Saturday, September 16, 2006

Shoes for Samuel

Dear Sam,

Some prospective adoptive parents (PAPs) worry that you can "jinx" your adoption is you shop too early for things for your baby. I'm not one of them. Although we have postponed doing the nursery because of our problems with the Vietnam adoption (we figure we can only look at an empty nursery so long), I'm still garage sale shopping for Sam. I figure I have to do it now, while we have garage sales. There are none in January in Chicago. Today I got these tiny little shoes for Sammy. The Old Navy sandals are for 6-12 months and were new. The water shoes might fit him his second summer (this assumes he comes home by this summer!). Total: $1 for both.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Love in the mail

Dear Samuel,

After getting the bad news today, I came home early from work, took a hot shower, and went to bed. When Ed got home, he brought in the mail, which included this package from a woman I met throught the Internet months ago. She wrote:

"I don't have any idea what this little pin was meant to depict, but when I saw it, I thought, 'My baby is around the world.' So I bought a few and I've shared a few with waiting families. I've asked each woman to tuck it inside a purse, or pin it in a pocket, somewhere closed but private, as reminder that this is real. Your baby is waiting--maybe not as you envision, but still, waiting for the right moment to come to you. I can tell you that each family has been successful in adoption. Believe!"

Many tears follwed. Thank you, Elaine. This couldn't have come at a better time.

Bad news

Dear Sam,

Today we learned that LSS is not going to be getting their license this week. In fact, the VN government has set them back several steps, so they need to have a site visit again. Therese called with the news and said she really thinks they can't make our timeline and that we should consider going with another agency. If we stay with them, we have to be "in it for the long haul," and be willing to go with their occasional slowness. She suspects their agency (and others newly licensed, heck, maybe even all of them eventually) are going to have extra steps along the way.

So your Dad and I have to make a decision. Stay, or start over. Neither is good news, and means that not only will we not meet you this year, or early next year, but that we'd better get used to thinking "maybe by summer."

I am extremely depressed this week, to say the least. We hope to take a small break from all this adoption obsessing (I'm even limiting my adoption blog reading!). Maybe after our anniverswary camping trip next weekend, we'll have more clarity.

Monday, September 11, 2006

5 years ago

Dear Sam and Sophie,

Shortly after September 11th, a friend remarked that I should write down my memories, as surely this was a day, like Pearl Harbor, that would "live in infamy." (And I saved that New York Times issue pictured at right.) I never did write my thoughts down, but I thought I would now, on this fifth anniversary, because someday you kids might want to know what your Mom was doing that day.

I didn't even know your Dad then; we met about six weeks later. I was dating a man named Ryan, an attorney who was very politically conservative, although I was trying to see if I could love someone who was different than I was. In the end, I realized we just didn't share the same values, like your Dad and I do. September 11 helped me see that.

I used to get to work early, around 8 a.m. along with two other people who worked with me at U.S. Catholic: Carmen and Diane. I was at my desk, when Ryan called from home to tell me he had seen the news about the first tower on TV. I quickly flipped on the television in our office and we gathered around it. I was watching it live when the plane hit the second tower. By then, people were arriving in the office and the country was starting to realize this was probably not an accident.

Because Chicago is a big city, and especially for those of us close to the Sears Tower (I was a block away), people immediately began to worry that something might happen here. That fear intensified, as we saw the crash into the Pentegon and in Pennsylvania. I think the first person I called was my sister; and my mom called soon after that. She wanted me to drive to Wisconsin because she thought Chicago wasn't safe. To be honest, I briefly considered it. I still have memories of the Croatians who told me about driving out of their town before it was attacked. Those who left early were luckier.

We had a new boss in my department and she was not very good at being a boss. She was trying to reach her boss to see if she could dismiss us. I didn't wait for her permission. Outside my window I saw streams of people on the sidewalk, more than any rush hour. Some people were carrying their computer hard drives.

I spoke to a few of my close friends and decided to go to the house of my friend Amanda, just north of downtown. We walked there, in a daze. She and I and my friend Megan and Sabrina watched TV there, as the reports came in. I remember we ordered Thai food for lunch.

Later I met my boyfriend at his house, but his political analysis of it was already annoying me. He is definitely not a pacifist and quickly became very "patriotic." I remember him saying to me, "I can't believe you support the Palestinians," referring to my political views about the Israeli/Palestinian crisis after my trip there. The TV was showing Palestinians dancing in the street for joy. This was later proved to be false: a reporter told a few kids to dance, which they did, and then the video was said to be Arabs celebrating the carnage. It fueled a lot of anti-Arab sentiment.

In the evening, I left my boyfriend's and went with my girlfriends to a prayer service at Holy Name Cathedral. It was all so surreal. I had often thought about what it might be like to live in a war-torn country, having visited a few of them. I wasn't so much afraid, as I was sad.

This I remember: Fairly early on, if not that day, maybe the next, I started to get very uncomfortable with many Americans' reaction to September 11, which was to rally the troops (literally and figuratively) for our group, in an us-versus-them sort of way. There was violence against mosques, talk of closing down our borders. Everywhere you went, people wanted to sing "God Bless America." I personally don't think God blesses America any more than God blesses the rest of the world. In fact, my faith teaches me that God blesses the poor more, so in that respect God blesses lots of other countries more than America.

Even then, I think I realized I was more of a "world citizen" than purely an American one. Later, of course, this made it easy to picture my own family as an international, interracial one. Ryan and I had had many political debates before, but in the aftermath of 9/11, they were more serious. We broke up shortly after, he eventually went to work for the White House and spent time with the U.S. government in Iraq during the war. I went on to meet your Dad, fall in love, get married and to work to get you two. I'm glad it turned out how it did!

Thoughtout history there have been times that people have had to respond to horrendous evil being directed at them or their people. Thoughout history, people have screwed up that response (putting people in interment camps, more war, etc.) I can understand why. It's extremely scary to be attacked. I initially felt fear, but pretty soon after (even that day) I decided not to let the fear get the best of me. As a country, I don't think we did that, and that makes me sad. One of my goals in life is to live from love, not fear. I know it sounds idealistic, and it is. (This is one of the debates Ryan and I had). But if you only live your ideals when everything is going honky-dory, then what are they worth?

September 11 was a horrible, horrible tragedy, and I continue to remember those who died (and those they left behind). But it also was something of a wake-up call to me, and to many other "liberals" out there. It was a very hard time to be a pacifist. Many of us were galvanized not so much by 911, but by our country's reaction to it. I did not wear a flag pin, nor did I "shop" to be patriotic, as George Bush suggested. (In fact, I mailed his "tax cut" directly to charity.) Intead, I got more politically involved to try to make this world a better place. In that sense, some good always does come out of evil. Another Christian belief.

So those are my memories. I'll try to get your Dad to put some down, too. I know he spent the day with his friend and co-worker Jerry. They played video games and hung out. Your Dad is lucky to have a lot of good friends who not only enjoy having a beer, but also talking about important things. Most of them share our ideals and pretty similar political beliefs.

This reflection is much longer than I intended it to be! But I think my friend was right: It's good to put those memories down before they fade too much. One image that really sticks in my mind was the quiet in the city for the several days in which there was no air traffic. It was palpable. Scary, but also peaceful.

A lot of people remember how people were nice to one another after that. There was an almost instant super-community feeling, which I do remember. Of course, in the Midwest, there is already some of that. I do think that most Americans would not have predicted that we would be in the mess that we are now, lo five years later. Sometimes I am not optimistic about the ability of the American people to care about more than their own little lives and possessions. In the end, I don't know how much 9/11 really changed people. For me, I know it only reinforced a global consciousness that was already forming.

I often wonder what will happen if one of your countries of origin ends up at war with the U.S. What will happen if everyone hates Chinese or Vietnamese people like they did Muslims and Middle Easterners? It is a challenge for some reason I feel called to in this life. I know you will probably have mixed feelings about being "American" since you were not born here. Your Dad and I promise not to "over-Americanize" you! We will also raise you to be world citizens, ones who care as much about people halfway around the world, not only because some of them are your biological family, but because, really, we are all biological family. We in this together, for better or for worse. That, to me, is the lesson of September 11.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

On Wisconsin

Dear Sam,

My home state rocks! I sent the requests for state certification of our birth certificates on Tuesday to both Pennsylvania and Wisconsin (Express Mail, of course, and including a return Express Mail envelope). Today I got the one back from Wisconsin. Yes, in less than 48 hours. Last time, for our China dossier, Pennsylvania took forever. Let's see if they're any better this time.

Notre Dame plays Penn State this weekend. I'd even cheer for the old fogey Joe Paterno, if it meant the State of Pennsylvania would hurry on our paperwork. The Badgers play Western Illinois this weekend. I'm still cheering for Wisconsin. See what happens when you have a good state?

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Birth certificates sent

Dear Sam,

Today I sent two copies of your Dad's birth certificate to the Department of State in Pennsylvania and two copies of my birth certificate to the Secretary of State in Wisconsin. All told, we probably spent about $150-200 on birth certificates, postage, and certification.

For Sophie's paperwork, your Dad's birth certificate was the last piece of paperwork we were waiting for (took even longer than the I-171H!), so I'm hoping it goes more quickly this time. Most agencies don't require you to have birth certificates, but LSS has you do it just in case. More evidence of hyper-caution, I guess. Perhaps I'll be thankful for that someday.

Meanwhile, no news from them yet. They're supposed to be talking to our social worker today. I hope to hear more tomorrow.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Lewis and Clark

Dear Sam and Sophie,

It's Labor Day Weekend, and although that refers to a different kind of "labor," I'm really feeling the "work" that is involved in becoming parents to both of you. This latest news that things might not work out with our second Vietnam agency has been so disheartening, and the wait for China continues to crawl at a snail's pace. I took a vacation day on Friday so I would have a nice long weekend to try to recover, and I decided not to accomplish anything this weekend. No cleaning. No projects. No commitments.

Friday night I was supposed to go to a friend's bachelor party, but my ride fell through, so I took it as a sign I wasn't meant to go. (Large group gatherings with strangers are especially hard these days, as everyone asks me, "How's the adoption going?") Then your Dad decided to go to a bbq at friends Jason and Daniela's, and at the last minute I decided to go along. Jason and Daniele had a little boy named Max three months ago, and at the party we both got to hold and feed him. He is so cute! And it was great to get a taste of what's coming for us.

Then on Saturday we decided to go on the Moonlight Paddle with Chicago River Canoe and Kayak, where my friend Delia works on the weekends. It was so great! We canoed upriver from Addison to Foster, got off and had a picnic dinner, then canoed back down in the dark. Very peaceful and even romantic! On top of that, we met three people (one young man who works with Delia and a couple on the trip with us) who were Vietnamese-American. We shared that we were adopting from Vietnam and they were all very supportive. By Saturday night I had a much more peaceful feeling about the whole thing. I think it's a sign we're meant to be going to Vietnam to get little Sammy. Maybe God sent those three people to let us know we're headed in the right direction.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

LSS license issue

Dear Sam,

Yesterday we heard from Therese at LSS that this COA/Hague thing may not be a problem after all. Maybe. Their social worker has reviewed our home study (finally! They've had it for one month!) and LSS's social worker will be contacting ours (who's been waiting patiently to hear from them for weeks!) next week. As I said, this "approval" of our home study agency is not for sure. I asked Megan, our social worker who did our home study, to contact me next week after she talks to LSS to help us decide where to go from here.

The bigger and more serious issue is LSS's license, or rather lack of it. This was an issue of some discussion on one of the Adoption Agency Research listserves yesterday. One person noted that LSS refers to themselves as "newly licensed" on their website and in a short article in the local paper noted that they were approved by the VN government to do adoptions. Of course, that's not true yet. Another poster on the listserv had emailed the U.S. Embassy and gotten a reply that there' s no such thing as "verbal approval." Either they have their license, or they don't yet.

Therese and LSS have always been very honest with me about this. I explain it to non-adoption types like this: Agencies have to jump through 30 hoops to become licensed; LSS has jumped through 29, maybe 29 1/2. And this last step is just taking longer than usual because of all the uncertainty around Vietnam adoption right now, as it's just opened up and already both of our governments are seeing some problems and trying to clamp down.

Last week the U.S. embassy changed their website to note that "no new applications for agency licenses are being accepted by Vietnam at this time." Of course, LSS (and several others) have already applied, so this doesn't apply to them. But it does signal some tightening of the licensing process. And now we've learned that a "31st step" has been added.

This is my concern: it is possible that LSS will unfairly get caught in a clamp down on not-yet-licensed agencies and either not get their license or not get it for quite a while. Already they have been telling me for over a month that it's coming "any day now." I believe they are being honest with me when they say that, but we are dealing with international governments here, and nothing is ever for sure.

At some point, your Dad and I have to draw a line in the sand and say, "If LSS doesn't have their license by this date," we're going elsewhere. I believe that date is sometime next week.