so adorable. I mean, really cute!!! But as exciting as this is for us, I just felt such sadness for Gaëlle and Peterson. They don't deserve such loss. Nobody does. But especially not my kids. Wow, I know this is just a referral and they aren't officially our kids, but I am feeling a connection.

The big 20


So hard to believe but 20 years ago today, I married the love of my life. Where does the time go? How did I get here with 3 kids and 2 more on the way?

I can't say that I remember my wedding day like it was yesterday, so maybe it has been 20 years. I can't remember every step along the way, but I know it has been wonderful. There is nobody I would rather have at my side than Robin. I have the best man for the journey of life.

We started out as friends and we have remained best friends. I love being with him and talking with him and laughing with him. It has been fun. I mean that. I have had a blast being married to Robin.

I know that I will never fully understand all of his quirks and I will never be able to anticipate what will come out of his mouth. I mean, to celebrate the past 2o years, he planned a trip to Cape Breton for the 2 of us. Now, that's not a surprise. He loves to get away with his child bride, that would be me. No, the shocking thing to come out of his mouth was his 2nd career plans. He wants to run a Bed & Breakfast. Keep dreaming Robin. I just love to hear you dream. Here's to 20 more years together.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Avengers of the New World


Avengers of the New World: The Story of the Haitian Revolution
by Laurent Dubois chronicles the remarkable history of the first and only successful slave revolution in the Americas. Because the people, places, and events are not familiar to me, I had to slowly read and try to absorb all of the foreign information. I was also constantly turning back to try and figure out references that didn't make sense to me. However, my effort was well rewarded. I have a little understanding of the rich history of Haiti.

Dubois carefully sets the stage for the success of the Haitian Revolution and perhaps why it was never duplicated. First, was the importance of a few French plantation owners passing on property to their mulatto children which ensured that there were wealthy and educated free people of color. Men like Julien Raimond worked tirelessly to expand rights for free people of color, even though he didn't fight to extend the rights to all people of color.

The effect of the French Revolution, playing out during this time, which stressed "
Libertie, Equalitie, Fraternitie" also must be factored into account. There were men in positions of power who believed these ideals applied to not just the French but the slaves in far away Saint-Dominigue, current day Haiti. Their voices must have encouraged those embroiled in the fight.

During its struggles with Spain for control of this valuable island, France allowed slaves and free men of color to fight on its side. This provided the slave insurrectionists with valuable military and leadership experience. Many of these well trained men would then turn around and fight against the French people.

Another factor which can not be minimized is the climate of Haiti. From the time of Christopher Columbus to the present, the crushing heat and disease devastated scores of people of European origin while the people from Africa seemed to thrive in the climate.

The struggle for independence involved so many other important factors and timing that just could not be repeated. In addition to the deep resolve of the Haitian blacks and the arrogant miscalculation of Napoleon Bonaparte, the pragmatism of the insurrectionist leaders guided the revolution from its 1791 slave revolts to its successful conclusion in 1803. Toussaint Louverture, Henri Christophe, and the first president of Haiti, Jean-Jacques Dessalines achieved liberty for the black people of Haiti. By creating a society in which all people were granted freedom and citizenship, the Haitian Revolution forever changed the world.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?

"Why Are All The Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?": A Psychologist Explains the Development of Racial Identity
by Beverly Daniel Tatum strives to encourage dialogue about racism. It certainly succeeded with me. I found myself quoting from the book and discussing with my husband many of the ideas that left me confused, intrigued, or saddened.

Beverly Daniel Tatum starts out with her definition of racism. She believes that racism is a "system of advantage based on race" and racism is "more than individual beliefs and attitudes". This puts her in direct conflict with many others who include the presence of prejudice in their definition. Her point of view was valuable to me because it helped me see the power of white privilege and the role of white privilege in our world.

I found her section on black identity helpful. She included several stories of young children expressing their opinions on color. Her own child was asked by a playmate if he was brown because he drank chocolate milk. While this story caused me to smile, it also illustrated the natural curiosity of children and the awareness of differences; the need to catalog those differences. Discussion should not be stifled. Difference is not bad. It just is. Kids should feel free to observe and share.

The author is a professor and has taught classes on racism. She frequently shares stories from those classes and her broad experience shows in her writing. I'm not ready to embrace her stand on affirmative action and I question some of her conclusions. However, I would recommend this book to all. Not just those who have an interest in racial injustice. We all need to understand the impact racism has on our culture and be willing to learn from each other.

Field trip fun







One of the joys of homeschooling is going on field trips. It's just so easy to pick up and go when the day is beautiful. We had a day like that this week and it turned out to be one of our great trips.

We have been studying the French and Indian Wars and we read about the battle at Fort Anne in 1710. Well, that spiked my interest because we are only 90 minutes away from the fort and we have never visited. So... why not? Also, it has been rare for us to visit a fort that actually experienced battle. So... even more reason to visit.

The small museum and guide were pleasant and informative. The fort was picturesque. The sky was blue. The air was warm. It was just Kaylin, myself and several senior citizens out for a day of exploration. We loved it!

We also took the time to visit Port Royal, just a short drive away. This was the 2nd attempt the French made at settling in this area. The first was at St. Croix. This one was slightly more successful but still didn't last long. The fort was built in 1605 and burned by those rascally English in 1613. The reconstructed fort is really well done and worth the visit. Thank you Parks Canada for investing our dollars so well. We had a great day and learned a lot.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Not too old for dolls



Kaylin has always had an interest in black dolls. I can't remember if her first black doll was a Barbie or her Bitty Baby. However, Baby Addy, as she called her, easily was her most loved and cherished doll. I will never forget the smiles and the shrieks of pleasure that Kaylin just could not stop that Christmas when she opened her present and found her doll.

Through the years Kaylin has added to her doll collection. A black American Girl doll that she calls Addy. Multiple Barbies and groovy girls with dark skin. And for the past few months the two of us have been scouring eBay, looking longingly at Corolle dolls online and visiting our local thrift stores. Soon after we received the phone call from the social worker, I knew what I was looking for. And miracle of miracles I found her in a toy store in my parents' home town. We stopped off there to visit on our way to Virginia and I found the cutest little doll.


What 2 year old girl wouldn't love Babipouce Graceful from Corolle? At least we're hoping our soon to be 2 year old girl will love her.

Jumping for joy



Our entire family was home together for a whopping 2 days this summer. But that's not the whole reason for celebration. The joy is what happened for 5 brief minutes during that time. We have been waiting for a referral from our orphanage since our papers have been in Haiti in June. I've been trying to be realistic on a time frame since there are so many families ahead of us.

Our referral has to go through our provincial contact at Community Services and who should call but Community Services. Our orphanage asked her to ask us if we would consider an initial referral because the age limit is slightly different from what we asked. We asked for a sibling group that were 6 years and under. They want to send us a referral of a 6 1/2 year old boy and his 23 month old sister. YES. I think that fits with our criteria but they wanted us to amend our homestudy.

That has finally been done and now we wait for the official referral. But the neat thing is that all of our kids were home when we got the phone call. How cool is that? Even though Joshua is now away at university, he still was a part of this really big step. We know the ages and gender of the kids and hopefully we'll get news soon. Vacation is over and it's time to get moving.

A Big Mouth


How do people know when to keep their big mouths shut on their blog? There are a bunch of things I would love to "talk" about but it seems like I would be violating the privacy of others, and so I am quiet. Much too quiet. I haven't posted much this summer and so much has happened. My son is amazing me with his wisdom. My daughter is ready and willing to give so much of herself to others. My other daughter is just so neat that I want to shout it out loud. But I don't want to embarrass any of them or potentially hurt somebody's feelings. But the stories are great!

There are also a couple of book reviews that I would like to post but they seem too overwhelming. I guess that's the difference between real writers and wannabes. The real writers just love to put words down even if it's a struggle or hard work, which I'm sure it is for most writers. I keep procrastinating on the time consuming posts. Oh well, at least I'm learning a bit about myself.

I'll just keep plugging away and try to walk the fine line between blabbing and holding it all in.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Going... going... gone...



Yes, my son of 18 years has left the building. We drove 27 hours to Virginia and dropped Joshua off for his first year of university. Not the most flattering picture but I want to remember the room and my son and the whole experience. It was an experience. So many emotions and thoughts and questions going through my mind.

As a homeschooling mom, did I prepare him well enough academically for the next level? Did I impart all of my earthly wisdom? Did I give him enough pointers on the little nuances of life? Yikes, I could go on forever with the doubts.

As we passed through Charlottesville, VA (who even knew there was a Charlottesville) and we saw the signs for the U of VA, I was just struck with how little I know about this part of the country. I don't know anything! We don't have any contacts! The Christian community tends to be small but this is one part of the community where I don't know a soul. It felt lonely and I wasn't even staying there... just my son.

As we entered Liberty, I was amazed at the size. Yes, I grew up outside of NYC, but I've lived in small town Atlantic Canada for the past 20 years. Who am I kidding? I love small town living. Lynchburg is not a huge city, but the campus was larger than I expected. The parents and students were all over. We soon figured out where we were going. Key first, then unload my son's earthly possessions.

The students we ran into were nice. It's comforting to think my son is in a place with nice good kids. Robin was even jealous of the adventure Josh will have. I had a sense that this was going to be fun for Josh. I am so happy and excited for him.

I think Josh was most excited over his cell phone. Yes, my son is connected. His Uncle Tim bought him a phone for graduation, but it wouldn't work in Canada. He was thrilled to finally be on US soil so he could get a signal. He even called us after we left him. And he called the next day to ask me a question. Bless his heart! How's that for southern jargon?

It was tough to leave him. The roads and parking lots were full, but he was standing there all alone. He wasn't alone for long, but it was heart breaking to see him walk away from us. Robin even wanted to hang around for a couple of hours the next day, but I wouldn't let him. How's that for role reversals? It's time to let go. It's time for him to spread his wings. What a cliche but so true.

We miss him, but I'm thrilled with the young man he's become and I know he will continue to amaze us and himself.


Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Tradition, tradition! Tradition!


I don't know why I'm humming the song from "Fiddler on the Roof", but I'm caught up with those little traditions in my life.

I just got back from a family vacation at Beulah. A Wesleyan church family camp. 10 days of spiritual and physical renewal. A place we have gone every summer as a family. I think since my marriage, I have only missed one family camp and that is the summer we drove out to Regina for Robin's training.

This is a tradition. The kids love it and look forward to seeing all of their friends and acquaintances once more. It has remained a constant in all of our lives no matter where we are currently living. But the crazy reality is constancy along with change. As kids grow up, they no longer come. My own teens were counseling camp and only made it on weekends. We once owned a cottage but now we stay in a tent. No matter how much we want things to stay the same, they change.

Even so, this year was great. Robin and I were innitially reluctant because so much has changed for us and it's hard to convey all that in superficial, "Hey, how's it going?" conversations. But we both needed that spiritual boost, dynamic singing and preaching. I for one, certainly received a boost.

Because we are still waiting for a referral in our adoption and it doesn't look like it will happen soon, I was expecting the Lord to hit me with messages on patience, waiting on Him, and leaning on His strength. They really didn't come. Instead we were encouraged to live out our faith in a bold and secure way. The message I heard loud and clear was to "act" and not "wait". Yes, I am waiting on our adoption, but my life doesn't have to be stagnant. I need to grow and live.

So, I'm going to lead a women's Bible study this fall. I'll probably be able to do another one in the spring but just one at a a time. I'm excited to be leading "Believing God" by Beth Moore. I'm just as excited to be doing it on Tuesday morning. With only Kaylin homeschooling, I think I can swing this.


Robin and I will also be focusing more on local outreach with our puppet group. I came back from Beulah and wanted to plan a trip to Haiti, of course. But after prayer and discussion, we're going to spend this year in our own area. Robin and I have been planning different themes and songs that would translate well to kids not use to a church setting.

Robin's big project will be another post. It's a doozy and it will involve all of us. So exciting to see God's hand leading us.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Love Thursday - yeah... we really do love each other




Joshua and Emily are only 2 years apart. I can remember the moment Joshua came walking down the hospital hallway right after Emily's birth. The big brother. And he certainly seemed like a big brother and not my baby. He was so good to Emily when she came home. He loved playing with her and trying to make her smile.

They haven't always been best friends. There have been frequent spats and squabbles through the years but there have also been times of laughter and play. Next week they will be the only counselors during the wilderness camp. They were both asked and it just warms my heart to know that no matter where life takes them, they will always have each other.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Owning my story


It's pretty obvious that my little girl belongs to me. She may not be the spitting image of me but her looks are close enough that nobody would even question her origin.

With our adoption from Haiti, that is not going to be the case. Everybody will see the biological differences. People will question. They won't always keep those questions to themselves but will voice them, often in rude ways.

I have been reading everything I can about international and transracial adoptions. One thing I have been pondering is the issue of privacy versus openness. With our own kids we will need to be as open as possible. I hope we are able to share information about their birth family. We will need to discuss pain and loss, and also joy and belonging. We will need to discuss racism because we live in the very white Maritimes. We will also need to provide our kids with boundaries.

The first time I heard the concept of "owning their story" was during a radio broadcast by Dr. Dobson. His children are adopted and during a discussion with his son he mentioned that phrase. He never broadcast the details of their adoption because it was their story to share when and if they wanted. It gave them a bit of control in a world where they had no control.

My kids won't have that control. People will know part of their story because of their skin color. But I want to save as much of their story as I can. I want them to "own their story". Because of that, we will not be sharing personal family details with our neighbors and acquaintances , only close family and friends.

I hope we can walk the fine line between clearly conveying our love and pride for our children and protecting their hearts and their stories. I hope that when people intrude on our family we can be gracious and yet aware of putting our children's needs first. I pray that our silence does not portray shame but that our concern shouts out our love. I'm sure this will all be a work in progress, but I hope that my heart and mind stays open to any and all the changing needs of my family.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Canada Day party

On June 20, 1868, a proclamation signed by the Governor General, Lord Monck, called upon all Her Majesty's loving subjects throughout Canada to join in the celebration of the anniversary of the formation of the union of the British North America provinces in a federation under the name of Canada on July 1st.
As an American living in Canada for almost 20 years, I can say without reserve that July 1 doesn't quite have the oomph or emphasis that July 4 does. However, I think Canadians are starting to change a little. Of course, every community is different, but there seems to be more red and white every year. The flags are around and little kids have Canadian flag tattoos all over. Some cars even drive around with flags sticking out the window. There's still a long way to go before the patriotism can rival the good ol' USA. I think my head would turn if I saw a street with even half the homes bearing a real cloth Canadian flag.


So how did our family celebrate the beginnings of British North America in Canada? We went to church and then our puppet show entertained the crowd at our town's Canada Day festivities. It was a nice family friendly afternoon. We had a bbq with friends and then we all went down to see the town fireworks.

So party on Canada. It looks good on you.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Love Thursday - Newlyweds


My 44 year old brother married for the first time last year. He and his bride are in love. It is evident to all who are in their presence. He is a great guy and she is a beautiful sweet lady. Their love bridges an age span and a culture divide. With God uniting them, they seem to have conquered any and all differences. We are so happy for both of them.