Resolutions–January Review

Well, January felt like the longest month of all months ever. How are things going, resolution-wise? Exactly one thing actually crossed off the list. But progress on some others, and absolutely no progress on other others. Not a terrible start to the year!

  1. Drink more water. This lasted about a week. Now I’m back to my usual dehydrating schedule of gallons of daily coffee. More water necessary. I definitely notice that on the days where I don’t drink enough water, getting through the evening commute/dinner hour/bedtime is rough–I get hangry and light-headed. 
  2. Sleep at least 6 hours per night. See below. 
  3. Aim for 7. LOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOL! NOPE. Well, I’m alternating. Work has been busy and I’ve been up crazy late, way too often. Plus reading Twitter and fretting about the state of the world. I do this for about a week in a row until I’m completely exhausted and then go to bed freakishly early on alternate weeks. As usual, I’ve got to get back on a more moderate, regular schedule. 
  4. Exercise 5 days per week. See above.
  5. Eat more vegetables. We’re doing it! See below. Still not as many as we should or could be eating, but there has been a real, significant uptick in the volume of fresh vegetables consumed. 
  6. Be kinder to my spouse. I try to observe and appreciate *everything,* not take anything for granted, and verbally thank as much as possible. Whether in general I’m in a more friendly mood overall, not so sure. But I am trying to be proactively more gracious and appreciative. 
  7. Be less rigid. Eh….
  8. Have more fun. Eh….
  9. Roll with the punches. Eh…..
  10. Take the long view. Everything is temporary. Everything can change. Indeed, everything will change, whether I want it to or not. It’s hard to take the long view when the last two weeks has felt like ten years. Will keep trying. 
  11. Take myself as seriously as I expect other people to take me (like, carry business cards and shit). I think I am doing this. I’m assuming, for example, that I’m not dispensable or an accessory at things, and taking my attendance and contributions and leadership appropriately seriously, and I think it’s making a real difference. Bit by bit. So, I will keep it up. 
  12. But also take stuff in general less seriously. Eh….
  13. But also do not become complacent/paralyzed/apathetic re: the world/our nation/social justice. I stalled out after Thanksgiving and it took until the travel ban to really get jump-started again. We marched in our little city on Jan 21 and that was great and important and galvanizing but let’s be honest, it was also largely a feel-good thing (if also a visibility thing). It wasn’t until I woke up last Saturday morning and read all the travel ban stuff that I got back on the phone with my representatives. I also spent about an hour digging about the Department of Homeland Security website until I found an appropriate number to call and complain, and I shared it with a few folks, who shared it with a few groups, and I know word got out to others. I don’t even know if it was the right number, but I did *something*, and the something had ripple effects. After the election, before Thanksgiving, the idea of having only one action a week felt absurd and not enough. And it probably isn’t enough. But now, now that we’re in it, for the long hall, holding myself to one concrete action a week means I’m *taking* one action a week, and it may help stretch out my stamina to stay in this, as long as we need to. So, trying to stay engaged, but also pace myself. 
  14. Just keep grieving. I feel like Trump has pulled me out of my grief slump kinda the same way WWII pulled America out of the Great Depression. Like, suddenly something so much bigger, requiring everyone to rally and work together and combine resources, has come into being, and as Enjolras put it, our littlel lives don’t count at all. But also: In January we had my aunt’s birthday, Liddie’s birthday, my grandma’s birthday, and my dad’s birthday, in that order. He had a huge sweet tooth, and I made a batch of double chocolate cupcakes–the same ones we had for his 60th birthday–to honor the day.
  15. Pull my weight re: nurturing friendships; do my fair share of organizing, hosting, prodding, reaching out, reminding, and lowering the overhead as much as possible for busy people to spend good time together. Yeah! I’ve re-instated a weekly ice skating lunch with a good friend, hosted a book club meeting, and organized a trip to see a play with friends in June. Doin’ it! Will keep it up!
  16. Participate in the weekly Sunday night potluck dinner organized by a former neighbor at least quarterly. Aim for monthly. Our neighbors are valiantly continuing to host this meal on a weekly basis, and we haven’t gone yet. By Sunday night we’re usually just feeling so tired and anti-social we’re not really up for anything. Will continue to try. 
  17. Cook more real food for dinner at my house. We’re doing it! But, it’s hard to say if it’s worth it. What does “worth it” even mean? These evenings are rough, and cooking with toddlers is rough. I used to think it was just an unfortunate coincidence that everyone I knew who had a bad accident in the kitchen had small children. Ha. THIS IS NOT A COINCIDENCE. This WEEK alone, I burned my arm pretty badly and cut my finger. I admit that I *have* really been enjoying eating more actual, whole foods and fresh vegetables. Food tastes better and I appreciate it more. Will try to keep this up However, it turns out to be in conflict with the following: 
  18. Eat dinner as a family, at the table. Yeah! Kinda sorta. We’re doing it more than we ever did before, and it’s great! We like it, and Liddie likes it too! She now always tries to get us to sit down with her before she will eat. But cooking *and* eating together is hard. We did it for a week or so and her bedtime kept getting pushed later and later and later. I feel like we need to figure out some kind of balance between nights where she eats with us, but we have a super easy dinner, and nice where we cook something a little more involved and eat after she goes down. But *then* we achieve the goals of cooking more and eating together more, but we don’t have a predictable routine for the girl, and that’s something she likes and needs. *shrug.* So much of working + adulting + parenting = can’t win/do what you need to get by. 
  19. Make time to speak with my mom at least weekly, more if possible. We’re both sick and tired a lot, but we’re doing it! 
  20. Make time to speak to my aunt and my grandma at least monthly, more if possible. Well we’re only a month in, and I have talked to my grandma on the phone once and Skyped with my aunt with Liddie. So I guess technically I haven’t fallen behind yet, though I don’t feel like I’m doing much to reach out and be supportive. Keep it up, self, and don’t fall behind. 
  21. Curtail Facebook usage (unless actually writing meaningful messages to the above or others) That’s a big NOPE. I even blocked it from my work computer–and then unblocked it after two days. 
  22. Blog more. Not yet…
  23. Write more letters. Not yet….see below: at some point I’ll unpack my stationery, pens, and address book and then I’ll get on with things. And I just wrote my first postcard of the year! (it’s to a friend, not a political protest) Now to actually mail it….
  24. Make a weekend with Kelsey and Robyn happen. Yes! It’s happening! It’s booked! First weekend together in like ten years. I can’t wait! I’ll officially cross it off the list after it happens. 
  25. Visit my aunt and grandma in Denver Yup!–I’ll tack this on to the front of the weekend with Kelsey and Robyn. But, this is only a half success, I’d say: I’m not bringing Liddie on this trip, which will leave everyone in the family unsatisfied. 
  26. Get my high school girlfriends to Michigan for a visit. No plans yet. 
  27. Take one awesome, adventurous, ambitious family vacation. No plans yet. First concrete step: get Liddie a passport. I’m irrationally paranoid about doing this because I’m somehow afraid that the record of her birth certificate–literally the only evidence that we are family–will somehow disappear in the process, or that something will go terribly wrong. Need to just get on with it, as it will open up our options so much! Also to be prepared in case of emergency bug-out. 
  28. Make our bedroom a nice, warm, comfortable, functional, attractive, calming, intentional place to be, rather than the garbage pile where we hide everything that we don’t want anyone else to see. Paint. Window treatments. Closet. A bed. OK. We have a bed. It’s 90% assembled–the last step is going to be a stupid doozy. And no progress on anything else. 
  29. Renovate our kitchen. No progress. I’m coming around to really liking some parts of our kitchen. Other parts (portable dishwasher that connects to sink, flat white cupboards that show every single stain and grease spot) I am SO done with. I also feel wary, like, we shouldn’t spend so much money with the way the world is right now. I’d rather have savings in the bank and not luxuriate/spoil ourselves when the world is so rough. I don’t know. We’ll see. 
  30. Establish a personal desk/table/corner/space for my crafts/personal projects/special off-limits pens/whatever. Well, the table is ready, but covered with junk. Oh man, keeping surfaces free of garbage/other people’s mail takes such freaking EFFORT. I have an empty set of plastic drawers set up under the table. Next step: unpack all my desk stuff from the old house. I still have no stationary, pens, stamps, my address book, etc., at hand. 
  31. When not on vacation/sick/out of the office, respond to email within 48 hours. I think I’m getting better, but how can one know for sure? Just kidding. I know one can know for sure. I think to test myself on this it would be a good idea to put some kind of alert on emails that haven’t been dealt after 48 hours. 
  32. Fix our goddamn roof. YES DONE! One actual task checked off the list!
  33. Obtain access to a functional and comfortable bicycle. No progress. 
  34. Create playroom space in our basement. No progress. Jeez, the basement is still half full of packed boxes from moving. 
  35. Swimming lessons for Liddie. No progress. 
  36. Take Liddie ice skating. No progress.
  37. Help my mom move out of our family home. Ease this transition as much as possible with significant practical and emotional support, i.e. a substantial stay with her this spring.  Cry as much as needed. Do not withdraw, do not fail to show up for this. I’ve blocked a week on my calendar in April when I might go, stay, and help, but need to, you know, talk to Mom about this and make sure it works for her schedule. 
  38. Cruise on my brother’s schooner!!! Mom has booked her trip for the first week of August and invited Sam and me to join. We need to figure out what we’d do with Liddie and if we can manage it in general–but the door is open. 
  39. Make regular donations to worthy causes. Yes! Ongoing! Monthly gifts set up to ACLU (doubled my existing monthly gift after the travel ban) and Planned Parenthood. Annual memberships to the Detroit Zoo and the Detroit Institute of Art. Instead of signing up for TSA pre-Check as I had planned, I gave the $85 as a one time gift to the International Rescue Committee.  Add to this existing monthly gift to the Uganda Community Project. 
  40. Visit with Liddie’s birthmother in person at least once. Aim for three times. Need to get in touch with her. Sent some pictures after Liddie’s birthday, but haven’t tried to set up a meeting yet. 
  41. Do something fun on purpose for my birthday. This won’t be til June.
  42. Participate in the neighborhood yard sale. See above. 
  43. Go to the beach. Ehhhh, there’s time, there’s time. 
  44. Find a way that also works for spouse to regularly schedule to space and time to myself that does not involve staying up puttering until 1 a.m.: mental health days, Saturday mornings out, whatever. Well, I was sick yesterday and slept literally the entire day. Does that count? Also, Sam took L to the grocery store this afternoon (right now) and I am supposed to be vacuuming (see no. 46)
  45. Set up auto-pay or reminders as appropriate to pay all bills on time. Well, I got in a fight with a customer service rep at AmEx because I couldn’t log into the site on the day my bill was due, and wanted them to waive my late fee, and they did, but then the guy got condescending with me about why it was my fault that I couldn’t log into the site….so, that counts, right? In all seriousness, I am starting to get a fresh handle on our finances in this new house world and that’s a good thing. 
  46. Clean house more consistently. Sweep, vacuum and bathrooms weekly, that would be  a significant improvement and good enough. I’m hitting maybe 50% of my very minimal house cleaning goals. We are constantly drowning in laundry and dishes, and getting out in front of that often feels impossible and discouraging.
  47. See more movies in the theater. Enough movies that I’m not devastated every time I manage to go and it doesn’t live up to my expectations. I love going to the movies. It brings me joy and it is probably the number one thing that I used to do a lot of and now do practically none of. So far zero movies in 2017. 😦 
  48. See at least one live theater performance. Booked! Going to see Fun Home in June when it passes through East Lansing. 
  49. Have a big-ass Christmas tree. A little early to tackle this one. 

The Baby Wait

This is the one year anniversary (or close enough to it) of the first time we were not-picked for an adoptive placement.

It is a weird thing, let me tell you, to talk to someone who is thinking about giving you her baby. By the time we connected with the Fustible’s birth mom, we were actually somewhat more comfortable with this whole thing. And it is a weird thing to be comfortable with it.

But let me back up.

It is the two year anniversary (or close enough to it) of our first orientation session at our adoption agency. There, we learned that the “typical” wait at this agency—from starting the process to having a child placed securely in your home—is one to two years.

We started our paperwork in July 2013, and went through the home study process in August and September. By mid-October 2013, our home study had been approved and we were ready to “go on the list” and the wait would officially begin.

We had to put together our profile, which was really, really, really hard. We are both writer and editor types. We are both interested in presentation, in branding (as crass as that sounds). We were muddling through this in a leisurely fashion until the middle of October, when we received a phone call from the agency: a woman due the first week of November had just gotten in touch with them; they wanted to send our profile out to her (along with a number of others that fit her criteria). We had to scramble to put something together while on a weekend beer crawl with friends. Obviously, perhaps inevitably, this led to one of the biggest fights of our marriage, in the middle of the night at a hotel vending machine.

Ultimately, we got our s*** together.

And then we waited. We never heard back about that first woman. When we followed up with the agency, they had never heard from her again, either. Most likely she decided not to go forward with adoption at all.

The months crawled by. Some adoption agencies will inform you (or indeed, *ask* you) every time your profile is presented to a potential birth mom. Ours didn’t do that. Instead, we identified in advance what kinds of situations we would be comfortable with (this involves EVERYTHING, from health, gender, race, and age of the child to knowledge of the birth father, financial situation of the birth mother, extended family health history, etc. You have to check yes or no for every imaginable category). The agency then adheres to your parameters in determining when to send out your profile.

That six months was probably the hardest for me, because of the silence and because this was all new to us. We had not yet learned to live in wait. (OK, let’s be honest, you never really get used to this. But it gets in the way less over time). In the meantime, our families would press on what the agency was doing to help things along. Waiting was hard, and they wanted an explanation, or a scapegoat. It was hard to defend what we really felt—and still feel—was the best possible choice of agency when it looked like nothing was happening.

Did you know you can put up flyers asking people to give you their baby? That is, if you can physically get up the nerve to do something like that. We made business cards, so if the topic ever came up, you know, in regular conversation, you could give someone a handy way for their neighbor’s pregnant niece to reach you. I think I tacked two up on bulletin boards in gas stations. I just took the stack out of my wallet a couple of months ago. I’m convinced that these measures are useless except as a way of feeling productive and killing time while you wait.

Around mid-April 2014 we finally got up the courage to ask the agency whether our profile had even been sent out at all. The news was encouraging: our profile had gone out 1-2 times per month since we’d gone on the list. In a few of those cases, someone else was chosen. In other cases, the mother decided not to proceed. The agency was doing their job, there was just nothing to report.

And then we waited.

We sought healthy coping mechanisms (poetry, literature, scripture, talking to friends, cautiously and slowly preparing a nursery, talking to our friends and family, creating a playlist for when we brought our baby home, random crying).

We developed unhealthy coping mechanisms (stalking everyone else in America blogging about their happy adoptive placements; starting a spreadsheet of everyone I know who announced a pregnancy during our wait–more than 60 people, by the way–refreshing the adoption agency website 400 times per day, random crying)

Finally, in early July 2014, we got our first call: a mother (and father, it turned out) wanted to talk to us. I nearly threw up. We were terrified; elated.

The call was set for the evening before the long 4th of July weekend. And it was weird. The expectant couple were talking to three prospective families, of which we were one. The conversation was really like a job interview. They had a long list of questions, which we answered, and in 15 minutes it seemed that we were done. At the time, we felt it went well and felt sure that we’d have a chance to speak to them again. So sure, that we spent the long, looong, loooooong weekend coming up with additional questions and information we would want before proceeding. That, and shuttling back and forth to IKEA to order furniture for the nursery.

Monday morning I emailed our agency to let them know how I thought things had gone, and suggested a time later in the morning that Sam and I could call in. Before we reached that hour, the agency called: the couple had picked someone else.

Oh.

The hardest part of coming to terms with this was what a non-issue it was for everyone else involved. This was not a failed adoption: there was no match made with us, no anticipated placement. This was just a regular day at the agency. We didn’t receive any benefit from our sadness and hurt. We were, basically, just right back at square 1. It was hard to swallow.

It’s so hard not to take it personally, or begrudge the other family, wondering if they had been waiting as long as you or not. What had we done wrong? Was it the crappy speaker on my cellphone affecting our ability to connect with them? Did we answer a question wrong?

And then we waited.

One Saturday in mid-September 2014, while out with friends, I received a cryptic phone call from, I gathered, a woman seeking to place a baby for adoption. She spoke very little English. I was shocked and confused that she had called me directly out of the blue, and our agency was closed for the weekend (they have an emergency number, but we didn’t feel like we should use it).

The next six weeks were a blur. It turned out that this mother already had a 9-month-old baby girl and, for a variety of heartbreaking reasons, intended to place her for adoption. She had chosen us. She did not really speak English. She was working with a lawyer, with a translator, with an advocate from a domestic support agency in her hometown. All of these people were working with our agency. It took DAYS to communicate any small piece of information back and forth, and we could never be sure whose words we were really hearing. A literal game of telephone.

Ultimately, we met this woman and her baby. And her other baby. And her advocate, translator, and lawyer. We talked. We liked each other. We thought this might happen, though simultaneously we couldn’t imagine how it could ever happen. Our agency warned us that voluntary older child placements, for obvious reasons, almost never go through.

And then we waited.

Any day could be the day. This all came to a head on a Thursday in late October: we’d been told THIS was the day. We were to await a phone call and a meeting place where we would go to take this child from her home to a new home.

There was no call. We were heartbroken. Selfishly, for ourselves. But also for this mother and her impossible position. For this sweet baby, who we met and held and talked to. We know she is loved but we hope she will also have the other things she needs in life. We know her face and her birthday, but we will never know what happened to her and her family.

And then we waited. We went on vacation. We put everything pretty much out of our minds. We were looking forward to the holidays, and totally fine with the idea of no more adoption drama for AWHILE.

Ha! The joke was on us. The first week of December 2014, we got another call: we had been chosen. Again. The baby was due in January 2015. We set up a phone call with this next expectant mother. We wrestled with how to guard our hearts without closing them off completely.

Somehow, everything was different from the get-go this time: we were not in competition with other families, trying to guess the right answer to a vague question. We were the only ones “in the running.” And we didn’t have to go through, over, under, or around any hoops: we spoke directly and clearly to her. We set up a time to meet in person that very weekend, and we went from there. And that is how we met the Fustible’s birth mom.

We visited with her twice before the baby came, and were with her in the hospital through 2+ days of induced labor. We’ve remained in touch–mostly by text–since then. Every other day at first, then every week or so for the first couple of months, and now we check in every few weeks or every month. We have visited her with the baby twice, and I hope we’ll continue that. We send real live photo prints and a written update every 3 months. That will go down to a minimum of twice a year for the next five years, and then once a year until our daughter is 18–at which point it will be up to her to decide what this relationship will look like.

I don’t really believe in the idea that our baby was “meant to be” ours in some predetermined way, or that this is all part of some divine plan–that the other situations didn’t work out because this one was waiting in the wings. I don’t believe it because carrying that out to its logical conclusion is cruel and absurd: the universe plotted to give us a baby by planting her in someone else’s uterus and putting that woman through an unimaginably difficult series of events? No.

But I believe, I guess, in the skill of our agency, in the courage and wisdom and thoughtfulness of our daughter’s birthmom, in our own endurance and discernment.

There was something off–doubts, concerns, hesitations, mismatches–in all of the other situations. That is why they didn’t work out. When it finally came together, it wasn’t because it was “meant to be” in a magical sense, it was because we saw something in each other that we were able to recognize and trust and act upon.

That being said–today, as our baby approaches 6 months, it’s hard to imagine that it could have worked out any other way.

My mom is coming to visit!

I just spent about 10 minutes trying to think of some clever title for this post, but this about sums it up. My mom is coming to visit tomorrow. So that means I will spend tonight cleaning all the parts of the house that she doesn’t care about (area rug in the study) and neglecting to clean all the parts that she does care about (driveway and porch).

Mom and me at Top of the Park in 2012

Mom and me at Top of the Park in 2012

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