May 9, 2013
I am delighted to be participating in the book tour for my dear friend Lori Holden’s book, The Open-Hearted Way to Open Adoption.
Her book is unique in addressing the needs of both adoptive and birth parents. Her insights are useful for those who are considering or navigating the adoption process, as well as those who have already adopted/placed a child. She also has a chapter targeting the unique needs of those who are building their families through donor gametes or embryos.
As a reader of Lori’s blog for 5 years, as well as a face-to-face friend for almost as long, many of her personal stories were familiar to me. I also have no personal stake in any aspect of adoption. Even so, I found the book fascinating. Lori uses many compelling illustrations from her own life as well as those of others (such as Luna) to show successful, and not-as-successful, ways that others have engaged in open adoption. Although I have heard many of her suggestions from years of reading blogs by adoptive parents, there were several insights that I have never heard before.
A few weeks ago I saw an old friend (that is, she has been my friend for many years, though she is also much older than I am). One of her daughters has been struggling for infertility for many years. I inquired about her daughter, and my friend told me that her daughter was now pursuing adoption. I excitedly asked, “Domestic or international?” The reason I asked is that if the answer had been domestic adoption, I wanted to recommend Lori’s book to her, knowing that it would truly make her journey easier as well as benefit the emotional development of her future child.
And now, a few answers to questions from other book tour participants.
Lori refers to the relationship between adoptive parents and birthparents as similar to an in-law relationship. Does thinking about the relationship as an in-law relationship influence how you approach open adoption?
I found this insight really helpful. With my own in-laws and extended family, there are some with whom I want as much contact as possible, some with whom I enjoy occasional contact, some with whom I tolerate occasional contact, and some that I wish would go away. For the latter two, I still engage them not because I want to but because they are part of my children’s family.
You could replace in-laws with birthparents or adoptive parents in the above paragraph and probably have it apply to almost every family’s open adoption situation.
In most of the cases that Lori describes, including her own relationship with Crystal, most of the contact occurs between the birth mother and the adoptive mother. To what extent do you see the mothers as the gatekeepers of contact for their respective families?
I think that women are usually the gatekeepers of family relationships in general, but it seems to be even more pronounced in open adoption. I’ve heard a lot describing contact between adoptive mother and birth mother. I’ve heard somewhat about contact between adoptive mother and birth father. I’ve heard only a little about contact between adoptive father and birth mother. I’ve never once heard about direct contact between adoptive father and birth father, except when they both happened to participate in a group interaction with mothers and others. It’s not weird to me if my husband contacts either a mother or father of a preschool classmate to set up a playdate for my twins, but it does feel weird to me to think of an adoptive father in a heterosexual relationship taking the initiative for reaching out to his child’s birth family. I don’t know if that’s me being rigid and closed-minded or if it truly would be weird.
Personal anecdotes and quotes play an important role in this book, humanizing the data and giving it the force of lived experience. It was interesting to note the voices that were not as present: fathers, adult adoptees from open adoptions, open adoption participants with decades of experience rather than years. What impact, if any, do you think those absent voices have on the book?
Because closed adoption was the norm until less than two decades ago, it seem that there just aren’t yet very many adult adoptees from open adoptions nor people with decades of experience. If Lori revises her book in a decade, it would be great to add these perspectives.
Fathers, though, are plentiful. It seems that men in general don’t spend as much time as women talking about the nuances of family relationships. Judging by the representation of men in the ALI blogosphere, for every man who wants to talk at length about these issues, there are hundreds of women. I don’t know how many men Lori might have tried to interview for her book, but I would guess that there were men who declined: not having much to say, not wanting to get into it, or “you should ask my wife.” In my experience with many, many, many people who have used alternative family-building methods, a few men have had strong opinions against methods such as IVF, donor gametes, or surrogates, cutting off those options as possibilities. I have known a couple of men who expressed preferences such as wanting to adopt internationally from a country where the child would have an ethnic match with one parent. The vast majority of men I have encountered have expressed few strong opinions and deferred to their wives on pretty much everything. During our 7 years of infertility, my husband usually expressed no opinions, not because he didn’t want to express his feelings but because he truly had no opinion. I imagine that there are other men out there who do have opinions and reflections on open adoption, and even a couple who are willing to express them publicly, but I bet it is tough to find them. Maybe that will be Lori’s next book.
April 25, 2013
Continuing where we left off with the questions I ask Burrito and Tamale to gauge other kids’ personalities…
Another question that’s particularly relevant to 3-year-olds is whether the person is quiet or loud.
Burrito has sensitive hearing, so even though he himself is rather loud, he shies away from loud kids. “Exciting” is appealing to him, but loud is not.
Little kids can be very loud indeed, so my general preference for Burrito and Tamale’s playmates is for kids who are not-too-loud. But, oddly, I have chosen a husband and a best friend who are both tremendously loud. Conspicuously loud. Whole-restaurant-turning-to-stare loud.
Equally oddly, my husband and friend have chosen me. I speak at a normal volume, and I can get a little loud and animated when I’m really engaged in discussion, but my base state is to be extremely quiet. I walk into rooms so softly that I am effectively sneaking in, and I often startle people. It comes in handy when there are sleeping children and I need to pass by their rooms without waking anyone. It comes in less handy when every shopkeeper in the world doesn’t realize that I’ve entered the store, unless there is a little bell on the door. That only happens when I’m alone, though — if I’m with my husband or best friend or kids, you can hear us coming from a mile away.
Do you prefer people who are quiet or loud? Are you quiet or loud?
April 11, 2013
Welcome to the April Intelligentsia.
#42: Elana from Elana’s Musings
#36: A from Are You Kidding Me?
#35: Lost in Translation from We Say IVF, They Say FIV
#34: Strongblonde from Strong Blonde
#24: St. Elsewhere
#22: Lori from Write Mind Open Heart
#17: Sara from Aryanhwy
#16: Mel from Stirrup Queens
#16: Ana from Ana Begins
#6: Mina from Kmina’s Blog
There’s a game that I play with Burrito and Tamale in which I try to find out more about the personalities of their classmates. I go through a series of questions that give me a pretty good sense of each kid. We’ll work through the questions over the next few weeks. First:
Is he energetic or calm?
They actually prefer the word “exciting” (pronounced ex-kiting) to energetic, but they can readily answer the question either way. With preschoolers, it’s very clear who is energetic and calm. Most kids are calm (like my Tamale), except for a few Tasmanian devils (like my Burrito). If I’m thinking of inviting a kid for a playdate, my preference would be for a calm child. This is ironic because I am married to the most energetic person I’ve ever met.
Next week I’ll be seeing an old friend with whom I once had the following conversation:
Me: DH has soooo much energy. I’m really low energy.
Friend: If you’re low energy, that means I’m dead.
We were defining energy differently. I am a very calm person, but I have a lot of energy relative to most people — particularly energy for creating things, which is what my friend was thinking of. What I do not have is energy as I was defining it in that conversation: energy for running wildly around the room the way that a 3-year-old (or my husband) would. I am calibrated to be fast, but this manifests itself not in big motor movements but in talking fast, thinking fast, writing fast. When I was a kid, my piano teacher constantly tried to slow me down. She often told me that just because my brain moved fast didn’t mean that my fingers could, nor that the music warranted it. I was never the type to run around the room, though, even as a little kid. I never cared for the type of person who runs around the room.
Until I married one. And then gave birth to another one.
It makes life very exciting. And ex-kiting.
What is your energy level? What kind of energy level do you prefer in the people around you?
March 28, 2013
How often do you feel like you have your shit together? I can’t remember ever feeling caught up in all aspects of life. No, that’s not true. The days before school would start in college: I didn’t yet have any homework on which to fall behind. My first job after college was one where at the end of the day I was done, and I’d go home and do something else like cook dinner or play board games with my husband. I think that was the last time. Once I started graduate school, there was always something more I should be doing. For the first couple of years, DH and I still played board games, until we both started working nights at home in addition to days at work. Ever since then, work-wise, we are never done, never caught up. For both of us, if we finish a big project, the next 5 are waiting. My field is such that even people who aren’t perpetually behind like I am still never really get caught up on everything; there is always more that you should have done yesterday, last week, last year. I love my work, but I do not love that feeling.
In other domains, I sometimes get caught up, and sometimes I am woefully behind. Bills and household stuff? Ugh. Sometimes I’m drowning in unopened mail, and sometimes I’m pleasantly up to date — until the next day, when that damned mailman comes back. And taxes, oh gawd, it’s almost April.
Laundry is put away as of today, but the sink is full of dishes.
There are minor domains where I am often behind but it’s not too hard to get caught up. Thank you notes, for example. I’m caught up right now, because there haven’t been any presents lately. I absolutely like getting presents, but sometimes they’re not worth the hassle of the thank you note. Today I noticed a housewarming gift we’d gotten a few months ago from a friend of DH, and I had this thought: “I’m so glad we’re not moving ever again — there won’t be any more housewarming gifts for which I have to write notes. Oh, but there are still birthdays and holidays, yuck.” What is wrong with me?
For more personal correspondence, I always feel like there are several friends to whom I owe long, heartfelt emails or hour-long phone calls.
Every 6 months I write posterity letters to Burrito and Tamale. I haven’t yet written the letter for their 3rd birthday. They turn 3 1/2 in a few days.
Blog and other online reading? When I was really sick and could barely move but could manage a few taps on the iPad, I actually caught up on everything. Now, my Reader once again has several hundred unread posts. That’s okay, I’ll take it if the alternative is being unable to walk nor use my hands.
Blogging? For today at least, I am caught up as of….. now.
Do you ever feel caught up? In what ways are you perpetually behind?
March 21, 2013
My mother was a terrible tipper. 15% was her max, but usually her tip was closer to 10%. As a kid I’d calculate a proper tip and insist that she leave that amount; she’d often try to sneak a dollar or two back into her purse as we exited, but I always caught her and put the money back.
In restaurants I’m usually somewhere around 18% unless the service is particularly good or particularly bad. When the bill is small, though, I often bump it up. When it’s a place I go often, I bump it up. When I’m on an expense account, I really bump it up.
I’m not always a great tipper, though. I rarely tip maids in hotels: it just doesn’t make sense to me, I dunno. For people like shuttle bus drivers I tip sometimes, but if they’re unfriendly or make me lug giant suitcases onto the bus while they sit watching me I refrain without guilt. I’m an inconsistent tipper when it comes to picking up takeout and getting counter service: should I really be tipping the same amount to someone who does nothing more than hand me a bag as I would to a waiter who attends to a table for an hour or more? I didn’t even realize that anyone tipped on takeout until a few years ago when I saw a friend tip $15 on a $60 order — like many who have worked in food service in the past, she is an excellent tipper. Now, I might tip 10-15%, or if it’s a bakery or something then I toss in a dollar, maybe two, which might turn out to be 10% or might be 40%. If I’m putting the money in a jar, I try to do it when the person is looking, not because I want to get credit for tipping but because I don’t want them to think that I didn’t when I actually did. I totally get that wages for many jobs assume a certain level of tipping, but sometimes I feel like it’s all an extortion scheme. When I was in college, the student-run pizza place literally had a Shit List of non-tippers; after a few times, they would refuse to bring you any more pizzas.
I’ve been to many countries in Europe that don’t tip in restaurants, or maybe something small like rounding up to the nearest Euro. In Japan, you don’t tip at all, for anything. That is one of my favorite things about Japan, that people try hard because they want to do a good job, not because it might increase their tip. I believe in the free market economy, but sometimes it’s lovely to get good service because the person chooses to give you good service.
What kind of tipper are you?
March 13, 2013
For only the second time I’m participating in Time Warp Tuesday, run by Kathy at Four of a Kind. This week’s topic, in honor of St. Patrick’s Day: luck.
For someone who doesn’t believe in luck, I’ve written an awful lot of posts about luck. IN particular, I draw your attention to this one.
Done reading yet? I’ll wait…
Most of the post holds up, but the part at the end about my career situation has changed. After so many stomachaches and so many stints as a bridesmaid rather than a bride in job searches, I ended up at a job that’s perfect for me, where I plan to stay long-term, in a fantastic city, where I also plan to stay long-term. I wrote the Bridesmaid post the same week that I didn’t get a dream job and DH didn’t get his beyond-his-wildest-dreams job; instead, a few months later DH landed an even better job: more money, more prestige, better work. Both of us were very lucky not to get the earlier jobs, since it meant that we were available for, and open to, the jobs that we did end up getting. Bad luck became good luck.
Similarly, I might go so far as to say that we were lucky during those 7 years of infertility, since all of the heartache and waiting brought us to our children. Bad luck became good luck.
Will our more recent bad luck — such as my RA diagnosis and our unsold money pit house — end up working out for the best? Wish me luck.
Join the Time Warp!
March 7, 2013
Welcome to the MarchIntelligentsia.
#41: Elana from Elana’s Musings
#35: A from Are You Kidding Me?
#34: Lost in Translation from We Say IVF, They Say FIV
#33: Strongblonde from Strong Blonde
#23: St. Elsewhere
#21: Lori from Write Mind Open Heart
#16: Sara from Aryanhwy
#15: Ana from Ana Begins
#5: Mina from Kmina’s Blog
Last week’s discussion of our wild nights had an undertone of alcohol in my post and in most of the comments, but for me booze is not a necessary ingredient. On most of my wild and wild-ish nights, I have not had a drop to drink. Usually most of the people around me have had plenty, but I’m almost always totally sober.
I don’t need alcohol to stand on a stage and sing in front of a packed room. I don’t need alcohol to stand on a table and shake my ass (though generally I choose to shake my ass standing firmly on the floor). I didn’t need alcohol that time only a few years ago when I took off my sweater and stood outside a nightclub in my camisole to encourage the bouncer to let in my party more quickly. Sometimes, I have no inhibitions at all.
Which is pretty shocking to some people who encounter me in daily life, because often I seem to be very inhibited. Here’s the thing. I’m not inhibited, but I am usually very controlled, which looks the same — I choose my words and actions judiciously.
In graduate school, back when cardio kickboxing was all the rage, I brought an uninitiated classmate with me to a workout. In many ways we come across as similar, but we turned out to be wired quite differently. After the class, she made the observation that she and I approached complicated kickboxing sequences in opposite ways. When I wasn’t sure what to do, I paused for a few seconds to watch the instructor, until I had the steps down, then I’d join in. When she wasn’t sure what to do, she flailed wildly. She’s also someone who is quiet but not inhibited, who chooses her words and actions carefully — but when things get tough, she revs up and I slow down.
I’ve gotten more uninhibited since having children. Before, I would gladly get up and sing on a stage but I was sheepish about singing to a friend’s toddler when my friend was in the room. Now, I sing all the time for my children and I no longer care who else hears. Before, I tended to act like a normal person — a highly controlled version of a normal person. Now, I often use animated expressions, big gestures, and funny voices; I have become some sort of cartoon character.
How inhibited are you? How inhibited do you seem to others?