Friday, May 25, 2012

Just a Thought

Chris has been religiously watching the NBA playoffs, and I unfortunately am about sick of them. Usually I've been retreating into the bedroom and reading cookbooks on the Kindle, but last night I decided to do something different: I sat down at the dining table and wrote to my sponsored children. I have to admit--I'm terrible about writing to them. I seem to remember them the most when I'm attentive to Orthodoxy, but in those (sadly long) times when I'm absorbed with myself I forget just about everyone I should be taking care of. But a recent incident reawakened my Christian zeal ever so slightly, so my focus is on the three children I sponsor rather than how to roast a duck. Not shockingly, I feel like a better person for it.

I got into child sponsorship as a substitute for having children. I've learned there are several ways to do that without the commitment of adoption. Hosting an international student, for instance. That's something that still interests me, although it's taking a back seat to the call to respite care. Goodness knows what we'll end up doing. Anyway, sponsorship was a way to fill the void infertility left. I'm especially fond of my Romanian boy who has been "my" child for almost two years now. The Ethiopian girl and Egyptian boy are recent additions in the past few months. The letters last night were the second to the girl and only the first to the boy. I've lost track of how many I've sent to the Romanian boy. And let me tell you, nothing beats the thrill of getting a letter back from them in the mail. "International mail from Romania," Chris will say to me, and I suddenly get all shy and can't open the letter for a few hours. I'm silly that way.

Anyway, I was thinking to myself as I was writing (it helps that I was incredibly caffeinated and having feelings of invincibility) that all Christians who are able should sponsor a child (or three). Honestly, it doesn't bother me if people from other faiths/no faith do it too, but my concern is always with Christians because we are called to be the salt and light of the earth. I had some really great ideas for things to say on behalf of sponsorship, but the caffeine that fueled my zeal also fueled a sleepless night and I don't remember half of what I was thinking. Still, it's a pretty cheap commitment, it's a wonderful way to impact the life of a child and his/her community, and you'll make an international friend (or three). The two boys were picked for me by random chance, and the Romanian was young at the time (6), but I prefer older children as it turns out. I got to select the Ethiopian girl myself, and I had three criteria for her: 1) had to be a girl (since I already had a boy), 2) had to be older (she's 12), and 3) don't pick the cutest kid in the bunch (a difficult impulse to overcome, lemme tell ya). The Romanian boy and Ethiopian girl are through World Vision; the Egyptian boy is through Coptic Orphans (Orthodox Christians may be more comfortable with them than other Christians--FYI). If anyone has another charity they like, please feel free to drop its name in the comments.

I apologize for a post that's a darn sight more scatterbrained than I intended back when the caffeine was still coursing through my veins. I hope you'll consider the joy of sponsorship in spite of my writing. :)

Friday, May 18, 2012

Can't? Or Won't?

Some gentle readers of the Loquat may remember back to a long, long time ago when this was an adoption blog. Times sure have changed since then. Our adoption experience was a terrible disaster: We watched our agency basically fall apart, I got cold feet about the whole thing, and finally we chose to end the adoption because Chris hated his job and we didn't feel like we should bring kids into that stressful situation. A few months later, we found out about my mental illness and I was put on meds, effectively ending any chance we had at an international adoption.

That was four years ago--wow. Times really do change. Chris and I settled into being a family of two and were well on our way to making that permanent. Our childless choice could be perceived as selfishness and occasionally was. But it definitely shaped us into who we are now: As we rapidly approach our thirties, we've lost the naive idealism that drove us four years ago. We've been on vacations. We've enjoyed being alone. We've relished being able to keep sharp knives in unlocked drawers. They say that every infertile couple should consider being a family of two seriously before launching themselves into an adoption, and I wholeheartedly agree with that: Love the bejeebers out of each other for a time. Be "selfish". Grow a little older and wiser. Revel in the amazingness that is marriage and consider never turning back.

I didn't want to turn back.

Until I read this: "Where is the mommy-war for the motherless child?"

Like I said, I was hopelessly naive and idealistic during our adoption attempt. I wanted to save the world. Just how I planned to do that by adopting a set of five-year-old twins (one of whom was blind) is beyond me. We moved on, and while I can't speak for my husband I know I've certainly moved past that youthful idealism. So what is it about adopting from foster care that keeps luring me back? It's not guilt--guilt is a terrible motivator. I think it's a sense of injustice. Eighteen-year-olds who put themselves on photolistings in a desperate attempt to find a family can't not make one sad. A child who isn't getting adopted because all the families in a Christian agency don't want a black child can't not make one infuriated. I have friends who've adopted successfully from foster care--why not me?

I've got the predictable excuses: The first attempt at adoption was too traumatic. No agency will take a person who's mentally ill (this is actually something I need to verify). But whenever I'm faced with adopting from foster care, I always ask myself if I really can't do it or if I just don't want to. I guess I just don't want to, and I'm beginning to realize that I can't say that's not selfishness. But now I think I'm ready to help--not in a save-the-world, over-idealistic kind of way, but in a real, tangible way. Starfish theory. "It mattered to that one."

The local college radio station plays PSAs for AdoptUSKids, and there's one that particularly cracks me up: It starts with a new mother saying, "I know more about throwing a luncheon for ten than I do about making lunch for a 10-year-old." It ends with her pondering whether or not she can make mac-n-cheese with brie. I always liked this PSA because I don't know a darn thing about feeding a child, but I'm pretty sure mizuna is off the menu. Still, here's the plan: Once Chris is done with nursing school, we'll apply to do respite care. When he's finished his BSN, we'll apply to adopt. Scary, I know--but it feels like the right thing to do.

I guess this is another one of my self-righteous, navel-gazy posts, but it is my blog and I can say what I want on it.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Sometimes I Feel Like a Childless Mother

I'm blessed to have many friends I've never met. I know them from a forum for Christians dealing with infertility. Many have gone on and finally had children, but many others are like me: stuck in a rut, still part of a couple and not a family. Yet whether we have children or not, we all seem to hate Mothers Day.

I stay home from church, and I know I'm not alone in this. For me, I'm mostly at a place of peace with my childlessness, but I know better than to put myself in situations where that peace can be tested. Mothers Day is my ultimate tester. Fathers Day sucks too--I get all guilty and feel bad for Chris, who probably doesn't feel any hurt at all. I guess someone has to hurt.

For years I've tried to work out anti-motherly things to do on Mothers Day. I have not once succeeded, and end up staying at home with a Chipotle burrito bowl and a gluten-free beer. Everything seems to be infiltrated by motherliness: I can't go out to breakfast because mothers are going out to breakfast. I can't go to the Dallas Arboretum because they've invited mothers. I can't go get ice cream because mothers will be there (oh, and I can't eat dairy). I can't go to my favorite sculpture museum because it has a nice cafe where mothers will be. Frankly, I don't even know if the local wine bar is safe! I realize that I may sound pretty neurotic to those of you who have never experienced infertility, but even after nearly eight years of being off birth control I'm still trying to escape the inescapable. My infertile friends get it. (Holla!)

I know more commercial enterprises are trying to be inclusive and throw in the "mother" who's "baby" has four feet and a boatload of fur. But something about inclusiveness bugs me. I have six furbabies and guess what? I'm still not a mom. There's also "To everyone who is a mom or has a mom." That bugs me too. I'm still an outsider.

I like not having kids and I intend to stay this way. The sharp knives are in reach, the plugs don't have covers, and I don't have to put ugly foam bumpers on all the furniture's sharp corners. And yet I still have names picked out for kids, ideas of where they'd go to school, a spare room, etc. I wonder if I'll ever get over that.

Anyway, many happy wishes to my infertile friends as you come up with new ways to be antisocial on this day. And to those of you who are pregnant or parenting without problems, know you've missed a world of hurt.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

I'm a SAHW

A stay-at-home-wife, for those of you not versed in the lingo. Although that's not the title I prefer. I like queen of all I survey. Head gardener. Master chef. Home decorator. And if you must call me a SAHW, call me a SAHW extraordinaire. Might as well. Why not?

What separates me from the SAHM (stay-at-home-mom) is the lack of children. I'm sure some think that this makes me selfish and lazy. The truth is that I'm a headcase. And I'm weak. And I struggle just to get up in the morning because I sleep so poorly at night. But I also got to be there for my mom for three weeks when she got out of the hospital. And I'll get to be there for my husband while he's working his way through nursing school. In a me, me, me culture, I like those things.

I spent high school preparing myself for a career in music. I saw myself as becoming a music history professor and not getting married until I had a masters degree. Then I met the guy who'd become my husband. I quit music school and got a bachelors in creative writing. I got married at 21--I still don't have a masters degree. What changed? I realized there are things more important than having a career. Like all the other SAHWs and SAHMs out there, I realized that family was more important. Yes--I'm a feminist nightmare.

An article has been circulating among my friends on Facebook (alas, I'm back on Facebook) about being a SAHM. I wanted to write about being a SAHW. It's not the same--I know the work I do isn't nearly as hard as what moms do--but I don't think it's without merit. Some women want careers, and more power to them. But I realized that for me that hardest and more rewarding work I could do was being at home. It was so unlike anything I'd planned for myself. Seven or eight years ago, I realized that all the work I'd ever done composing music and writing poems didn't measure up to the music and poetry in vacuuming the carpet in my tiny apartment. And when I'm on my own, watching the dogs run about the yard or tending my garden or cooking dinner, I get that feeling again.

I used to be most apologetic about my lack of gainful employment. I was embarrassed, but it was outweighed by my fear of getting a job. Once I became Orthodox, that started to disappear--seems that self-worth in the Church isn't measured by your career choices. Nice change of pace. I still think about getting a job or starting some sort of career, but then I think of being there for Mom and the desire dissipates.

Someone else on Facebook posted this today:
“Do whatever falls to your hands,
in your circle and in your situation–
and believe that this is and will be your true work;
nothing more from you is expected.
It is a great error to think that you must
undertake important and great labours,
whether for heaven, or, as the progressives think,
in order to make one’s contribution to humanity.
That is not necessary at all. It is necessary only
to do everything in accordance with the Lord’s commandments.
Just exactly what is to be done? Nothing in particular,
just that which presents itself to each one
according to the circumstances of his life,
and which is demanded by the individual events
with which each of us meets.”
St. Theophan the Recluse from “The Spiritual Life”
So I keep a vegetable garden and cook and take pictures. When people I know need help, I'm free to be there for them. I go on vacations. I think of having foreign students stay in our house when we're on our feet. I have "Cook It Your Own Damn Self" dinners on Thursday nights (the only time I get to eat mushrooms because Chris hates them). I love my family. I'm there for my husband, my parents, my friends. I don't want to fly in the face of feminism--I just want to be happy with my life. And I am.