Monday, September 29, 2008

Decisions, decisions

When my son was just a toddler, I had an invaluable parenting lesson.  We were eating a meal with several people, some we were close to and some we weren't.  A man who really had no business instructing my son, told my son to finish his glass of milk before he was allowed to leave the table.  Now, I was relatively new at this parenting thing and I allowed this man to badger my son while I was steaming inside.  It all had to do with me wanting to be respectful of this older man and really not knowing how to gracefully reassert myself as the parent.

The episode eventually ended and upon reflection, I vowed to never allow my children to be put in that position again.  I was the parent, and I don't care if somebody disappoves of my decision... it's my decision to make.  I will let my son leave the table without finishing his milk, if I choose.  What a stand!

It seems like a no brainer, but it's not easy for some of us people pleasers to  face the disapproval of others, especially if we admire and respect them.

Each family has their own values, what is acceptable and what is not acceptable.

When we moved here, we were pleased that mass transit would be available for our girls.  They would have a bit of freedom to come and go, all for the price of bus fare.  We were excited that they would get to go to the city and explore a bit.  Another family was shocked that we would allow our teenage daughter to go in by herself and meet a friend.  For a moment I wanted to smooth the peace, be the people pleaser and explain my decision to them. To us, it's perfectly acceptable and even desired that our kids do that.  But I just stood quietly by our decision.

And guess who went into the city again on a bus?  Yep, my daughters.  And they loved their adventure.  And I loved their growing sense of independence.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

September updates

For some reason we just love to see pictures of Gaëlle from above.  Here she is celebrating her birthday.  She turned 3.

Lunch looks like a winner.

This is Peterson playing with some friends.  You can see his missing teeth.  So cute!!!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Blogging & Reading for Darfur

I don't know how it started.  But my son developed a strong interest in the conflict in Sudan... no, not the Darfur conflict, but the north-south conflict sometimes called the 2nd Sudanese Civil War.  I think it was a combination of things he had been reading and items we had read as a family.  Never dismiss the power of reading.  Anyway, he was committed to praying for the end of the civil war in Sudan.  

I am by no means an expert, but on a basic level, there were tensions because of religion, Muslim vs. Animism/ Christianity.  Tensions because the south had vast natural resources (not accessible but very much present) and the north wanted access to them.  Tensions because of Arab vs. non-Arab factions.  And of course, tensions because of economic hardship.  I'm sure a real expert could give much more nuanced details and explanations, but this was the basic understanding our family had.

Josh prayed regularly.  Technically, this conflict ended on January 9,2005 with the signing of a Comprehensive Peace Agreement.  There are estimates of 2 million civillian deaths and 4 million displaced persons because of this north-south conflict.  People may have heard of the lost boys of Sudan yet I doubt they can name the conflict. Few people know.

Enter Darfur.  Another genocide.  People are trying to get the word out... trying to stop the madness.  Bloggers are using the power of the written word to publicize this tragedy.  I picked up The Translator, A Tribesman's Memoir of Darfur to learn more.  It's just madness.  I don't even know how to review the book.  But I do know that the courage and persistence of people like Daoud Hari has not been wasted.  He did all he could to let the outside world know of the destruction and violence in the Darfur region of Sudan.  He and others continue to spread the word and hopefully to stop the madness.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Where's the progress?

The 2nd Thursday of every school year in Nova Scotia has been proclaimed, "Stand up against bullying day".  This is a response to a bullying incident on the first day of school last year.  A new student at Central Kings Rural High School wore a pink polo shirt and was harrassed.  2 grade 12 boys went out and bought 50 pink shirts and passed them out to friends to wear the next day to show their support and to speak out against bullying.  The idea caught on and yesterday all students were encouraged to wear pink shirts.

I just couldn't help but think of my high school years.  I'm sure bullying was a part of life for some students, but not for wearing pink shirts.  I was in high school during the height of the "preppy" look.  The cool guys wore pink shirts... button down... Izod... cotton sweaters... pink belts.  The list could go on and on and on.

Where is the progress?  For all of the tolerance that is being preached, we sure seem to be an intolerant lot.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Time for action

With the horror stories coming out of Haiti, most of us just feel so helpless.  Even if we send money, it still doesn't feel like enough.

The orphanage we're adopting from sent out an urgent appeal asking all of us to contact our political representatives.  According to a fellow missionary, there are supplies on the ground in Gonaive but the UN forces have not been handing them out.  Paul Farmer of Partners in Health mentions something similar.  Aid agencies have been SLOW to respond and the UN forces initially refused to hand out supplies because of "fear of riots".  

Time for action.  This is something I can do.

So, I emailed several of my political representatives in Canada.  Imagine my surprise when my local Member of Parliament actually called me.  Instead of blasting the local government in power for their lack of action (isn't that what opposition politicians do?) , he took this opportunity to educate me on Haiti.

They have the most corrupt government in this hemisphere.
The Haitian government doesn't allow aid groups to respond and truly help.  Do I remember the response of the Burmese government just a few months ago?

So, this was my opportunity to educate.

Canada donates to Haiti and in fact, it is the 2nd largest foreign contribution Canada makes.
Therefore, Canada has a huge amount of leverage, unlike Burma, and this is the time to use that political leverage and demand action.
The UN force in Haiti is a military force and should be able to manage the threat of riots in order to save people's lives.

His response.

Oh, I see you know a little about Haiti.  I just wanted to respond to that.

My response.

I just want my political representatives to use Canadian leverage to save lives before it's too late.

Thank you. Have a good day.

Now, this is where I fell short.  I should have point blank asked him what he intended to do.  Ugh... I still need to learn a little bit about action.  Because that's what I wanted... action... not an education session.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Why Haiti?

People ask that all the time?  Why adopt from Haiti?  In a nutshell, I spent the summer of 1982 in Cavaillon, Haiti with a group of teens building a church.  It was a great summer where we worked hard, but our Saturdays were spent visiting local sights... waterfalls at Saut-Mathurine, Les Cayes, and the ocean.  A seed was planted during that summer, the seed of adoption.  There was such a need.

Fast forward to the summer of 2004.  Our family was in the car and Focus on the Family was playing.  Bruce Wilkinson was discussing his new book, The Dream Giver.  I never did read the book but after listening to the interview we all discussed our dreams... our big dreams.   My big dream that was unfulfilled was my dream of adoption and God brought it to the forefront so powerfully that day.  We all talked about it but it was clear that my family was not on board. 

September 2004.  Tropical Storm Jeanne hit Haiti... HARD.  The exact same area that is facing the deadly waters today was devastated by mud slides that September.  As soon as I heard the news, I just felt this heavy heavy burden.  I felt like my kids were stuck in that mud.  My family was in need.  I'm not a melodramatic person, but I really felt despair and the sense that my family needed me.

July 2006.  Our family had the privilege of being in camp meetings with a great speaker.  It's not that Jo Anne Lyon is the most dynamic speaker I've ever heard, but her message was just what we needed.  She used her book, The Ultimate Blessing, Rediscovering the Power of God's Presence as the backbone of her messages.  We were finally ready to commit to adopting from Haiti.  We started the process.

September 2008.  Haiti is once again feeling the power and destruction of water.  I know that my kids are safe.  GLA is high in the mountains and their buildings are strong.  I have a peace about their safety, but Gonaive and other flat lying areas are just being decimated.  My thoughts are a jumble.  My questions are many.  

He who has a why to live for can bear with almost any how.  ~Friedrich Nietzsche

"I had always loved the word hope, but the idea behind it was elusive to me.  What is hope?  How would you describe it?  Finally I hit upon an analogy that helps me understand the concept.  I envision my life as a train, set on railroad tracks, with an engine that makes it go.  I see hope as the destination of the train.  The tracks upon which the train moves are love, and the engine that makes it move is faith.  The apostle Paul referred to 'Christ in you, the hope of glory' (Col. 1:27).  When I see my own suffering as a way of sharing in Christ's suffering, I'm driven toward hope.  I know that I have a 'why,' a reason for what I experience.  Therefore, I have hope."  The Ultimate Blessing (p. 132-133)

Friday, September 5, 2008


Kaylin with our "daughter" from last year.  She's living at home, but she followed Emily to her new high school.

Emily and friend leaving for school.

Snickers, left behind.

It's back to school time and because our homeschooling days are finished for now, it's time for a new school.  With all of the moving our family has done, homeschooling has been a huge benefit.  It provided consistency and stability in the kids' education.

But as of last February my daughters are both in the public school world and with a move, that means a new school.  The jury is definitely out on their new schools.  Especially with the high school.  We had heard horror stories about this particular school from kids who don't attend there so we didn't really pay any attention to them.  Emily now thinks they're true.  She's not too impressed with the control, or lack of control, the administration has on the students.  She thinks things are out of control.  Not exactly what every mom wants to hear from her daughter.

This is her last year and so we'll see how it goes.  I let her know that home was very much a possibility, but for now, she'll stick it out.

Kaylin is also not convinced that this school will be good for her.  But she's going to continue and see how it goes.  I have been in a constant state of prayer this week and I'm sure that will continue.  I'm thankful that I don't feel stuck... we have options... I've homeschooled my son through high school... I can do it again.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Three Little Words: A Memoir

I stumbled across Three Little Words: A Memoir
by Ashley Rhodes-Courter as I was perusing the adoption section in the library.  Initially when I started reading this young adult memoir, I questioned my sanity.  Why plunge myself into another dark, sad story?  But this young lady has written a gem.  Not only is her writing style compelling, but her thoughts and memories are clear and articulately conveyed.

Ashley's mother is an unwed teenager with a troubled family life of her own.  She and her baby brother are removed from their mother when they come to the attention of the police after a minor car infraction.  They are then caught in the cruel, uncaring, illogical foster system.  For 9 years she is repeatedly stuck in abusive homes, constantly rejected, and often ignored by the system that is supposed to protect her.

When Ashley details the many ways the legal and family system let her and her brother down, I just wanted to beat my head against a wall.  Unspeakable horrors.  Her story is a must read for anybody interested in social work.  Ironically, the 2 woman that make the most difference in her life are not paid on her behalf by the system.  They just volunteer to make a difference for her.

The part of the book that spoke loudest to me was when Ashley let us in on her own thoughts and feelings throughout her journey... especially when she shares her new life with her adoptive parents.  She has faced so much pain and rejection that by the age of 12, she distrusts everybody and everything.  She's seen disrupted adoptions and knows that even a forever family is not forever.  She hates her new mom's food and takes pleasure in upsetting her mom and pushing her buttons.  She wants to win the battles even if it means she goes to bed hungry.  She loves to drive a wedge between her new mom and dad; always waiting to be sent back to the children's home.

There were a few passages that just hit hard.

After Phil left the room, Gay stroked my hair.  "It's ok not to love us."  I kept my face buried in my pillow, yet my ears were on full alert.  "And I'm not going to say that I love you, because I haven't known you long enough to feel that way.  I like you very much and I want you to be my daughter forever, but love is something that grows with shared experiences.  I feel the buds of love growing, but it hasn't blossomed yet."

I could not believe she was being so honest.  She took a long breath.  "There is nothing we can say to make you believe that we'll be here for you.  You'll only learn it by living with us year after year."  She smoothed my hair again and stood up.  The bedsprings creaked.  I turned enough to see her hovering over me, and for the first time, I saw her as more of a protector than a stranger.  "Ashley, one of these days I will tell you that I love you.  When you hear those three words from my lips, you will know they come from my heart.  Sweet dreams, sweetie," she said, and stepped out in the hall.  (p. 193-194)

As the adoption made me feel more secure, the tautness in my stomach relaxed, and I found that I was interested in new foods.  I realized that I could find something I liked at almost any restaurant, whereas before I had often left hungry.  (p. 224)

Broken promises crippled me for many years.  As the Courters kept their pledges to me, my faith in others expanded.  Day after day, they were there for me; until one day, I not only felt safe, I did not want to leave.  Maybe that is one definition of love.  (p. 289)

I could keep going with the excerpts because there are many powerful moments.  This is an excellent book and would be helpful for older siblings in families who are adopting or have adopted.  Ashley has overcome more in her young life than most of us can imagine and her insight would be helpful for all family members.  This is a story of courage and hope and I highly recommend it.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Finding family

Tour guide with his granddaughters.

Fishing boat that will take you out whale watching.

Our favorite little fishing village and wooden draw bridge.

Tall ships in Lunnenburg Harbour.  Can't visit NS without a trip here.

My dad and aunt have become huge fans of genealogy.  That just might be the understatement of the year.  Obsessed with genealogy might be more appropriate.  Most people with this interest spend hours with their computer.  Not my dad.  Not part of the computer age yet.  He just flies to Germany to do hands on research.

A couple of years ago when he went to the area of Germany where his relative came from, he just "happened" to "find" long lost relatives.  It really was and is amazing how this happened.  Anyway, he invited these relative from Germany to come over to Nova Scotia and he would take them all around.  Small problem... my dad doesn't live in NS.  He lives 20 hours away.

Fast forward to this weekend... one of the sons actually came over to visit Nova Scotia.  He and his girlfriend will be touring around the area for almost a month.  So my dad drives up just so that he can be their tour guide.  Talk about commitment to this genealogy thing.

His part of the visit seems to have been a big success.  He's pleased with all they were able to do.  Now they're on their own.  NS tourism can thank my dad for his part in boosting our economy.  Now if the rest of us would be so kind as to get on board, inviting long lost relatives to visit, then maybe tourism would pick back up.  So here's a shout out to anyone, absolutely anyone... if you want to visit Nova Scotia, I know a man who would love to show you around.