Thursday, May 30, 2013

Wedding Planning and Relationships: Oh My!

Relationships are hard.  Really really hard.  You have take two people who want very different things and try to make something work out of it.  It's hard.  It takes a lot of guts, a lot of sweat, and possibly some tears.  And sometimes you end up with something amazing.  Other times, not so much.  And that's just two people.  Add in a third.  Things get a lot harder.  Then a fourth.  And eventually, see what you can do about family dynamics.  It's enough to make my head spin sometimes.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl Update

This post revisits the adoption dispute between a South Carolina couple and the Cherokee father of the girl they thought they'd legally adopted, which I wrote about here. After a not-so-by-the-book adoption, the well-meaning family brought their new daughter back to South Carolina. The father, who had been fighting for custody of his daughter for months after mistakenly signing away his rights, took the case to the South Carolina court, which ruled in his favor due to the Indian Child Welfare Act. In the year since, the adoptive couple launched an online campaign called "saveveronica", and brought the case to the Supreme Court, which heard the case last month. The court is set to rule sometime in June.

It's the lack of nuance that really gets me. People toss all manner of bitterness into the Internet, and comments on the story tend to demonize the father and heroize the adoptive parents. That's not fair and it's not the whole picture. And imagine the compartmentalization that has to happen in their minds--(birth father = bad; adoptive parents = good; therefore, child, who is biologically related to birth father = ?)   I'm not talking exclusively about the adoptive parents--I'm referring to the band-wagon-jumpers who have to throw their two cents in and call the birth father a "loser" and worse.

Even the words "save veronica" are painful. "Save" implies that the girl is in danger. Save her from her father? From the Indians? Really they mean "bring her back to us". Not that their desire is inappropriate--of course we can understand their feelings of loss. But let's call it what it is.

This comic highlights the irony:

Used with permission by the artist; Marty Two Bulls

I'd like to know more about how the little girl has fared since living with her father. In a disappointingly unbalanced article on NPR, the writer admits in one line that, "No one disputes that she was sublimely happy with her adoptive parents, and videos of her with her father, now married, seem to show a little girl equally happy."

"No one disputes" the "sublime happiness" of the girl with the adoptive parents. Yet evidence of her life with her father merely "seems to show" happiness.

There are all sorts of privilege issues this case bring to the surface: Adoptive parents v. birth parents. Married parents v. single parent. White people v. Native American. Birth mother v. birth father.

Bottom of the hierarchy of "rights" is often birth fathers, it seems. In a comment on my last post about this case, a birth father wrote: 

"As a birthfather who has been separated from his child, and having been through a 2 year legal battle to for full custody and ending up with practically no rights, I am sympathetic to [Dusten] in this scenario. The birthfather is almost always treated as the bad guy, and the legal system is generally stacked against him - not to mention the adoption agencies, social workers, and birthmothers. The phrase "best interest of the child" is thrown around in courtrooms and blogs in way that is unilaterally synonymous with "best interest of the adoptive parents and birthmother". Way to go Dusten for getting your kid back!! I tried to do so and it left me emotionally, mentally, and financially devastated, with serious stress-related health complications to boot. I can only imagine the effort that this man has put into being present for his daughter. There are, of course, legitimate concerns about the effect of the transition on the child. Surely there is some immediate negative psychological effect from being placed into a new home at the age of 2. Hopefully the long term benefits of being with her biological family in a culturally appropriate environment outweigh and counterbalance these short term challenges. To clarify, I am not without sympathy for the adoptive parents - it must be a tremendous loss for them as well. It's a shame that birthfathers are kept dumb and in the dark in adoption scenarios, otherwise such heartbreak could be avoided."

I'm nervous for the Supreme Court ruling. It's hard even for me to write about it--it literally makes my heart rate increase. I'm sad for the adoptive parents who feel they got slighted. But honestly I'm even more sad for the birth father and all the backlash against him. And the little girl too--what trauma she's been through (and what more trauma might await her if the court says she should be removed again and taken to live with the adoptive parents whom she hasn't seen for a year!) I hope that all those nasty comments about Native Americans and about her father will be gone from the Internet by the time she is able to read them. I hope society as a whole will embrace a more balanced viewpoint about adoption by the time she can read, too.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Being a father and mother is more than giving birth to a child

I hear folks say it all the time, "Well, being a father and mother is more than just giving birth to a child" as a rationalization for excluding and dismissing birth parents from having the right to be a part of an adoptee's life.

And although this may be true--that, obviously, parenting is more than uniting sperm and egg--it's no way to respond to an adult adoptee who is trying to navigate her way through life in search, reunion, and post-reunion. (And obviously, it's no way to respond to a birth parent!)

And honestly, I'd prefer you just be more blunt with me and say what you really mean: just because your Korean mother gave birth to you doesn't mean she deserves or has the right to be your mom now. All she did was give birth to you. She didn't do anything else. 

As much as I might agree with that statement at times, this whole line of thinking completely misses the point.

I'm not trying to figure out whether my Korean mother deserves or has the "right" to be my mother. And I didn't search for my Korean mother because I was looking for a new mom. I searched for my Korean mother because she is biologically, naturally, by DNA already my mother. Yep. That's an undeniable fact.

Now, if you want to get into nuances and into what it means to really "mother" someone, fine. But that's not the point I'm trying to make here. I'm not discussing whether you think my Omma has the "right" to be in my life, because quite honestly that ain't nun-yo biz-nez.

My point is that by blood, she is my mom. My point is that, without dispute, a part of me is from her. I would not be who I am today without her. I literally would not be here if it were not for her. And yes, she did not raise me. She was not around physically to nurture me, but her influence runs through my veins and snaps in my neurons

Whether I like it or not, she has been influencing me all of my life. She has been making me who I am even without being physically present.

And even now, as she and I try to build a relationship, as troubled and conflicted as it can be, there is no doubt that I came from her, that I am her daughter. It is so evident in our personalities, in our appearances, in our tendencies.

So, yes, "mothering" and raising a child is more than giving birth to a child. But when it comes to an adoptee who wants to search or who has searched and found, this kind of thinking is irrelevant and honestly, quite ignorant, because we're not looking to find a new family to raise us or nurture us--we're looking for the family that is already ours.

The adoptee must be able to decide for herself or himself whether he or she wants to allow the birth mother or birth father to be a part of his or her life; it's already such an emotionally challenging situation in and of itself--we don't need everyone else telling us what we should think or do.

But regardless of what choice an adoptee makes, it will remain an unchangeable fact that the birth mother and birth father will always be a part of the adoptee's life, for better or for worse, simply because of that microscopic helix, DNA.

So rather than trying to interfere with an adoptee's decision or desire to learn more about his or her origins by making statements like the one above, try understanding why someone would want to know from whom he or she came.

It's really not that crazy.  


Monday, May 27, 2013

The Adopted-Out Churchill

The truth is incontrovertible.
Panic may resent it,
ignorance may deride it,
malice may distort it,
but there it is.
The House of Commons (1916) 
When people who know my mother-in-law see my non-adopted five-year-old daughter, they invariably say, “She’s a little version of her grandma!”
Truly, they do look alikecomplexion, facial structure, smile, overall petite body type (as opposed to her mother who, nearing 6-feet in flats is a bit much for a woman IMO). 
They both possess a tenacious stubbornness for what’s right; albeit my mother-in-law is much more polite in its execution.
That’s genetics for you.
People are neither surprised nor thrown off balance to see that D is “just like” her paternal biological grandmother. And why would they be?

Genetics are somehow perceived to have been erased in adoption ...

Question: Why is it such a stretch when an adopted-out granddaughter so closely physically resembles and identifies with her paternal biological grandfather?

<<<Energetically pumps arm in the air like the typical type A people-pleasing adoptee>>> Ohhh me! Pick me! I know!
Because adoption sucks?
Because the prevailing attitude toward adoption (during the Closed Adoption Erait’s changing now, but slowly) was that if the agency did its job “correctly,” then they’d match the adoptee to similar-looking adoptive parents, thereby allowing everyone to pretend that much more easily. Even better, perhaps then the adoptee won’t feel the need to search.
As we learn in her memoir, The Fifth and Final Name, Memoir of an American Churchill, therapist and adoptee Rhonda Noonan wasn’t taking the easy way, and she's definitely not the stereotypical grateful adoptee.
Furthermore, she wasn’t remaining quiet, and she was never content with the “not knowing.”

Friday, May 24, 2013

The Lost Daughters Discuss The Child Catchers by Kathryn Joyce - Part Five of a Series

Today we conclude our discussion of the new book by investigative journalist Kathryn Joyce,  The Child Catchers: Rescue, Trafficking, and the New Gospel of AdoptionIf you missed the previous installments in this series, you can read them here:
In our final installment, we focus on cultural influence on adoption in Rwanda and Korea, and the silencing of adult adoptees. We invite you to join the conversation in the comments following each post.

Karen Pickell:  In terms of balanced reporting within the pages of The Child Catchers, I was happy to see the examples you pointed out, Julie, of Christians who are trying to affect change within the orphan adoption movement. While reading earlier chapters, I wondered whether Joyce would give us a sense of what adoption done right could look like. I think chapter seven, which covers Rwanda, is that scenario I was hoping to find—an alternative way of handling adoption that addresses true need and puts biological family and culture of origin above international adoption, proof not only that adoption can be done differently, but also that change can happen within the Christian adoption movement itself, as we begin to see happening at Saddleback.

Mila:  Very good point, Karen. I love the empowerment that the Rwandans have, that they are not intimidated by America and do not view it with awe. I love this quote from chapter seven: "The minister told me: do this yourself. We will not work with agencies. You do it yourself and you show me why you want to be a parent of a child from Rwanda, and I will look at your paperwork." I, too, was encouraged by the shift in work and focus that Saddleback exemplified in Rwanda. However I will say, as Joyce points out, that this shift is NOT reflected in their main message here in the States. As Joyce noted, Rick Warren still proclaimed at the Christian Alliance Summit, "When I say orphan care, it's adoption first, second, and last." I know I'm sounding like the disagreeable, never satisfied critic here. I realize that the kind of reform and change necessary within the Christian adoption movement is going to take time, but I guess I believe it shouldn't be taking as long as it is. And in some ways, it could change so much more quickly, if the leaders within the movement would take responsibility for the message they're preaching about adoption.

On a different note, I do appreciate Joyce's discussion of how culture is such a complex factor that influences how adoption practices develop within a country, as exemplified in the last two chapters that focus on Rwanda and Korea. I think Americans are often so naive and ignorant of the cultural influences and complexities, and how these affect adoption practices and attitudes within a country. Both Rwanda and Korea have complicated cultural and social dynamics to address and overcome in order to develop domestic solutions. However, as Joyce discusses, these obstacles are often used as excuses rather than actively dismantled: "Agencies that have highlighted South Korea's Confucian heritage as the reason that so many mothers must relinquish did nothing to challenge the stigma . . . but instead used the stigma to justify continued adoptions . . . agencies even helped perpetuate that stigma by reinforcing the status quo." But as Jennifer Kwon Dobbs acknowledges, particularly in the case of Korean adoptions, "rather than US parents saying how sorry they felt about the circumstances that led to unwed mothers to relinquish . . . adoptive parents could instead become their allies, helping change the system that compels them to do so." I think what happens is that international adoption is viewed as the "easy option" in the minds of adoptive parents and adoption advocates. And in some ways, it is, when you consider the work it takes to shift cultural attitudes, to overcome social injustice and poverty, to address the complicated economic and political systems. But as Joyce and other reformists acknowledge, adoption is ultimately a women's rights issue and has become a social justice issue. Change can happen, but people have to be willing to do the work. And they can't do the work until they're willing to see the truth. I am glad that there are those within the Christian adoption movement who are finally beginning to see the need for reform and to address the root causes. I believe it is a moral imperative that current adoption practices change, and the Christian adoption movement is largely responsible. I hope they will listen and act.

Julie Stromberg:  Mila, as I revisited chapter seven, I thought of your comments on the sense of entitlement that many leaders in the American Christian adoption movement seem to have regarding children in other countries. The pressure was put on Rwanda to release its children to the United States adoption system. The environment in Rwanda had the potential for turning into another situation like that in Ethiopia. Yet, Rwandan officials remained grounded in its mission to preserve its families and culture.

One passage that really hit home for me was Joyce's conclusion that ". . . Rwanda's government maintained a tight grip on its adoption process, scrutinizing each case extensively and effectively challenging prospective parents to demonstrate why they deserved to adopt one of Rwanda's children [emphasis mine]."

In keeping with that theme, the National Director of SOS Children's Villages-Rwanda, Alfred Munyentwari, told Joyce that Rwandans are afraid of not knowing whether their children are okay after they leave the country. I couldn't help but think about how many American parents have lived and experienced this exact fear. My natural parents waited 27 years to find out if I was okay. And I was raised just a few towns away from them. I had not left the country but I might as well have been halfway around the world. This is what the American adoption system—with its altered birth certificates and sealed records—does to parents and children, be it domestic or international adoption.

Karen P.:  Honestly, I felt like I wanted to kiss Munyentwari. He really gets it. I love this quote from him: "This story is to tell you that sometimes children can go and when they go, they will get homesick . . . They will say, 'I am well fed, well clothed,' but no one can feed that need." And this quote, too: "There are some people coming and saying, 'the Rwandese are stupid because they don't want the good life for their children.' But people have to think twice. I may be in a miserable situation today and not able to educate my children, but maybe tomorrow can be better."

Thursday, May 23, 2013

The Lost Daughters Discuss The Child Catchers by Kathryn Joyce - Part Four of a Series

Today and tomorrow, we talk about the second half of The Child Catchers: Rescue, Trafficking, and the New Gospel of Adoption, concluding our discussion of the controversial new book by journalist Kathryn Joyce, which takes readers inside the evangelical Christian adoption movement.

Last week we spent three days covering the first half of the book:
Today, we talk about attachment, abuse, and the beginnings of reform. We invite you to join the conversation in the comments at the end of each post.

Mila:  I've noticed within the Christian community, one of the criticisms of Joyce's book is that she uses only anomalous examples (If you actually read the book, this is not the case. She does present a larger picture. But she uses anecdotes to exemplify and demonstrate the larger picture and to add a personal element so she's not just relaying empty statistics.) What is it going to take for people to realize that unethical practices are not just the exception but rather a part of the fabric of the current adoption system? And perhaps one of the most extreme cases was the example of the Campbells and Allisons adopting the children from Liberia. But I believe the reason Joyce chose to highlight this group was of course because their publication, Above Rubies (with was it 300,000 followers?), was basically responsible for the adoption rush in Liberia. Out of the 1,200 that were adopted, 1,100 were adopted in direct correlation to the Above Rubies publication promoting adoptions from Liberia.

Karen Pickell:  This chapter (chapter five) was just horrifying to read. The abuses endured by the Liberian children the Allisons adopted amounted to slavery. This is like the orphan trains all over again—kids being obtained to do work for the family. Some of these kids weren’t even taught how to read. One was told, “Black people don’t go to school in America.” I do feel that this is an extreme example of what can go wrong in adoption, but unfortunately the Allisons aren’t the only abusers. Joyce recounts quite a few examples of children who died at the hands of their adopters. Yes, this may be rare in terms of the percentage of total adoptions in the U.S., but how many dead children are too few to care about? To me, even one dead child is too many. These examples point to deep flaws in the process of vetting potential adoptive parents for their suitability to adopt.

I was also deeply disappointed at the reaction of local agencies that were approached by concerned neighbors of the Allisons, who were repeatedly brushed off while the Allisons were protected. It’s disgraceful that this movement’s power in their local community trumped the welfare of those children. If these had been white, American children being abused rather than black, African children, I wonder how different the response would have been.

Julie Stromberg:  A few themes rose to the surface for me from chapter five. At the very highest conceptual level, I was shocked by the willful naiveté of adoptive parents such as the Allisons and others featured in the chapter. I say willful because it is my feeling that "but I didn't know" or "I didn't realize" are not adequate reasons as to why the Allisons and others were so horrendously uninformed about the realities of the Liberian civil war and inept at caring for children from Liberia. This is the digital age. The information was readily available.

To be quite frank, perhaps the Allisons and adoptive parents like them should have been reading a little less of Nancy Campbell's Above Rubies and doing a lot more online research on the realities of life in a war zone. Good intentions and fringe Christian dogma are not enough to adequately care for children who have witnessed and experienced the most horrendous of atrocities. The Allisons and others like them went into Liberian adoption either purposely uncaring, blinded by their religious beliefs or willfully ignorant of what they were agreeing to take on. They were severely negligent and horrifyingly irresponsible. As were the facilitators.

Karen, I, too, feel that one adoptee rendered dead or abused at the hands of the adoptive parents is too many. With all of the "rehoming" and RAD treatment of Liberian children that went on in Christian adoptive homes, one has to consider if the problem originated with the traumatized children or with the grossly unprepared adoptive parents and the facilitators that deemed them fit. Obviously, I would lean toward the latter.

Rebecca Hawkes:  I agree, Julie, though I actually think the problem goes beyond merely being unprepared. The issue was not only that they lacked the tools and knowledge to deal with children with severe trauma histories but that they were applying the worst possible tools! The combination of harsh, attachment-therapy techniques and a spare-the-rod-spoil-the-child parenting philosophy was the equivalent of trying to heal a wound by banging on it with a hammer. Also, if you start with the belief that the child is flawed or sinful and needs to be corrected/saved, you are going to take a very different approach (and reach a very different destination) than if you start with a belief that the child is hurt and in need of healing. I agree with Karen that chapter five was horrific, and it was also deeply personal for me because I, too, was the mother of a child with a trauma history and a pattern of extreme behaviors. My daughter wasn't in a literal war zone but she had been fighting her own person battles in the U.S. foster system when she came to me. She raged, she cursed, she threw things, she hit. And her behaviors stimulated fear-based return aggression in my biological child, so then I had two aggressive children! I don't at all claim that my husband and I did everything right, but I am absolutely certain that if we had tried to "correct" our daughter, or bring her to submissive obedience, instead of focusing on supporting her in healing from the trauma of her early life, the outcome would have been disastrous.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Was it best for me to be adopted?

I was having this train of thought the other day:

I wonder who my Omma (Korean birth mother) and Appa (Korean birth father) might have become had they been given the same opportunities that I have been given? And then, I started thinking about what might have happened had I grown up in the same circumstances in which they had grown up? Or what my life might have been had I grown up with them as my parents in the situations they faced?

And automatically my mind started to veer onto the track of "See, it's a good thing you were adopted. Look at all you have because you were adopted. So, maybe it was best that you were adopted out of Korea to America."

But then I stopped, and thought some more--about the true causes, the root causes of my adoption, and I was able to steer back onto the path of reality.

The truth is that we have no concrete way of knowing what might have been had I stayed with my Korean family--for better or for worse. And the reality is that it is not adoption that gave me all these so-called "good things." And it is not adoption that "saved" me. 

Rather the truth is that it is social injustice and inequality that took away the good things from not only me, but from my Omma and from my Appa. It is the truth that part of the cause of this social injustice and inequality is that so much of the so-called grown-up world is still so unwilling to apply the basic practice we adamantly try to teach our children--to share.

And the reality is that had my Omma and Appa been given similar opportunities as I have been--if others had been willing to share with not only me but also with my Omma and Appa, and we all three had been "adopted" as a family that perhaps all three of us could have ended up with these "good things." I say perhaps. I am not so naive as to romanticize what could have been--but in the same way, I do not think it is fair or accurate to say that being adopted gave me a better life than what I would have had if I had remained with my Omma and Appa. We simply cannot know this for sure.

And when I say "good things" in this context, I'm not talking about material things. I'm talking about the opportunity to be a family, the opportunity to love one another, to hold onto one another, the opportunity to endure and overcome together as a family, to learn to thrive and grow as a family. The material things are only a substrate on which these things can grow, but they certainly are not the fruit itself. And you certainly don't need much as far as material means to be a family and love one another.

And the truth is that eventually, my Omma and Appa did seize these opportunities. They both have their own families now in Korea, which I find terribly ironic and surreal at times. 

Yet they both are still haunted and grieved, just as am I, by the fact that we were separated so long ago and that we still remain separated--not because we did not want to be together but because no one was willing to help us stay together when hard times came.

My point is, of course, that the answer to my situation and countless others is not "it was best for you to be adopted." The answer to families being torn apart is not international adoption, but rather social justice.

The other thought that emerged from my initial thought questions the standards by which we tend to qualify and identify a "successful adoption."

Ultimately, if an adoptee has a good career, makes good money, and overall appears to have a good material life, then we say, "Look, see, here is a successful adoptee! Look what adoption did for this adoptee!" How can you question that? But of course, I'm going to question it.

Why are these the measures by which we proclaim success? Because, as we all know, a person can have every appearance of "success" when seen from without. But what about from within? What if within that adoptee is dying? What if from within that adoptee is hurting and grieving? What if within that adoptee feels confused, torn, conflicted, tormented? Then what do you say?

Or what if an adoptee does not achieve these standards of worldly success? Are they failures in your eyes? Have they fallen short of the "opportunities" given to them?

And who is to say that if that same adoptee and his or her family were given the same opportunities, but in their country of origin that they all would not have been just as successful, with the added, more significant success that they would have all remained together as a family?

We think that it is America that gives all these good things. We think that it is America that gives a unique, unequaled love and environment in which adopted people can grow and thrive and succeed.

No. It's not America. America is not the only one who can give good things.

But rather the problem is what Dr. Paul Farmer has stated before, "The idea that some lives matter less is the root of all that's wrong with the world."

These other countries, these other families can give good things also, just as well as does America, if not better in some ways. They can provide just as equally the same love and environment in which these children can thrive and succeed. If only their lives would matter as much to us, to you. If only they would be given the same chance and opportunity that we have given to one another. But for some reason, America thinks it can do it better. America thinks it is the only who can get it right. And so, we say, "See, you should be grateful you were adopted to America."

As far as I know, America is not the only place that has loving, hard-working, trustworthy, decent people. America just likes to think so.

My point with all this is to say that assessing the success of adoption by standards of outward appearance and affluence is folly, to say the least. And to think because America is fat with affluence and outward appearance that America is entitled to adopt internationally is blind and shameful sanctimony.

The social inequality and injustice that led to me being relinquished and adopted are not reasons to continue to perpetuate modern adoption practices, or reasons to tell me, "See, it was best for you to be adopted!" Rather they are reasons to question and challenge current adoption practices.

In adoption, we tell ourselves that we are thinking about the children and what is best for them. But I don't know that we really are. Rather, I think we confirm our biases, and somehow convince ourselves that we are thinking about what is best for the children. If we truly believe that love is the most important, defining quality of family (that's what adoptive parents say all the time), then it's time we apply that thinking in the other direction--to the original families as well.

I certainly don't have all the answers, and I'm not saying that adoption should never be an option.

I am saying, please do not use my story, our stories as posters and flyers to pronounce, "See it was best for you to be adopted." Do not oversimplify the complex realities that lead to relinquishment, in order to justify adoption in your mind. Rather, look at the story as a whole--all the characters involved, including the original family and country, all the circumstances and factors at play.

Then you will be able to ask the questions that really matter, that really get to the root. I've stated this before as have many other adult adoptee bloggers. And we'll keep saying it until people finally start to not only listen but to act.

The question to ask yourself is not what are all the good reasons for adoption to continue? Or whether it was best for me to be adopted?

Instead, I believe, the question to answer is WHY are children being relinquished and adopted in the first place?

The answers are complicated but absolutely necessary to face.

Then, perhaps, you'll see the potential reality of who not only my Omma and Appa and I could have been, but who all these other families could have been, if someone had been willing to ask those questions long ago...

Saturday, May 18, 2013

The Lost Daughters Discuss The Child Catchers by Kathryn Joyce - Part Three of a Series

Today we continue our discussion of the new book by investigative journalist Kathryn Joyce,  The Child Catchers: Rescue, Trafficking, and the New Gospel of Adoption. If you missed the previous installments in this series, you can read them here:

In this installment, we focus on orphanages, deception of adoptive and original parents, and coercive tactics employed by the adoption industry. We invite you to join the conversation in the comments following each post.

Karen Pickell:  Let's talk a little more about these orphanages, and particularly about the situation in Ethiopia, which is covered in chapter four. Joyce points out how the demand for adoptable children spawns new "orphanages" that do not even exist before U.S. adoption agencies descend on these impoverished countries searching for kids to send back to waiting American families. I was saddened to learn of the Ethiopian government's role in perpetuating the criminal activity of procuring children to be sent overseas by demanding humanitarian aid from the adoption agencies, amounting to $3.7 million annually. There was such a strong financial incentive to keep this business going.

Rebecca Hawkes:  Yes, Karen, and also a financial incentive for agencies to try to stay in business, even if that meant hopping from country to country and engaging in unethical practices. “’Corruption skips from one unprepared country to the another—until that country gets wise, changes its laws, and corrupt adoptions shift to the next unprepared nation,’ wrote journalist E. J. Graff, who researched international adoption corruption for several years at the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism at Brandeis University." There's a huge money factor, and it comes into play in so many ways.

Lynn Grubb:  I was quite shocked to learn of this, Karen. But it makes sense. Families hear the rumors that the neighbor's kids are going to the U.S. for an education and other families jump on the bandwagon and put their "orphans" in "orphanages" for opportunities. Sadly, they don't even fully understand that they are relinquishing their rights forever. That is so wrong to me.

Rebecca:  I'd also like to highlight the point that the book makes about prospective adoptive parents' wish lists (wanting a young child, a female child, etc.) driving demand, creating an underworld in which children are procured to fill the orders. It's chilling to think of it this way, but the money coming into poor countries from U.S. adopters and agencies is a huge influence. Corruption is bound to happen in such circumstances.

I agree, Lynn. So wrong!

Susan Perry:  The money factor drives the business, and adoption is a subject, unfortunately, that can easily be misrepresented and simplified. Who can argue with the assertion that "every child deserves a loving home?" People don't want to look at the unsettling truths behind the business, either overseas or here.

Rebecca:  And then there are the people like the Bradshaws, American adoptive parents who spoke out about the corruption and lies they encountered and faced strong retribution, almost losing their own bio kids as a result of speaking out. Scary.

Lynn:  Yes, Rebecca. I recall somebody receiving death threats as well. Big money in adoption.

Rebecca:  Chilling.

This book has certainly stimulated a strong sense of outrage in me!

Karen P.:  Lynn, this truth that our western idea of adoption is not understood in these countries is pointed out repeatedly in the book. How awful that parents are sending their kids off thinking they're getting a chance at a good education, only to later learn that they've lost their children forever? As I read about Haiti back in chapter two, I kept thinking, "How do these adoptive parents live with themselves once they learn what they've really done?" I was pleased to find Joyce interviewing adoptive parents of some of the Ethiopian children in chapter four. One mother, Jessie Hawkins, says, "Finding out that you have someone else's child simply because you happen to have been born in a country where you're more privileged than they are? You want to throw up, you don't know what to do." Many of these adoptive parents are also being scammed by the agencies. I was a little confused, though, by the story of the Bradshaws, who discovered their adopted children were not really orphans and wanted to return them to their family in Ethiopia, but couldn't for some legal reason that wasn't clearly explained. I do wish Joyce would have made it clear why these children could not be reunited with their families. I was left wondering whether the Bradshaws really did everything they could have to get these kids back where they belonged.

Yes, Rebecca, the way their agency turned on the Bradshaws was very scary.

Carlynne Hershberger:  I questioned that aspect of it too, Karen. She says several times that it would be illegal for the child to be sent back. How can that be? The whole idea that people would mislead a family to think they're simply giving their child an education opportunity while all along taking the child away permanently just sickens me to the core. I don't understand a human who could do that.

Friday, May 17, 2013

The Lost Daughters Discuss The Child Catchers by Kathryn Joyce - Part Two of a Series

Today we continue our discussion of the new book by investigative journalist Kathryn Joyce,  The Child Catchers: Rescue, Trafficking, and the New Gospel of Adoption. Yesterday, we talked about God's will in adoption and the moral imperative to adopt.

In this installment, we focus on domestic adoption and the rebranding of adoption via specific language. We invite you to join the conversation in the comments following each post.

Lynn Grubb:  As we have seen in the history of adoption (Orphan Trains, Georgia Tann in Tennessee, and currently in all the countries who have closed to international adoption) there is a theme. The theme is exploiting the poor, the young, and the ignorant (as in they don't even know what U.S. adoption actually is because it doesn't translate into their language or culture) . . . the common theme being resources. The families who took in the orphans from the Orphan Trains many times used the children as indentured servants, similar to what we saw in this book. Georgia Tann was in cahoots with a local Judge and together they made untold amounts of money off wealthier adoptive parents. Many children were stolen, as outlined in the book. I personally believe (and I am a Catholic and a Christian) that Christianity within the "Orphan Crisis" is being used as a smoke screen to convince many-times naive, decent adoptive parents to spend years dealing with an international system which is clearly corrupt at this point under the guise of doing God's work. Some of these families believe what they are doing is right. But I suspect a broader political motive behind Rick Warren's church and the movement itself.

Karen Pickell:  Lynn, I also had the sense that this movement belies a broader push for political power that would reach into other areas of society as well. And, of course, there are huge profits to be made. Near the end of chapter three, Joyce mentions a 2010 investigation of Bethany Christian Services—the largest adoption agency in the U.S.—that found “$8.4 million out of Bethany’s $9.1 million total budget went to management costs or fundraising” rather than to services benefiting children, which explains why they and other agencies so frequently try to push young, expectant women toward relinquishing their babies to adoption. This chapter hit close to home with me; my own mother received no support to keep me from either her family or Catholic Charities due to her being a young teenager at the time. That was back in 1968, but even today once one of these agencies get their claws into a young woman, the goal is to convince her to relinquish rather than to help her find a way to raise her child. This quote from Reanne, a birth mother profiled in chapter three, sums it up: “I could have taken care of my child easily. I wasn’t on drugs or an alcoholic. I was just young.”

Rebecca Hawkes:  I'm glad you mentioned Reanne. She's been much on my mind. I found her story to be particularly poignant, no doubt in large part because I too am the daughter of a mother who was simply "young." The coercion that Reanne experienced during her pregnancy was familiar but heartbreaking. (“’Everything is so negative and subtle, and it starts to work on you,’ said Reanne. ‘I felt like I was walking around with a baby that wasn’t mine. I was a birthmother before the child was born.’”) Also, as I read about her actions through the years in her attempts to reconnect with her son and re-open an adoption that had closed, I was aware that she was that nightmare "birthmom" that so many adoptive and prospective adoptive parents fear, the one who won't go away and even shows up on the doorstep, so it was good to get that story from her perspective. It's noteworthy that although Reanne acknowledges the harmful impact of a religiously affiliated organization that orchestrated her relinquishment, she herself maintained and even deepened her own faith. It's a significant moment for her when an evangelical preacher tells her, "That child was taken from you . . . They said you weren’t good enough. This is what religion has done over and over." For us, as readers, it's an important reminder that not all evangelical Christians are blind to the harmful impact of current adoption practices. I think it's important for readers of this round table to understand that we're not engaging in Christian-bashing or evangelical-bashing. We need to be able to look critically at certain harmful practices, especially when they have become widespread and are being cloaked in religious garb, but that's not the same as indicting an entire religion or group of people. One of the things I've found especially encouraging since this book's publication is the number of Christian bloggers and writers who are coming forward to essentially say, "This is a difficult and controversial book but we shouldn't just dismiss it without reading it and discussing it. There are things in here that we need to be discussing."

Carlynne Hershberger:  As a mother who lost a child to adoption, I can say that I had the same experience as Reanne but through Catholic Social Services in 1980. One part I highlighted in the book: "’If you want to look at what's wrong with international adoption, state adoption, and Christian adoption,’ one agency director told me, ‘it all has to do with how they treat birthmothers. The common denominator in all of these is that the birthmother is invisible.’"

I agree, we're not here to bash any particular religion or people of faith. It's the system that is wrong.
It is good to see the Christian writers acknowledging that something has to change and being open to discussion but it's distressing to see the people who claim to be Christians out and out lying about their role in the industry. In one part of the book Joyce talks about Jim Wright and Birthmothers—aka Birthmother Ministries on Facebook. I spoke with Jim personally. We had a long phone conversation where I asked him repeatedly about the role of his ministry and adoption, and he claimed that they were not at all focused on adoption. Yet, he is quoted in the book as saying "The reason we use 'birthmothers' as our name is because it connotes adoption." And he says, "That's how Birthmothers came to be: because we go to adopt, and we can't get anybody to do a homestudy." In my conversation with him, he stressed that they don't push adoption and could only speak about his own experience as an adoptive father.

Rebecca:  Also, we've mentioned it already, but the numbers manipulation comes up again in this section of the book, as when a Christian crisis pregnancy ministry argues that all children born to single mothers in the United States are orphans because the biblical definition of an orphan is a fatherless child. "If 43 percent of the six million babies born that year were born to unwed mothers, the ministry reasoned, 'that means 2.6 million new orphans last year!'" Excuse me? I find the redefinition of "orphan," in both domestic and international contexts, to be frighteningly Orwellian. "Birthmothers." "Orphans." The language choices are deliberate and manipulative. "Orphan" tugs at the heart strings and obscures the fact that we are primarily talking about children who already have parents . . . just not the "right" parents in the eyes of the orphan-crisis movement.

Mila:  Wow. This is a great discussion. As a Korean adoptee, although I do not adhere to the Korean brands of Buddhism or Confucianism, it has been so enlightening to learn about the history of these religions/philosophies and how they have affected the family (and ultimately, adoption) culture in Korea. I state this to say that I agree that it can be very valuable to expose adopted children to the religions/philosophies of their origins.

One of the things that has stood out most to me thus far in The Child Catchers is the "rebranding" of "birth mother" that Joyce discusses on pages 114-117: "Based on this research, Young suggested a new CPC communications strategy that would 'chip away at those associations and establish new ones,' presenting adoption as an expression of birthmothers' selfless love as well as a means of redemption—a way for mothers to 'defeat selfishness, an evil within themselves.'" I found this disturbing and disgusting. A so-called Christian organization hired a marketing company that describes itself as studying consumers' "subconscious emotional motivators" so that companies can "leverage their brands as never before." Talk about manipulation. This is sickening. I think this decision to "rebrand" birth mothers was pivotal (in a very bad way) for the adoption movement. And it's ubiquitous now in the adoption community. Completely takes advantage of the emotions of women dealing with unplanned pregnancies or otherwise. Reading about this made me want to fight some people!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

The Lost Daughters Discuss The Child Catchers by Kathryn Joyce - Part One of a Series

Today we begin a series of posts about the controversial new book by investigative journalist Kathryn Joyce,  The Child Catchers: Rescue, Trafficking, and the New Gospel of Adoption. Joyce's work has appeared in top-notch publications such as Mother Jones and The Atlantic, and she's been awarded numerous residencies and fellowships. A previous book, Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement, was published in 2009. The Child Catchers takes us inside the evangelical Christian adoption movement, exposing the corruption of the so-called "orphan crisis" and of the adoption industry in general through rigorous research and numerous heartbreaking personal narratives.

In lieu of a traditional book review, we have decided to read the book together and discuss it book-club style. We are all adopted women, several of us are adoptive mothers as well, and one of us is also a mother who lost a child to adoption. You can learn more about our individual connections to adoption on our contributor's page. This week we discuss the first half of The Child Catchers, through chapter four, and next week we will talk about the second half. We have a lot to say, so grab a cup of coffee or a glass of wine, and settle in. And we invite you to join the conversation via the comments at the end of each post.

Our first installment deals with the concept of God's will as it pertains to adoption and the moral imperative to adopt.

Karen Pickell:  Joyce hits us hard beginning with the preface where we meet Sharon, who already has seven biological children when she decides to adopt three more. After those adoptions, she is still not satisfied that she’s done all she “should” do to fulfill her Christian obligation to orphan care, and seeks to adopt more children. As I read her story, I couldn't help putting myself in the shoes of all those kids and wondering how they could possibly be getting the attention they need when Sharon was always so focused on obtaining the next child. How did you all react to Sharon’s story?

I personally find Sharon and others like her to be repulsively selfish, because their focus is not on helping any particular child but rather on their own ticket into heaven, their own “holiness,” if you will. This religious zeal is discussed later in the book as well, and it angers me that these kids are being used to fill a quota of “lives saved” for these parents and sometimes for entire congregations.

The other thing that struck me about Sharon’s story is that the huge demand for adoptable children stems less from infertile couples than from this religious quest. I feel like I’ve had my head in the sand in a way, maybe because I’m a Baby Scoop adoptee whose parents adopted due to infertility so that’s the reality I’m most familiar with and have learned the most about. This book is causing me to broaden my perspective in huge ways, which is a good thing.

Carlynne Hershberger:  I also was repulsed by Sharon and her attitude but I also felt like there was a compulsion similar to obsessive behavior. These children were like projects to her. It's almost like a hobby she became obsessed withhoarding children. I knew about the religious aspect of the call to adoption for Christians but had NO idea the size and scope of it. I'm finding that aspect to be horrifying and scary.

Deanna Shrodes:  I know individuals who have unexpectedly become pregnant, and were in a situation of already being overwhelmed with many children in the home and had concern about how they were going to give each child the attention they deserve. In such situations I've witnessed God's grace at work and strength granted to meet the needs of the children. However, I strongly believe that to purposely plan whether through birth or adoption to have additional children when you are not adequately caring for the ones you already have is not only unwise but tragic. When someone has made such a decision it is most certainly for the wrong motivations and, of course, never centers around the child.

Julie Stromberg:  Several thoughts came to mind while considering Sharon's story. There seemed to be such a lack of depth and self-awareness that came across to me as being somewhat childlike and elitist at the same time. This was a recurring theme throughout the book. Sharon felt that the God she believes in was entirely on her side so there was no need to actually investigate or take a more critical look at the adoption industry. Which confused me because the scripture verse Sharon posted as inspiration to her adoption blog reads "help the widows and the orphans." Many of those involved in the Christian Adoption Movement ignore the "widows" part of the verse and focus only on the orphans. I agree with Karen in that Sharon presented as someone who was taking on some sort of religious project designed to position herself at a higher level within her chosen religious community. The needs of the actual adoptee are inconsequential because Sharon hides behind the "it's God's will" wall of thought. It's magical thinking shrouded in religious dogma. And that can be dangerous for the well-being of a child adopted by Sharon and others who take a similar approach.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Moses the Adoptee?

[I know this post is long, but I didn't know how else to deal with such a topic with more brevity.]

I. Moses the Adoptee?

We hear this one all the time--

But Moses was adopted! So don't you see--he exemplifies just how much adoption is God's work, God's gospel, God's way of saving children!

Although I can see how it would be easy enough to make such an assumption or inference, it is important to remember that the story of Moses was not originally preserved and recorded so that Christians in the 21st century would have a biblical basis for their current adoption theology and practices. Rather it was recorded to preserve the history of the Israelites and, within the context of the Old Testament as a whole, to demonstrate how God ultimately fulfilled the promise he made to Abraham and his descendents. The story of Moses has absolutely nothing to do with adoption.

Context is crucial not only when dealing with the Bible but with almost anything written or spoken.* You take something out of its original context and people can come to some pretty skewed conclusions.

As an exercise in reading text within its original context, since so many Christians use the story of Moses to support current adoption theology, let's look at the story of Moses as a whole--not just the part where he's a baby in a basket floating down the river.

Many know the background to the story--due to an edict put forth by the Pharoah, it is commanded that all Hebrew boys that are born are to be thrown into the Nile. Moses's mother manages to hide him for the first 3 months of his life but then begins to fear for his life as he grows too big to conceal. With great duress, she sends him down the Nile in a basket.

When the Pharoah's daughter does find this Hebrew baby floating among the reeds on the Nile, what follows? Exodus states that his sister is watching to see what would happen. Upon the Pharoah's daughter finding Moses, Moses's sister retrieves his mother, and Moses's mother is able to nurse him and continues to care for him until "he grew older." We don't know for how long or whether the Pharoah's daughter knew this woman was Moses's mother. Regardless, it's clear that initially Moses continues to nurse at his original mother's breast and to be cared for by her until he is eventually given to the Pharoah's daughter as her son.

Of course, Moses, like all of us, grows up to become an adult. And how does the rest of the story go?

He ends up having some "anger issues" and murders an Egyptian overseer--whom he had witnessed beating "one of his own people"--a Hebrew. Clearly, Moses continues to identify with his original people, the Hebrews, more than he does with the Egyptians.

After Moses flees, he has a spiritual awakening of sorts. And what does he do?

Ultimately, he ends up forsaking his Egyptian privilege and upbringing to return to his family and people of origin to help free them from their oppressors.

Read it for yourself in Exodus, and there is also a reference in Hebrews 11 stating, "By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharoah's daughter...he left Egypt..."

So, if Christian adoption advocates and adoptive parents want to use the story of Moses as an example of adoption, then it should follow that adoptees, once they become adults, will forsake their adoptive countries and families to return to their birth countries and families to help free them from those who oppress them, right?

I find this incredibly ironic within the context of how often Christians use the story of Moses as an example of adoption in the Bible to teach that adoption is a biblical manifesto.

Of course, I'm not trying to be churlish. And of course, I am not advocating that adoptees should forsake their adoptive families. And as I stated above, the story of Moses doesn't have anything to do with adoption. It should not be used as a part of Christian adoption theology. (And really there should be no such thing as "modern Christian adoption theology.")

Don't miss the point here.

The point I am making is the misuse and abuse of biblical text--and in this case, specifically of the story of Moses--to support modern adoption practices by taking the original text out of context and chopping it up in ways that seem to say that the Bible and God teach an "adoption gospel"--that is, a command to go out and adopt [the children, i.e. babies, of the third world].

It's VERY dangerous to use the Bible in this way. Look at history and all the awful ways Scripture has been used to justify unethical, even atrocious acts--the Crusades, slavery, segregation, prohibiting intermarriage among differing ethnicities, bombing abortion clinics, etc.

Want to use the story of Esther to support modern Christian adoption theology? Uh, well, she was adopted by her Uncle--a blood relative. But again, the story of Esther is in the Bible neither to support adoption nor to debunk it. It's original purpose has absolutely nothing to do with adoption.

What other stories are taken out of context by Christians to justify and concoct a modern adoption theology that never existed until now? As unbelievable as it is, I've even heard Christians use the family situation of Jesus to support modern adoption! This is just ludicrous.

II. The Bible and Adoption

This misuse of biblical text creates a culture within Christianity in which anyone claiming to be a Christian can justify basically any act by manipulating Scriptures and using their "faith" as the justification for their behavior. This of course has been going on for ages. But more recently, adoption has become the "act of faith" that Christians justify. And it is misguided theology.

The "adoption" of humans by God was NEVER intended to be used as a justification or promotion of modern adoption. The use of this metaphor in the Bible was originally intended simply to teach people about the relationship of God and humans--not to introduce an "adoption gospel." This relationship involves a perfect God and a sinful humanity. The "adoption" of humans by God is required because, according to the Bible, humans have been separated from God, we have left God by our choice to sin, our choice to rebel, whatever you want to call it.

Clearly, the parallels between adoption by God and modern adoption are completely flawed and incongruous. Our adoption by God has no place being used as a call to adopt children from other nations and families. Those adopting are certainly not perfect, and the children being adopted are not in need of adoption because of some sin they have committed. (I could write a whole other post addressing this topic alone--and perhaps I will need to...)

Using passages in the Bible that refer to adoption to teach that God commands Christians to engage in modern adoption is equivalent to using Scriptures that refer to say, Jesus as our Shepherd, to command all Christians to go gather up all the sheep of the world and take on the profession of sheep herding. That may seem absurd to you, but that's basically what Christians are doing when they use Scriptures (out of context) that discuss adoption to say that adoption is what God demands of us.

Now, of course, there are Scriptures that refer to caring for the orphans and widows throughout both the Old and New Testament. These often can also be translated as the "widows and fatherless." Regardless, however, these Scriptures again were not preserved or originally written so that Christians would en mass go out and adopt all the babies of the world. Taking care of widows and orphans does not translate to adopting just the orphans and ignoring the widows. And yet, in practice, that is often what is happening in modern adoption. (An interesting one to read is 2 Kings 4. Again, it has nothing to do with adoption, but it certainly reveals how a man of God chose to help a widow in danger of losing her two sons as a result of unpaid debts.)

Again, I will state that the Bible is grossly misused and manipulated to support modern adoption theology and practices among Christians. Ultimately, the Bible was not originally written to be used as a manual for modern adoption practices--modern adoption practices didn't even exist when the Old Testament and New Testament were being lived out and eventually recorded.

But let me stop there and recommend an excellent paper written by Professor of Law at Samford University, David Smolin. In this paper, he deals very deeply and specifically with the biblical basis (or lack thereof) of the recent development of adoption theology, "OF ORPHANS AND ADOPTION, PARENTS AND THE POOR, EXPLOITATION AND RESCUE: A SCRIPTURAL AND THEOLOGICAL CRITIQUE OF THE EVANGELICAL CHRISTIAN ADOPTION AND ORPHAN CARE MOVEMENT."

 III. Conclusion

Ultimately, I really hope that we all will allow ourselves to question our theology and to think more critically about what the Bible says (or doesn't say) about adoption.

Let me also clarify that I am not saying that adoption is never appropriate. There certainly are cases in which adoption is very appropriate and necessary. I'm also not saying that adoption is universally evil or that adoption of a child into another family is a universally unbiblical practice for those who call themselves Christians. What I am saying is that the current, dominant philosophy and theology that inform present day adoption practices among Christians are generally unbiblical and completely misinformed and misguided.

As fellow adult adoptee, Deanna, expressed in her post, The Lack of Critical Thinking About Adoption (Especially Among Christians!), many Christians have chosen not to think critically about what they've been taught about adoption. Christians are choosing willful ignorance over the truth. And often there is a dangerous culture of unquestioning conformity in Christianity along with a culture of rationalization that uses one's faith as a divine mandate to do pretty much anything at all--this can lead to a very emotional, self-absorbed way of seeing the world--and has led to abusive adoption practices.

I find it ironic that Christians so often recoil when others, whether fellow Christians or not, question the status quo. The very person that Christians claim to follow was persecuted and ultimately crucified because he would not stop questioning the status quo, and in particular among the religious leaders of the time.

If Jesus were here today, I believe that he, too, would question much of the current status quo within the religious world--modern adoption beliefs and practices not excluded. Of course, I'm not claiming to know the mind of Jesus or of God. But based on the Bible that I know, I don't know that I'm so crazy for postulating that the Bible was never intended to be used as a platform to promote modern adoption theology and practices among those who call themselves Christians.

And honestly, do we really picture Jesus coming to earth and telling poorer families to give their children to those who are richer, or telling the rich to take care of orphans and widows by actively seeking out and taking the children of the poor?


*Just a disclaimer: I am in no way claiming to be a biblical authority, and I am certainly not a Bible scholar. But I also do not believe that one need be a scholar or a genius to read and understand the Bible for its plain, contextual meaning.

(Also, I would like to thank my husband for all the patient discussions and conversations we have had regarding this issue.)

Thursday, May 9, 2013

The Dimensions of my Lost Mother

By Joy Lieberthal Rho, LCSW

When I think of mother, I think of a blonde with German and Irish roots, the bluest of eyes and fairest of skin. Humor, wit, unpredictable, punitive, sacrifice, guilt, kindness, cold, more guilt, insensitive, anxiety and fear come to mind all at once. One “oh hi J..” and I know exactly what direction the phone call will go. This mother is real, three-dimensional and known with a wide range of feelings that erupt inside when I think of her. This mother is not the woman who gave birth to me, lived with me for the first three years of my life, nursed me for months, slept next to me. She is not the woman whose scent I chased for decades. Even so, I didn’t grow up wanting that woman. “Mom” was a word I still could say out loud, I wasn’t without.

I was lost to my birthmother, my Umma, for over 21 years. In the losing of her, I lost my memory of her. Her face was even transposed with another family member in my mind’s eye; the one teary eyed snapshot of waving goodbye from a car window. She didn’t exist in my every day consciousness.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Long Way Out of the Fog: A Review of Split at the Root by Catana Tully

I’ve read numerous opinions lately regarding the concept of adoptees being in "the fog,” referring to those who claim to be unfazed by their adoptions or even happy about being adopted. It’s difficult at times for those of us who’ve struggled from an early age with being adopted to understand such a radically different viewpoint, but Catana Tully’s recently published book, Split at the Root: A Memoir of Love and Lost Identity, describes in exquisite detail how questions of identity can hide deep within and how long it can take to uncover their origin.

Tully was born in 1940, the first daughter of a young, unmarried, native Guatemalan woman named Rosa who worked for a wealthy German family. When she was very young, her mother left her to be raised by Esther and Pablo Doescher. The white, German couple named their new child Catana, but usually called her by the nickname Mohrle, which means “Moor” or “darkie” in German, a reference to the color of her skin.

Mysteriously, Rosa returned time and time again to visit her daughter, but young Catana wanted nothing to do with her black mother, or any black person, for that matter. Mutti (her German mother) raised her to be a refined, European young lady, and Catana grew to think of herself first and foremost as being German. As a young woman, she moved to Germany, and became successful as a model and actress throughout Europe, in part due to the fascination people there had with her exotic look.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Watching Someone Rise from the Ashes (and why you Should Still Listen When a Story is Sad)

Yesterday was a gorgeous spring day.  My screen door clapped against its frame behind me as I stepped out into the sunlight.  My children played happily in their sandbox as I clinked the yard gate shut and knelt down on the fresh earth in front of me.  On my knees, I waded through a mix of hostas that had burst through the ground and those stubborn wild onion weeds.  Our garden soil is always rich and full of wriggling earthworms; an underground stream runs somewhere through our yard.  Still, though, the weeds are difficult to render from the earth.  As a cold sensation soaked through my jeans, chilling my knees, I remembered that it had just rained.  It is always easier to pull weeds when it rains.  I began to yank the green intruders from my garden in handfuls, easily unearthing their tangled bulbs.  I recalled being a little girl and thinking that the rain was the earth's way of having a good cry.