“Did your mother leave you in a box at the store?”

A friendly reminder: just because your teenager is not telling you that they are hearing the same hateful things they heard in elementary school around adoption doesn’t mean it stopped. Negative adoption talk (and even more so with the transracial adoptee) potentially becomes even more prevalent in middle school when the notion of difference is so deeply amplified.

I learned from my younger son that my older son was asked if he was; “Left in a box by his real mother?” last week. What the child added after that was too ugly for me to leave on this blog.

How my son handled these comments from the other child (who was, it has been suggested, jealous of my son for his performance on the basketball court), was completely justified in my opinion.

My younger son chose to connect with the child who made the comments and let him know that an apology was necessary. Because of my younger son’s social capital that apology was delivered. (My younger son said he could not be friends with someone who could hurt his brother that way.) As a family we talked about how we can help create a deeper understanding of what adoption really looks like in the moments that follow. For example did this young man know that my son spends time every summer with his family in Washington State? Did this young man consider how fortunate my son is to have so many parents and grandparents and siblings love him as family?While that is helpful and informative for next time it does not address the pain and discomfort my son experiences every time this happens.

As a transracial adoptive parent is our job to be vigilant and aware that these types of attacks are ongoing and impactful. Thankfully I was given a reminder to check in and let him know that I still want to hear all of it, and at the very least be able to offer my compassion and understanding, to the best of my ability. At thus age, that’s likely all I can do. But, if he needs something more, he’ll let me know.

Mama C Calls It Forth

Recently I went away to one of my favorite places in the world (so far) for a weekend with a single-mama friend to meditate, write, swim, laugh, and listen to God.

I connect to my visionary spirit, and my soul in this healing spot that I’ve been coming to since I was seven. When I get quiet, and a respite from my parenting modality I return in a palpable way to what I know to be true.

This time that truth cleary took shape in three distinct areas:

  • First is a deepening commitment to my sons feeling celebrated and accepted for exactly WHO THEY ARE today. (Middle school requires ferverent monitoring. Who are you-vs. who do you begin to believe your peers/teachers/ society or family says you SHOULD be.) This demands my being fully present, compassionate and flexible.
  • Second I heard that I will return to my dream of creating a one woman performative event (monologue/story telling+poetry) celebrating and exposing my first fifty years on the planet, and the events and people who shaped it.
  • Third, a new direction calls for my fifteen years as a transracial adoptive, biological, single and partnered parent. I will be unveilling this in more detail soon, but for the time-being it is already thrilling to announce it simply as a “Coming soon: Mama C Coaching and Consulting”. How can you help? If a particular post, conversation, article, or anything “Mama C” has been of help to you on your transracial/adoptive single or partnered/parenting/blending/ donor or other journey will you consider leaving me a comment I could use on my promotional materials?

I look forward to hearing from you, and hope everyone can create a little quiet space for themselves in the near future.

Reunion (poem)

Yesterday a copy of my most recent publication in a poetry anthology arrived in the mail. This poem feels like an arrival on so many levels as the readers of this blog can well imagine.

Keep writing. Keep telling your story. Hold the pencil and let God do the rest! We need to hear what you have to say.

Two weeks and counting!

Sammy and Mama C in California in 2005

Soon Sammy Sammy will be flying across the country on his own to spend a few days alone with his family in Tacoma, Washington.

I’m really curious and a little nervous about how this will shake out. He is closing in on 13, he is an old soul, the child has lived. But he is a child, still. He is a child moving between two mothers, two families, one love. He is journeying at a moment where the world feels volatile and unsafe. But his is the world he is entering into as a young adult. It is what he knows, what he must know. He is no longer that little in my arms. His will always be that little in my arms.

I’m also so thankful that all of this is possible in every way.

Marcel and I leave on our journey two days later to visit with his donor and family in California. (Knowing that I will be on the same coast as Sammy is going to bring us all ease I suspect.)  I’m equally curious how this Marcel moment will unfold, and what new understanding Marcel will gain about who his radiant, beautiful poetic self is in this lifetime. He will hold his little brother, who just turned one. He will be with his donor and his donor’s family. He will be invited into a new layer of understanding about what the word “family” holds for him.

Marcel and “Tree” in 2011

I’m also so thankful that everyone involved is all about the YES in this moment too. The everyone includes my husband who has been holding the YES in his own way.  I can not begin to imagine what his experience will be having us all across the country navigating this extended family foray away from him. (Of course he was invited to come, and would very much like to join us another time.)  And, yes,  part of this story began long before he came into our lives. One day we all hope that those markers will fade into the background, allowing this to just be a shared breath at any one moment of who we just are.

A dear friend reminded me to reach out on the blog to readers encouraging them to contribute to the GoFundMe campaign.

Or, for those of you who prefer to use PayPal and make a donation to this epic adventure that way-you can do so here for a generous $10.00 donation:

or here to pay for the pre-travel line up for both boys, or the tank of gas for the rental car for $25.00:
or a day of driving from the airport to Sammy’s family and back to the airport thirty-six hours later with $75.00 here:
or several hundred miles on the airplane for one of us with an over-the-top hugely appreciated $100.00 donation you can do so here:
Or finally because you just feel crazy moved by all us on this courageous, family-making, more-love is more-love adventure and want to support this being paid for outright with ease and love with a $500.00 donation here:

In Tact: Poem

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On “Mother’s Day”  a poem of mine appeared in the The Portland Press Herald.  I had submitted it in response to a call for a year long curated series of poems that address or grapple with the theme of “Deep Water” in some way. In my case the depth related to the grief connected to losing a child you are carrying.

This week is the anniversary of her leaving us, and moving on to other adventures, or so I like to think. I said goodbye to her on a little cove in late July with two dear friends while their daughter and Sammy were running and laughing in the sand at the water’s edge.

I remember holding myself through the shaking as I felt her spirit take off and race to the sea. At the last moment, I stood tall and tried to smile with one arm waving goodbye to her. I wanted her last image of me to be one of courage and joy for the gift her brief life was to me.

I was going in for my D & C (dilation and curettage) the next day.

She would be ten and a half today.  Marcel will be ten in October. I had found out I was pregnant on Mother’s Day, 2006 coincidentally. Marcel was miraculously conceived on her due date in January. We believe that her brief appearance on this earth was to make way for his soul somehow. In more ways then one, Marcel and his sister Dixie are connected.

That Gibson Fay-LeBlanc, the poet laureate of Portland chose it to run on Mother’s Day was courageous and deeply important to many (myself included) I learned in the days and weeks following the poem’s appearance in the paper. When a poem allows your friend and his wife to openly grieve their own miscarriage together, something they hadn’t known figured out how to before, you feel that on your knees in the ground kind of gratitude for so many things.

You can find the poem here.

You can learn more about the series, and The Maine Publishers and Writers Alilance here.

Thank you for reading it, and holding us all here.

 

 

 

 

To Fade or Not to Fade

With less than a month until his visit to his family in Tacoma, Washington Sam is working on the desired look. Being in brown skin, raised in a very white state and in a white home I watch as he seems to absorb every morsel of what-is-Blackness he can from the world around him.

I attempt to witness and validate how he integrates this into his daily experience of self-in-the-making.

Marcel opted out of the fresh cut this time. He is growing his hair out, today. His exploration of his racial identity is something he has been less empowered to explore historically.

By that I mean I realized recently that I have had this attitude that he would be fine for the last several years.  Part of the journey we’re about to go on his about me waking up too. His path is just as important and deep as Sam’s.

What a photo shoot with AARP looks like: the aren’t we FAB edition

 

Shoot location 1: the ice cream shop.
Shoot location 1: the ice cream shop.

Recently an editor at AARP magazine contacted me to see if we would be willing to be part of a photo shoot about the “Modern American Family”. After several emails back and forth, and lots of clarifying questions we agreed. The huge bonus here was the travel allowance to get four out of five of Shrek’s available children in town for the shoot. They came from as far as San Francisco, and as near as up the street for hair, make up, and click, click, snap, snap for a good part of last Sunday.

But why us? Well apparently we evened out an upcoming story for the boomers on family today-both regionally and in terms of the composition of our blended family in the making. Here’s a few stanzas from a poem I wrote to honor the occasion that might further answer the question:

Remember we want to capture
the nine of you at ease
so the rest of the world
sees the “modern family”
wait, wait that’s it-

freeze

Adoption, blended family
transracial, known donor insemination,
divorce, first marriage at 46, second
marriage at 61, run of the mill,
click-click-snap-snap
kind of thing

Everyone look this way
Relax
Get closer
On 3, 2, 1:

See-family is click click

snap-snap: synonymous
with eating an ice cream cone

as long as it complements the color of your shirt.

The experience was a complete hoot really. (Leading up to it there was definitely some free floating anxiety about just how one is supposed to present as a modern family in the making…) But once we were all here there was  some very sweet family bonding around the edges of it all. The photographers Gregg, and Tom, and Caitlin the glamorous make up artist or “groomer” were part of the blend by the time the shoot was complete. Five thousand tons of delicious food were delivered for our lunch and in six weeks or so the issue will appear.

I was also interviewed over the phone for the story, and am super hopeful that a link to Mama C and the Boys might be included in the copy. Since the magazine boasts the largest readership in the world, it might mean a little boost in readership? For our “trouble” we will also receive a few prints from the day to mark this surprising and magical moment in time beautifully.

 

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Co-parenting in the blended age: Notes from the trenches

working it out
working it out

We were both watching him unravel slowly on the sidelines. He faced the opposite wall so no one could see. I could feel his body tense from across the court, and feel the tears welling up in his eyes. His worst fear had just come true, he had shot a basket, and scored. As a result the bleachers erupted in cheers. This is what happens when you are six and playing on your first basketball team, for your first game. People cheer. This is painful to my son. Reconciling his love of basketball with his loathing of attention is his challenge. Watching him experience it, and ultimately survive it on his own, is mine.

But unlike Marcel at that moment, I wasn’t alone. Shrek was right next to me watching it unfold, and noticing my body tense with his. “This is incredibly hard for you to watch isn’t it?” Perhaps this seems obvious, but for me to be witnessed in the process by a partner who can take in all these layers of struggle is amazing. It is also hard for me, because I am you may recall a super hero single parent who does perfectly well on her own.

“I can’t go up to him right now can I?” I asked him. “No way, ” he answered without hesitation.

I called Sam over from playing with his friends, and asked him to just check in, by sitting next to Marcel for a moment while his squad was not playing. His little brother was now slouching in the chair and clearly distraught. We were all of five feet away.

“But don’t say anything.”

“Got it,” Sam said, and climbed down the bleachers, and gently sat next to his brother. In seconds Marcel was sitting up strait and talking about who knows what with Sam. Magic.

reassured
reassured

“That was a great move. You’ll do a beautiful job helping Sam see why he was so important to Marcel at that moment. Good work Mom,” Shrek offered.

Later that night at dinner, Marcel offered gratitude for Sam’s moment of support, “Only you could make me feel better then Sam,” he offered. I found three more ways to reenforce that message to Sam. Shrek joined right in; “I never had a little or big brother to do that, what a gift that must be..”

While this may sound worthy of praise and celebration, Shrek and I have worked so hard to arrive here, and while it is getting easier and more satisfying, finding a co-parenting middle ground has been some of the hardest work I have ever experienced. For example,  a few nights before that Sam was bawling because he insisted that he did not need to correct his homework. Shrek insisted he did. Sam sat at the table defeated and beside himself. I was at the counter cleaning up the dishes wanting to swoop in and rescue him for sure.

Then, he looked at me with these huge watery eyes as if to say; “HOW COULD YOU LET THIS MAN DO THIS TO ME? YOU HAVE ABANDONED ME!!!” It was all I could do not to leap across the room, tackle Shrek and yell; “Run!” to Sam. I mean who cares about accuracy? Since when was checking your work that important? Who needs math?” Instead I scrubbed the pan really hard. When I looked over at Shrek imploringly, he said; “I can handle Sam being upset here. Let me deal with it.” At that Sam was done. Exit stage left.

About half an hour later the boys were in bed, peace was restored, and no one was broken in pieces on the floor.

“Do you hate me?” Shrek asked walking quietly up to me.

“No. I think you were right. But it sucked. I felt like I was choosing you over him. I felt like I was letting Sam down.”

Shrek just listened. In the silence nine years of my parenting patterns with Sam rolled over and tried to get back to sleep. What business does he have trying to help me become a better parent? The nerve.

With an Open Fist (poem reworked)

With an Open Fist

A fist curled tight
a foot stomped harder
three chairs pulled over
and a blankie ripped right down the middle.

It is common she said
for our children to experience rage
on a deeper level
to relive their loss in every loss

it is common she said
for our children to need more
reassurance that we are going
nowhere

Cannonball after cannonball you launch
into the deep end.
The splashes reach up over the edge
and dissolve over the concrete.

Here at the pool we can scream
and rage, and launch and submerge
and to everyone else it is perfectly normal.

I climb in beside you,
cold and uncomfortable.
Yet certain that you won’t go under
again in this lifetime.

That night you arrive in my room
after midnight
and crawl into bed
with your eyes closed.

Then you reach
underneath the pillow
in your sleep
to find my hand-
you grab on with a fierce grip

until like the water on the concrete
your uncertainty evaporates.

____________

This poem is one I am revisiting. It originally showed up on the first incarnation of the blog in August, 2009. It is part of a handful that have a “counselor” voice too, as I was getting lots of help at that moment.

It is almost completely different. I sort of love that. Last night the boys and fell asleep in my old bed, having  a Mother’s Day extended cuddle. Marcel’s hand, not Sam’s found mine in his sleep and grabbed me. Feeling his fingers slowly open as he fell back asleep brought me back to this poem today.

Hip Mama + Oh Mama Mamas

Hip Mama Cover
Hip Mama Cover, October 2010

I wanted to call all of your attention to the GREAT news that Hip Mama Magazine, where yours truly has had many a mamahood piece published, and a photo credit or two is relaunching back under the helm of it’s fearless and talented originator Ariel Gore (How to Become a Famous Writer Before You’re Dead, Atlas of the Human Heart). There is a fantastic kick starter project underway to make sure that “PRINT LIVES” (the mag was going to turn digital apparently which is in part why she decided to save it, and reclaim it). I contributed what I could and would love to encourage you to do so as well, if even a dollar is something you could hand over. There are several great incentives, (Dad there is one that involves all the pie you can eat on September 1sr in Santa Fe) so please consider. They have reached more than 50% of goal already which is super encouraging. Parenting on the fringe, and writers who may not make the mainstream cut, have always found a home in this high quality zine.

+++

I’ve been dangling along the eye wall of a mothering hurricane of sorts this week. What I can share is that I’m uncomfortable.  Uncomfortable because this mothering thing is so damn hard and this is my kid, and don’t you all see that we just have to dig in deeper and believe in a different outcome?

I can say that sending a Mother’s Day card to your first mom who you haven’t heard from in two years does not fall under the “no sweat” column of Sam’s heart. Although, with Sam it may sometimes appears that way. And then when his amazing 2nd grade teacher leaves school for the rest of the year on a maternity leave the chances are pretty good as we predicted that he would not transition smoothly to the new teacher no matter what rewards or consequences were in place. Leaving is leaving. Left is left. Period.

Combine race, adoption, single parenting, coupled parenting with all that is my dynamic, intelligent, loving, eager, curious, super social, and wildly movement oriented Sam and you have several high pressure systems, cold fronts and warm fronts converging at once both at school and at home. When I was asked to consider if Sam’s aftercare arrangement was indeed the best fit for him, my internal storm tracker went into a category five. Suddenly we are all asking ourselves a million questions again. Is it this? Is it that? What if this, and maybe not that. Would this work better? Would that? What if we all just joined the circus?

Then Marcel saunters in, with a poem about what a great mom I am, to put next to the letter about all the ways I could be a better mom from Sam. Oh, hi Marcel. I remember you.

Shrek has been an incredible support, after we both survived our own fault line dance last week. My mantra during that time was simply, “I am OK. He is OK. The kids are OK.” Over and over I just kept reminding myself of those three statements. At the end, we were more than OK, we were stronger, closer, and further in, instead of heading in opposite directions. His steadfastness, courage, and “I’m IN” mentality was nothing short of heroic to me. We were and are amazing really. He took several calls this week from distraught me. He has been such a rock.

When I indulged a little and posted something to that degree on my Facebook page, my friend Glenn replied;

We are all broken; it’s harder to try again than it was to begin. Courage.

Love to all of our broken bits, and courage in finding the pieces we know can go back together with a little patience, and trust. A special shout out to all the women and men in our lives who not only support and bolster this mothering (or semblance there of this week) but who in many cases are not themselves recognized as mothers/fathers, even though that is EXACTLY what they are to me and my family and many others I am sure. So to Debbie, Sage, Tia, Weezie, Eddie, Alex, Esther and Paul a very Hip Mama and Papa shout out to you too. You deserve all the praise, breakfast in beds, and cards we all do and then some. Thank you again.