Sunday, April 18, 2010

Trip to Lake Atitlan in Guatemala

Sometimes the random choices we feel like we have made for no real reason, suddenly line up to bring us to something really good in our life. Lake Atitlan in Guatemala proved to be that way for me. I had never heard of it, never really had any interest in Central America at all. But. . .

My Dad had died too young, from esophageal cancer, and my Mom was trying to find her way to independence so when she said she really wanted to go, help build houses in Santiago on Atitlan, but was afraid to go alone, and wanted to take our family along. I couldn't imagine telling her "No."

I had travelled to Europe, and lived in China, but other than a trip cross the border at Niagara Falls and Tijuana, my Mom had never been out of the United States.

And After I said "Yes" things happened quickly. So it was that my Mom, my Younger brother, Lance (who has Down's syndrome and a true enthusiasm for Life) and my boys (Just finishing 2nd and 3rd grade) and I, found ourselves on a blue lake in the center of perfect, inverted V, Volcanoes, Speeding across the open water, and gliding silently through a tunnel of bulrushes, to the shores of a town which immediately took root in our hearts.

The beauty of the setting, lush with fruit trees and surrounded by Mountain and Lake and Sky, did nothing to hide the poverty of the people, or the sparkle of laughter in their eyes in spite of it. Learning about the history of the Maya people who lived there, and their independence in surviving and winning in the face of an army determined to subdue them was fascinating and impressive.

Learning more because of traveling with children. My kids made us less threatening and allowed them to approach us. The language barrier didn't matter in games of soccer on a dusty street or playing blind man's bluff. We were rich compared to them, but they soon stopped trying to ell us their beautiful beadwork and hand woven wonders, and offered us the greater gift of friendship.

We stayed at the Posada De Santiago Atitlan, in luxury, but went to their school and shared songs and "Duck, duck Goose" games. I thought this little week long adventure would soon be forgotten, but it has lingered as a gem in our hearts.

Now the fantasy novel I am writing is strongly influenced by the people and history of the Santiago People and the visions I have of Paradise will always look like a blue lake, and people in home woven finery beside cloud crowned volcanic peaks.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Open Adoption

My family has always had some biological and some adopted members; one brother, several cousins, and then when I married- my husband's Mom and both her siblings were also adopted as children. It made perfect sense then, that when I could not get pregnant after 10 years, adoption became the option of choice. We walked into a store and saw a little tri-fold next to the cash register that said, "November is adoption Month." We looked at each other and knew the time had arrived, so that day we called the agency, Adoption Horizon's and arranged to go to our first meeting.

We were both teachers and had a lot of experience with special needs kids and we knew that newborns were hard to get, so we were confident that being willing to take a sibling group or kids with handicaps would increase our chances but there were other plans for us.

We did look at several groups of siblings but the opportunity always fell through, and we tried to buy a house in the next State, our dream house on a Sea Cliff, and that fell through as well. Life felt pretty frustrating. How could we prepare if we didn't know if we were getting a school aged adolescent in three weeks, or three pre-school girls in 5 days? But we never gave up hope, and indeed, decided to act as if the future was assured, and it felt like it was. We always believed it was a matter of "when" and not a matter of "if." My husband and I would take long walks on the beach and pray that our child, wherever he or she was, would be safe and loved until we could keep him safe and loved ourselves.

Then I was at work and the call came, "We know you said older kids, but would you consider a newborn - because a mom in our birthparent center accidentally got your file, and she picked you." (Her 15 month old had picked it off a desk and handed it to her.)

My heart was pounding as I asked, "When is she due?" and the answer was TWO WEEKS AGO!! Three days later she was placing a perfect, 14 hour old boy into our arms. A baby who could only be placed within the two-counties where we lived. Then we forgot to "turn off the prayer faucet" and within 6 months I was pregnant with his younger brother.

Now, on my oldest son's 17th birthday, I put him on an airplane to fly 1400 miles and spend spring break with his birth sister, their mom, the mom's new husband and his 3 younger half sisters. After 17 years of cards and letters from them, he is calling me, sending me texts and photos and loving every minute. The fact that one sister looks like is twin is amazing to him. It reminds me again that my own brother had to wait until he was a Dad to see a face that resembled his.

Our open adoption was probably helped by the distance between our families for those years, but I believe it was planned for all along and the jobs we were offered, the home we got all put us where we needed to be to be there where he would be born.

The relationship he has with both families who love him, has made him a warm, wonderful and loving young man who can make two Moms proud. Both Mom's listen to the song, "From God's arms, to My arms, to yours" and tear up.

Edit: The pictures above are of my family, my husband, both boys and me - then My baby and his big sister in his birthmom's and birth grandmother's arms - and then my baby with his birthmom and his four sisters this spring break.

Now he is back home - but happier and more complete for having had the time in the roots of his family tree.