Monday, March 23, 2009

A Forever Family

I finished this book a while ago and am just getting around to a brief reveiw. A Forever Family by John Houghton would have benefited from much tighter editing. The beginning was slow and the ending just kept going on and on. Yes, another horrific incident in their lives. I'm not trying to be snarky, but in order to maintian the reader's interest, a good storyteller needs to know when to leave out details that I'm sure were important in real life, but don't add anything to the book.

But onto the story. John and his wife, Marina , after a long history of infertility decide to pursue adoption. Incredibly they are paired with a sibling group of 3 with a history of abuse and neglect. For anybody who is remotely connected with adoption, you can see the train wreck ahead. This couple is woefully unprepared for the trauma these children have already experienced and the conflict their fragile family soon faces. Support just does not exist in any form and this family fights hard for help. John details their journey with excruciating honesty. At times, I just wanted to get off. I can't imagine the pain and the trauma that just never seemed to end.

Their story ends with hope. Their oldest son is living on his own and according to the author is a young man any parent would be proud of. However, they missed the last half of his teen years and don't really know how he turned his life around. Their other 2 children have continued to live with them and he is not sure they will ever be able to live independently. There have been long, difficult, and violent years together and looking back, John does not know how they have survived. But they have and they are forever.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Guess who's 8?

Yes, it's Peterson's 8th birthday today. So hard to believe. I never would have guessed that we would still be so far away from his homecoming. Absolutely no end in sight. We've been told that he's full of mischief and loves to laugh. I think this picture shows his silly side.

Eating cake at the March birthday party.

Gaëlle with a friend. She looks so much older to us in this picture. Robin and I feel fortunate that we don't grieve all of the moments that we're missing. I read blogs of adoptive parents that are so distressed because of all the lost milestones. I don't know why, but we aren't burdened by that. But I do feel disconnected sometimes. There's just so much about them we don't know. That's difficult. And we're so concerned about the long term effects of institution living for both of them. I've been reading too many attachment books lately and it weighs on my heart. No matter how good the orphanage is, it is still an institution and there are negative effects not to mention the trauma of the loss of birth family.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Guess who's 18?

In one month we have 6 birthdays; 4 of our children (3 at home and 1 in Haiti) and 2 grandparents. So this is a joyous time but also a time of reflection. We have another child who has joined the ranks of adulthood, of sorts. Emily is 18!!! Still not independent but definitely heading in that direction. She is flexing her wings and getting ready to fly off. At times this is a scarey thought for us, but usually we look at her with pride and excitement. We know that she loves the Lord, she loves her family and she loves life. We pray that she continues to look to God for all the major decisions she'll be making. And we'll be sitting back cheering her on. Probably saying too much at times and not enough at other times. We love her so much and just want God's best for her.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Outsiders Within

When I first heard about Outsiders Within: Writing on Transracial Adoption, I was anxious to read the collection of essays by adult adoptees. I finally brought it home and my husband looked at the description and declared his intent to not read it. So I lectured him on the importance of reading all sides of the adoption experience. We have to know the bad as well as the good. In order to enjoy a postive family experience, we have to look at those who have walked this path and learn from their failures and successes.

Well, I'll agree with him that this particular book is not a "must read". The idea is excellent; our society cannot move forward until we examine the mistakes of the past and work to rectify them. However, most of these essays attempt too much. The authors get bogged down in generalized statements. Several times, I ended up skimming an essay because the author made blanket statements of "fact" that struck me as biased and without proof. I no longer had any desire to hear their "truth". It wasn't just that my beliefs were challenged, it was a complete assault on reasoning and logic.

There were a handful of essays out of the 30 that were powerful and challenging. The authors tended to stick to one aspect of transracial adoption, obviously the aspect that was most pertinent to their story. They relayed facts and statistics and anecdotes about their outside status that made me think and feel the power of their story. In those 5 essays I have some new food for thought; some previously held beliefs that I will rethink. But this is one adoption book that I will return to the library

Friday, March 6, 2009

A Place Between; The Story of an Adoption

I came across the documentary A Place Between in the library catalog and immediately placed a hold. Curtis Kaltenbaugh tells his story in a soft yet piercing manner. As he details his life and interviews his loved ones, his search for identity unfolds. At the age of 7 he and his younger brother were removed from their birthmother, an Ojibway from Manitoba, after the tragic death of another brother. Both boys remember the harshness of their early years; the drunken episodes and the neglect. Curtis doesn't dwell on his early reactions to his new home and family in rural Pennsylvania. However he does discuss the anger, rage, and rebellion that his younger brother clearly displays as a teen and the disruption on his adoptive family.

Curtis discusses and explores his feelings of isolation. He loves and has a connection to both of his families and yet feels separate and distinct from both of them. Interestingly, both boys choose to live in Manitoba as adults; one completely embracing his native heritage and family and the other just on the outskirts of his Ojibway community.

I found several interesting points in this documentary. The younger brother, Ashok, is gregarious and outgoing. His adoptive family felt that because of his personality, he would easily navigate the minefield of racism and teenage angst. Clearly, he did not. However, after 8 years with no contact towards his adoptive family, he warmly gives and receives their love. (A total tear inducing moment.) And he states that if he had been left with his biological mother, he would be dead now. He would not have survived his destructive tendencies in that atmosphere. His adoptive family loved him and saved him.

It's also interesting that Curtis, at the age of 30, still feels torn between 2 communities. He doesn't feel that he belongs to either one. It's not clear whether he wants to belong to one or the other. He seems to want them combined with himself as the final product. So far, that hasn't happend. And that's something Robin and I will have to deal with and watch. What can we do for Peterson and Gaëlle to help them love and accept the wonderful children they are as well as accepting and understanding all of the differences in their lives? Much food for thought.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The Maroons in Nova Scotia

One of my reading goals is to learn more about the Nova Scotian black community. I thought maroon was a color so I was interested to read The Maroons in Nova Scotia, by John N. Grant. This simply written history book claims to utilize historical record and modern research to give a full picture of the Maroons. I found the account flat and a bit one sided. The perspective shared is from the historical record of the British governing Nova Scotia and Jamaica during the late 1700's. Therefore, the Maroons are never given a voice and I ended the book not fully understanding the journey taken by this community of people. Were they angry, resigned, resourceful, joyful, accomodating, fighting? The reader would have to look between the lines and imagine the reaction of the Maroons, because their personal account is never told.

So, who are the Maroons? The original definition of the word maroon has been "a fugitive slave who betakes himself to the woods". Jamaica in the late 1700's had 5 maroon populations. Periods of peace were interspersed with Maroon Wars, with the final war waged in 1795. Only a portion of the Jamaican Maroons were forced to leave Jamaica after their defeat, contrary to the terms of the signed peace treaty. In June 1796, 568 people set sail for Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Immediately upon landing in Halifax, the men were sent to work on the Fort at Citadel hill. This was called the Maroon Bastion until it was demolished 35 years later. The following year, the Maroon community was moved to Preston outside of Halifax, to become farmers. The community did not have great success in their time in Nova Scotia and it was decided to send them to Sierra Leone which occurred in August 1800.

This is just a small chapter in the history of the Nova Scotia black community. There doesn't appear to be any lasting legacy from their 4 years in Nova Scotia, but I now know who the Maroons are

Monday, March 2, 2009