May 26, 2010
I know it wasn't the safest way to transport that green hunk of glass, but we were close to home and the back of the van was just too full of beach stuff...consider this just another "real" view of our van and of our crazy, little life. Happy to report we all made it home safely and the bottle is now sitting pretty next to our front door (we removed that plastic woven cover). I will try to post an after pic soon, but in the meantime read this.
May 25, 2010
And yet, when it comes to dealing with the laundry in my own house the nostalgia quickly fades. It is my most dreaded domestic chore. I can weed all day. In fact, I like weeding. Dishes: I enjoy doing those, especially now that I have easy access to NPR and This American Life on my I-touch. Sweeping: I kind of like the hypnotic swishing and the satisfaction of getting rid of little piles of dirt. Cooking: not always my favorite thing to do, but I go through phases of true enjoyment and I do like the thrill of finding a recipe that is a keeper.
But laundry feels like never ending torture, a domestic state of purgatory. I don't mind folding, but I have some strange aversion to putting away the clothes and that always has disastrous results. I know that some people pine for a personal chef or daily housekeeper. I yearn for someone to just come and put away my laundry each day. I'll happily wash it, dry it, and fold it, but I hate putting it away. I am not sure what's wrong with me but there is some block there.
I recently dove into Karen Maezen Miller's new book, Hand Wash Cold. I foolishly read it with a craving for a quick transformation. I wanted something to click in my brain, an instant mental re-frame that would suddenly make doing the laundry as appealing as photographing it seems to be for me. But that didn't happen. That's exactly the opposite of her message. Her message is similar to Thich Nhat Hanh's message about doing dishes. Slow down, be in the moment, appreciate the daily tasks and see them in the larger context of fully living your life, your current life. Not the life you imagine having or the life you left behind in another chapter. It was stupid of me to expect to find a quick fix. But I am feeling desperate lately. Wanting, needing to make a change.
I am letting Maezen-Miller's words seep and soak in my thoughts, but I am still itching for some concrete suggestions. So now I am here. Asking you for help. How do you do your laundry? How do you get it put away and keep doing it every day without smothering under the piles, the monotony, and the repetition of it all? I am hoping that when we leave Italy in a few years I will not only leave with loads of laundry photos, but perhaps I will also leave with a better idea of how to do laundry. Laundry--- free of my current dread and resentment.
This photo was taken of Camille over a year ago. That's her with her yoga mat. It was taken around the time she was starting to do yoga at preschool. Since our move to Sicily, Camille has been unrolling her mat next to mine. We have sporadically been trying to start our mornings together with some yoga. In the past couple of weeks, we have been more regular about it. About halfway through, she'll usually meander off while I continue and then she will return for the final resting pose. I have to admit that initially, I wasn't crazy about even attempting to do this with her. I wanted to have that time just to myself. I needed to get in that zone without having little hands on my skin or her voice in my ear. But it has actually turned out to be one of my favorite times with her. I have discovered that I can still get to that place within myself even with a little humming next to me. I can do downward dog even with a little girl crawling under me. I can push myself a little harder when I see her natural flexibility flowing through her limbs. And I can giggle way more than I ever did in any formal classes. It isn't always the intensity or the length of time that I crave, but we have a shared rhythm and it feels good. I was especially grateful for that during this past week.
However, our life as an adoptive family has not been faring as well. The sacrifices have felt bigger. We left behind friends with families like ours (built through adoption), Taiwanese friends, a very active adoption group, my beloved book club, a city with diversity and two Asian food markets near our house. We know of only two other families who have adopted internationally, but when I attempted to host a gathering there wasn't any response. I am really hoping that this summer will bring a few more families...perhaps I should send out some kind of wanted ad encouraging adoptive families to move to Sicily? Selfish, but maybe it would work?
During our recent trip to Amsterdam, this came into clearer focus for me. We encountered several families who had clearly adopted from Asian countries. It stopped me in my tracks. Literally. I stared and had to fight the crazy urge bubbling up inside to tackle them and tell them that we were just like them. And it hit me then, that I was lonely for those friendships and that support that has always been in our lives until now. Prior to those "sightings" (I sound like a crazed stalker, don't I?) I had been focusing my energy on helping us all to adjust to a new culture.
Since moving here I haven't read any adoption related books, I haven't kept up with many adoption blogs, I haven't gotten on any of my yahoo adoption groups...these are all things that had previously been a big part of life. I think some of that happens naturally with time. Similar to being a first time parent...spend lots of energy and time reading all the latest parenting books, buying all of the newest gadgets and safety items, searching for reassurance that you are doing everything the "right way" and then the second child comes along and suddenly all of that activity seems excessive and there isn't any need or time for it. But I also think that part of my separation from the adoption world is related to this physical separation and it worries me a bit. We are very much in the minority here in Sicily. If we lived in Northern Europe or Spain, we would have larger sources for support. Whenever we travel with Camille...small Sicilian towns, Turkey (lots of commentary there about traveling with an Asian child), Germany, and our recent trip to Naples...we are suddenly under very close inspection. Most of the attention is just curiosity and genuine interest, some of it has bordered on rude, and some of it is religious which doesn't sit well with me (God bless us for "saving" her...see Laurie's recent post where she speaks even more eloquently about this).
Getting attention in public isn't a new thing and in many ways Camille handles it better than any of us, but feeling so isolated is new for us. And I worry that it is happening during a crucial developmental time. Camille is more aware than ever of differences in skin color, family composition, and birth stories. She is trying to make sense of it all and somehow place it in the context of the princess stories she loves so much. I have been working hard to introduce more multicultural stories and characters, but she often refuses and wants to re-read the stories of those lily white princesses that swoon and twirl. I have been pulling out more adoption stories lately (if you have any favorites, please share) and most of the time she is receptive and responsive. And then there is "Year of the Dog" which we have on audio book and she listens to almost compulsively these days. I think she is drawn more to the humor than the Taiwanese connection, but I am glad she enjoys it. But in my heart I know that books and Asian dolls are not enough. I try to reassure myself that she is becoming a Global citizen of the world...speaking Italian, traveling, making friends where ever we go, but underneath it all I also worry that at this stage in her life she shouldn't be the only one. The only Asian child living with a white family in Sicily.
When I recently went to apply sunscreen on Camille's arm, she wanted more because she worried she was getting too brown. She said she wanted to have white skin. It hurt to hear those words coming out of her mouth. I wasn't shocked. I have had friends tell me about similar conversations with their kids. I know that all children have things that bother them, that set them apart, that lead to teasing. I have read books. And I have to admit there is some basis for her desire to have different skin. She is surrounded by people with lighter skin. But it still took my breath away for a moment and made me wish we could give her a different experience. I really, really wish I could get on Amazon.com and order up some adoptive families, some darker skin for myself, playmates with a wider variety of skin tones and have them all sent to Sicily by express mail. Guess I will have to settle for ordering some new books and give some serious thought to where we will move next.
***My mom made the doll in the photo. She got the kit last year during her trip to London. Camille loves her new dolly and promptly named her Ni Hao Kai-Lan...which is way better than Ariel, but still...
Koinobori (see above pic)
Paperbag ValentinesGarden SticksButterflies
So it is now twenty years later and I am a stay-at-home mother of two who decided it would be interesting to return to Anne's and Holden's worlds. But it was different. This time around Holden drove me crazy with his adolescent antics. Very impressive writing on Salinger's part, but I had to force myself to finish reading it. By the time I finished reading it, I didn't want to think about it any more so I didn't even take part in the discussion with my on-line book club.I was so let down. I had remembered Holden in such a fond way...as a spunky, rebellious, but sympathetic guy. Not anymore. I think my mama lens is too thick right now. I am dreading the day my sweet little Noah morphs into some version of Holden, but as I was reading I had to acknowledge that Noah is now closer in age to Holden than I am. That put a damper on things. Wish I could say it didn't, but it did.
And then there was Anne. How did I overlook all of her critical commentary, especially regarding her mother? And how did I forget her frank discussions of sex and her changing body? Well, it turns out I didn't. It turns out that the version I read in 8th grade was the version that was printed under her father's watchful eye. He carefully edited out those judgmental or uncomfortable sections and they didn't make an appearance in print until after his death in 1980. I don't know what version kids read in school these days, but it almost felt like two different books to me. Once again, I am sure my current status as mother, a Jewish mother, was playing into my second reading of the book. I had much more empathy for Anne's parents than I ever did when I read it for the first time.
Anne did not drive me nearly as crazy as Holden did, but I wasn't quite as taken with her as I remembered being the first time. Instead of feeling a strong connection to her, I felt a greater sense of awe and gratitude with this second reading. Especially after visiting The Anne Frank House in Amsterdam for the second time. Just like the book, things have changed a bit with the house, too. Since my first visit to the house in 1994, the house has been gussied up quite a bit with interactive displays, photographs, and moving interviews with those who helped the Frank family, with some of Anne's friends, and even with her father. It is very well-done (including the ease of being able to buy advance tickets on-line, highly recommend that option). Unlike my second reading of the diary, my second visit to the house had a much greater impact.
I think the additional displays contributed to that, but beyond that I now carry the weight of knowing my children could easily have been exterminated just as Anne was. I didn't have that same weight on my shoulders or in my heart when I read the diary and visited the house for the first time. I was sad, I was horrified, but I wasn't nearly as connected to the Holocaust experience as I am now. And that's why am grateful and in awe of what one adolescent, Jewish girl was able to accomplish with her plaid diary. Part of me wishes I hadn't re-read it because I didn't want to see the whiny, critical teen-aged side of her, but after re-visiting the house I am glad I re-read it and in it's full text. She was who she was and thankfully her diary was saved as a record of her voice and her experience. It was nearly 9 pm on a Sunday night as we made our way through their hiding place, there was a long line of people waiting to get in and we were surrounded by people of all ages, ethnic backgrounds, and faiths. Pretty powerful to see that after all these years, a teen-ager's words continue to make such an impact on so many around the world.
So, do kids still read "Catcher in the Rye" and "Anne Frank" in school? I don't think I am up for a third reading of these two books any time soon, but that's because I'll be too busy trying to maintain this current state of denial that my two monkeys will ever be teen-agers.
May 1, 2010
And then there is Navarre Beach, a barrier island on Florida's Gulf Coast. It is the place I escape to in my head when I am seeking comfort and joy. I have shared posts on our annual family trips to this narrow piece of paradise. It's white, sandy beaches and warm waters are woven into the fabric of our family. Intense weeks of re-connection between four generations of my family...card playing, beach combing, story telling, Cajun dancing, and maintaining the threads that tie us to together. We keep track of our weeks in our "Florida Book". It is essentially a family journal filled with moments from the week, wildlife sightings (dolphins, sting rays,black skimmers nesting), and water reports (jellyfish year? seaweed soup or crystal clear?).Over thirty years in that "Florida Book" of ours and I want my kids to be able to write in it with their kids. But right now it all seems so fragile in the face of this massive storm of oil that is approaching.
Today is my mom's birthday. My birthday wish is for her, but for the rest of us, too. I am not going to jinx it by saying it out loud, but I am sure you can guess what it is.