He Fits Right In: Our Story of Open Adoption

imageI’ve tried to stop policing adoption language, no matter how much phrases like “real mom,” “put up for adoption,” and “kids of your own” make me flinch. Before I entered the world of adoption (and not even the cross-cultural or international variety, which invite their own plethora of zingers), I didn’t understand the negative emotional power of these phrases. Such language virtually never originates from a place of disdain, however, but from a genuine lack of understanding.

We gave birth to two daughters who are now eleven and nine. We adopted Samuel, now six, when he was a newborn. One of the most common comments we receive goes something like this:

“He looks just like you guys! He fits in so well, you can’t even tell he’s adopted.” [Read more...]

My Own Desert (Tortoise) Father

I didn’t spend enough time with Oscar this summer. For forty years I’ve believed time will never run out.

Visiting California, I took my annual walk through my childhood backyard of bougainvillea, crepe myrtle, and fruit. I picked some strawberries, paid homage to my name scratched in a concrete border in 1980, then wandered to the side yard to find Oscar.

I sat in the gravel as he gummed a piece of lettuce hanging in seaweedy strips. He’s always been a sloppy eater, clomping around the yard with leftover pollen or hibiscus petals sticking to his mouth. We exchanged eye contact briefly: aging gray meeting steady green sea-glass. I tapped his nose, just as I did as an annoying kid, and he snorted, yanking his head back in his shell.

My mother rescued the brooding desert tortoise when I was four. She found him lumbering across the street, a reptilian tank with no regard for traffic.  She grabbed the huffing beast and went door to door asking if he belonged to anyone. According to Mom lore, everyone laughed, exclaiming, “We don’t want that ugly tortoise!” and slammed the door. [Read more...]

My Date with One-Eared Joe

I didn’t get many dates in high school. At the time, I thought I was too tall or too plain or too K-Mart in my style.

Now I know I was just weird.

I fell in love with a surfer boy I saw—but didn’t talk to—at a party one Saturday night. By Monday, I had written a letter declaring my infatuation and handed it to one of his buddies at lunch. But we didn’t speak once: not about the letter, or about anything at all. I just lingered by his classrooms, his house, and the surf shop, hoping to catch a glimpse of his sandy blond hair. I had no plans for what I would do if we actually came face to face.

The surfer boy was not my only victim. A few basketball players fell into my intricate, silent webs of attention, including the one whose jersey number I chose for my own when I made the girls’ team.

My senior year of high school, my pastor told me his nephew Joe would be visiting from Texas. “I’d like the two of you to go out,” he said. “Get dressed up. Show him around. It’s his first time in California.”

He caught the look in my eye. “Don’t worry. He’s about your height.”

[Read more...]

That Woman is Gone: Discovering Postpartum Depression

On some spring mornings, even nine years later, a remnant returns: red-winged blackbirds wake me before dawn, panic cinches my throat, and adrenalin pulses in my fingertips.

I still don’t know whether the sleeplessness caused the depression or if it was the other way around.  By the time we checked out of the hospital, because of a sleepless night before the birth and a litany of distractions (mostly a blood-pressure cuff accidentally set to squeeze my arm every sixty seconds), I’d gone almost seventy-two hours without sleep.

Is that what made me lose my mind? A faulty blood-pressure cuff?

My mom flew in from California to help me adjust to those first days with a newborn and toddler. I couldn’t settle down to sleep, but I figured I was lovestruck with my copper-headed bundle. I funneled my energies into cooking, shopping, and planting flowers when the baby was still only days old.

My mom left, and I still couldn’t nap or sleep at night. I’d feed Becca and lie awake until she cried again. My husband took over nighttime feedings, but it made no difference. I thought my nerves would explode through my skin. Even if I dozed fitfully for an hour or two, the birds would always wake me before dawn.

[Read more...]

Pennies from Heaven

I’ve never really been into crosses.  Like fire hydrants or Starbucks, there are so many, I don’t even see them. Sermons or songs that ask me to meditate on the cross might as well ask me to meditate on the church snack table because that’s where my mind wanders as I wait for the cross, cross, cross (say the word enough, and it deflates to a hiss) to go back on its Precious Moments shelf.

When we traveled to southern Illinois with our three children over spring break, we discovered that just five minutes in a popup camper leads to violent fights over Pringles. And those bad boys can draw blood. So we hiked the kids to exhaustion, and when we didn’t know what else to do, threw them in the van and drove toward a 111-foot structure towering over the Shawnee National Forest: the Bald Knob Cross of Peace.

As a veteran road-tripper, I’ve visited a lot of kitschy sites, from the largest thermometer in Baker, California, to Cadillac Ranch, Amarillo. I’ve exited a barren stretch of highway to pose in front of the sign for Buford, Wyoming, Population 1. This cross, I was sure, would promise another quick photo op and nothing more.

[Read more...]


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X