Dumb Idgit Galoot

This is so stupid

I want my Christian friends to hear me out, lest they misunderstand.

John DeBerry has introduced a bill in the state house that bans adoption by non-married couples.  I’m sure its intent was to ban gay adoptions in a way that could pass constitutional muster.  As someone who is philosophically pro-life, this angers me.  You don’t ever discourage adoptions.  Ever. 

Never mind your preconceptions about the foster care system.  Vetting for permanent adoptions is very thorough – I know, I’ve been through it twice.  People who are not fit to parent, married, unmarried, gay, straight – will be ruled out by the home-study and the other state run processes.  And this bill is discriminatory: people who aren’t married but fertile can have all the children they want. 

There is already a hodgepodge of prerequisite rules for adoption; each agency has its own set of rules and requirements.  Our adoption agency only took applications from married couples, under a certain age, who weren’t overweight.

No doubt, these requirements, at the agency level, have discouraged many from choosing adoption to build their families.  But there are many agencies with much more liberal rules.  The important thing is that these rules were enforced by the agency and not the state.  This is as it should be.  We chose an agency we were comfortable with.  A very libertarian philosophy, if you ask me.

Back on point – some people just don’t think these things through.  They get so hung up about “teh gays” or couples who shack up, they diminish the pool of potential adoptive parents.  Don’t let anyone fool you, there is NOT a waiting list for special needs children, older children, non-white children.  These kids are near impossible to place.

You know what?  I was raised by sinners.  So were you.  I do not believe in degrees of sin. 

Don’t be a dumb idgit galoot.  Encourage adoption.

Hat tip: Braisted.

Three Women

My life is filled with people and things that, if the universe was a logical place, would be nowhere near me.  With as much of a jackass as I can be, I certainly do not deserve such a bountiful life.  Although I do not participate in “Thankful Thursdays” (I really should), every other moment is spent shaking my head in disbelief and gratitude for my incredibly good fortune.  I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Today, I am thankful to, and for, three women.

The first is a woman named Harriet, who lives in east Nashville in the shadow of L.P. field.

The second is a woman who passed away a few years ago named Marguerite, but everybody called her DeeDee.

Both women are directly responsible for the wonderful human being, the third woman, my wife Lintilla.

DeeDee raised Lintilla from an infant to the incredible woman she is today.  Just yesterday, I marveled at the quirks and mannerisms that Lintilla shares with her mother.  DeeDee gave the world an incredibly refined daughter, a person the likes of whom I cannot find an equal.  DeeDee did a wonderful job as a mom.  It’s an added bonus that she and I became good friends the last 10 years of her life. Our relationship did not start well, but she continued to give me a chance (my father in law?  that’s another story).

Lintilla is so comfortable in her own skin, she is at home in housing projects, as well as Belle Meade mansions (I am uncomfortable in both, to be honest).  I have never met another person who can befriend anyone so quickly, almost instantly.  I think I know now why.

DeeDee had help giving the world this wonderful woman.  You see, DeeDee could not bear children herself. 

On June 12, 1960, Harriet gave birth to a daughter.  It is not my place to give specifics about the situation, except to say that Harriet could not take care of this baby, and things were handled discreetly, the way they always were back then. 

Judge if you will, but you will be judging from ignorance.  All I know is this woman, who at the time was a scared young girl, placed her baby in God’s hands, who in turn put her in the care of DeeDee.  As far as I know, the two never met; they saw each other at the legal proceedings, but did not speak.

A few years ago, after DeeDee’s death, Lintilla, with only a name to go by, started researching at the Main library, and was able to determine, with some certainty, what had happened to her birthmother.  She filled out the paperwork, and wrote a heartfelt letter.  Lintilla first met her birthsister, and once the initial nervousness was over, she met Harriet herself.

They have become fast friends, and it’s good to see Lintilla have answers to questions she had carried her whole life.  But she will always call DeeDee “mom”.  DeeDee was a revolutionary for her time, not concealing the adoption from her child.  Teachers would call home reporting that Lintilla was telling all the other kids she was (whisper, now) adopted, and DeeDee would reply with a hearty, “So?” 

The community was mortified.  But she raised an incredibly open minded girl, self-confident about adoption. 

And this young lady grew into a woman, who would fall in love with a man, who later would have to make his own decision about adoption.  It all fell into place like so many pieces in a puzzle.

Today is Lintilla’s birthday. 

So, I am thankful for, and to, three women.

Two, for what they did.  The third, for who she is.

Happy birthday, Lintilla.

Still Processing This

Y’all bear with me here.  I’m working a few things out “aloud”

We now know who the shooter at Virginia Tech was

The gunman who killed 30 people at Virginia Tech’s Norris Hall before turning the gun on himself was student Cho Seung-Hui, university police Chief Wendell Flinchum said Tuesday.

He was an English Major.

There’s so much that comes to my mind.  For instance, most Americans have no idea how much emphasis is placed on education in South Korean culture.  Education, not money, looks, or fame, determines social status.  Kids are under enormous pressure there, but it’s different from the Japanese pressure to succeed.  It’s all about social status.  It’s everything.

And then there’s this.  Yesterday, when I could no longer hide the news from my children, my son heard the reports for the first time that the shooter was Asian.  The very first words out of his mouth were, “Maybe he’s North Korean”.

This was such a loaded statement.  We’ve had conversations before, when tensions between North Korea and the US were high, in which I explained that, although the North Korean people were “good”, the North Korean government was “bad”.  North Korea as a country, is one of the “bad” countries because of its government.  So, one one level, I understood why Zaphod said what he said.

But, it seemed to me that when he heard the shooter was Asian, he very quickly tried to disassociate himself from him.  It’s hard to quantify, it’s just a feeling I got when he said the words, but it amazed me that he felt the need to defend himself and his birth country.

I’m not exactly sure how to deal with this.  I’m not sure I should ‘deal’ with it at all.  Maybe I’m overreacting.  It was just a side of my son I’ve never seen before.

Broken Up Day

The kids get out of school early today.  They’re off tomorrow, and then again on Monday.  No, it’s not spring break, they’ve already had that.  There’s one thing about sending your kids to a Catholic school:

They sure take this Easter thing quite seriously.

I wonder why? 😉

Otis and Missy (boy, does that sound like a sitcom?) will be happy to see us.  Especially Missy, I think.  She’s a crotchety old Cocker spaniel, and you can tell by the looks she gives that she doesn’t appreciate playing nursemaid to a rugrat all day. 

Otis just wants to nibble on something.

I think you’ll find my disposition improving greatly over the next several days.  I’m getting plenty of good, restful sleep, Easter is the time that reminds Christians of our greatest joy, and I’m going to cut myself off from political blogs for a while – especially “level 1” discussions.

You might remember, there are three forms of philosophical discourse: Level one is high-theoretical, egghead discussion.  Aristotle, Plato, and all that,  Level two is the arts, which in the US usually means film, television and music.  Level three is person-to-person, “kitchen table” discourse.

One of the big rules I learned studying the writings of Ravi Zacharias was this: to be effective, argue at level 1, illustrate at level 2, and apply at level 3.

Many blogs, both philosophical and political, have a ground rule that the discourse must remain at level 1.  You might as well ask me not to breathe.  Maybe it’s because I’m older.  Maybe it’s because I’m a parent.  But, with every issue that comes before me, my mind quickly turns to, “How does this issue affect my life and those that I love?”. 

I have no time for (and pardon the phrase – I can’t think of a better one) mental masturbation: bouncing ideas back and forth simply as a mental exercise with no thought to how they apply to daily life.  If that’s your thing, fine – I’ve outgrown it.  If discussions cannot travel to levels 2 and 3, I cannot waste my time with them.

I have practical reasons for discussion of race issues.  I do not know what it’s like to raise children of color.  There are issues I face as a parent of Asian children, that I am “winging”.  It’s kind of scary.  Most of what I learned about parenting came from watching my own parents raise my brothers and me.  Well, there are issues that have and will come up with my children that my parents have no clue how to deal with.

So, I spend a lot of quiet time racked with doubt.  Am I doing it right?  There’s no one to tell me.  That’s why I need my “web family” to help, to guide me in parental matters of race, especially non-white bloggers.  Unfortunately, because of the way people are conditioned, my status as “white man” causes a many to have their claws out before we can even strike up a friendship.  (Update: I am not guiltless in this regard – many times an offhand comment brings my white man claws out, as well) .  We argue, and I’m left hurt and just as confused as I was before the conversation.

I’ve gone far afield, as I’m wont to do.  My wife last night, asked me what was wrong with me.  Why was I so despondent, not eating, not talking?  What was I going to do, tell her that some person whom I had never met managed to get under my skin and hurt me to the core?  Sounds silly – so I just said “nothing, I’m fine”.

You know what?  It’s just not worth it.

So, it’s back to DaddyBlogging, recipes, blogging about my own weirdness.  I will remain clueless when it comes to raising children of color; no one wants to take discussions of race to that level.  God will show me the way (nobody else will).

I cannot languish in bitterness for long.  So, I will take myself out of those situations that cause bitterness.

So, I’m better now.

Adoption Factiods #2

If I adopt internationally, will my child automatically be a US citizen?

If YOU or your spouse are US citizens, yes.  Interestingly, it hasn’t always been this way.  When we adopted Zaphod, you still had to go through the naturalization process after the adoption was final.  The agency warned us time and again, if you don’t do this, your son could be drafted into the South Korean army!  By the way, it was at the INS office in Memphis, when we were finalizing Zaphod’s naturalization, that we had to deal with what had to be the most humorless person we had ever met.  Maybe since the reorganization it’s gotten better, but the bureaucracy and lack of compassion at that office was horrible.  Anyway, since the passing of the Child Citizen Act of 2000, US citizenship is bestowed automatically upon finalization of the adoption.

What happens after all the paperwork and Homestudy is complete?

You wait.  This is the absolute hardest part of the whole process.  You can bide you time furnishing a baby’s room, but unless you’ve requested a specific gender (thus making your wait even longer), you can’t get too gender-specific with what you buy.  You WILL be tempted to call your social worker about 20 times a day during this period, please try to avoid this.  The call will come. 

I got out “the papers” this morning.  The best I can tell, we called Heaven Sent Children in May or June of 1996.  We did all the administrative stuff for quite a few months.  Believe, me, during this time, you’re not “waiting” at all.  It looks like we started “waiting” about September of 1996.  We got “the call” on December 31, 1996.  BTW, Zaphod was Born in late October 1996. 

As soon as we got the call, a few things happened.  We got some basic medical info, and, lo and behold, we got a picture!  This made the next few months bearable.  I don’t know what it’s like with other programs, but as soon as Zaphod was “placed”, they moved him from the orphanage to a foster family.  It’s obvious, this family loved our son.  They sent us pictures every few weeks, and when he finally came home, he was accompanied by many Korean culture-specific gifts, some of them obviously quite expensive.  One day, I hope Zaphod can travel to meet this wonderful family.

What happens after “the call”?

OK, here I’m going to have to get Korea-specific, because Korea is the only country that allows the child to come to the US without the adoptive parents first traveling to their country.  I won’t get into all the reasons, but we went the “delivery” route, as opposed to “pick up”.  Anyway, at this point, you’ve got another wait.  But this one is better, because there is a specific baby out there, one you know the gender of, one you’ve probably already named.  Of course, you have in the back of your mind all the things that could go wrong, but you keep yourself busy buying baby stuff.  If you choose to go the “delivery” route, as we did, they’ll give you about a week’s notice before your baby comes home.

Now, things are different than they were when my children came home.  9/11 happened.  I have no doubt that you and your family can no longer wait at the terminal for your child to come off the plane.   But that’s OK.  Just gather everybody where you’re allowed.  Nobody will mind.  For that day, you’re a celebrity.  All passers-by want to see your magical moment.

And magical it will be.

 More next time…

Adoption Factoids #1

After this post by Katherine Coble, and my subsequent overreaction, I got to thinking, a lot, about the process of adoption – specifically, the ones I went through as an adoptive parent.  I remembered how scary it was, especially with the first one.  We were navigating uncharted waters.  If it hadn’t been for our social worker Janet, we would not have survived.  We called her eight or nine times a day.

I thought it would be a good idea to save some unknown social worker out there a lot of grief by posting as many factiods about the process (as it stood in the mid to late nineties).  I have no doubt that some of you are considering adoption, but have many questions.  I’ll perform this brain dump as a service to you.  My focus in on international adoption through an agency, because that’s what I know.  Also, there’s so much to remember, I’ll have to make this into a series.  So, here we go:

What’s involved in finding an adoption agency?  Call, call, call .  Do NOT grab the first one whose ad you see on the internet or the phone book.  We were surprised by how many stipulations the agencies had.  Some require you to be in a certain age range, some give first preference to a-parents who belong to a specified religion, or have a certain income, and myriad other requirements.    Full disclosure:  after much search, we decided on Heaven Sent Children in Murfreesboro.  We can’t say enough good things about them.  Also, keep in mind that you’ll be dealing with TWO agencies, your local agency, and the larger umbrella agency (Bethany, AIAA).

A quick note about the above: as you can tell, if you make the decision to adopt, for a while your life will be an open book (personal info, financial, everything).  If you are a secretive (ok, maybe “private” is a better word) person, stop reading now.

Is this going to cost a fortune? I’ll put it this way, the two adoptions we were part of were the two single biggest one-time expenditures we’ve ever had.  We’re not rich.  Others might not consider it as much.  Let’s just say, the cost is similar to a “natural” birth, with a ceasarian delivery and a few other complications.  I only say this because most people wouldn’t think twice about those costs.  Also, there is help: many employers have an adoption assistance program, there is a federal adoption tax credit, and there is actually such a thing as an adoption loan (we had one for Trillian because she was so unexpected).  In the late 90’s, all fees together came to about $13K-$15K . 

Here’s what I told Kat about the fees in the comments of the above post:  We had to pay attourneys, and airfare from Korea for a baby and an adult escort, and the “fees” for the international adoption agency, and the “fees” for the local adoption agency, still more “fees” for the Korean adoption agency, the orphanage, the home study, DHS fees, immigration fees, a fee to get fingerprinted by the FBI, and the fee for Muriel Robinson to make it all official.  I’d say that in the process you get nickle-and-dimed to death, but most of the time the ticky-tack fees are in the hundreds of dollars.

What is the “God” form?  This is only my name for it.  I wanted to warn you about this ahead of time.  Early in the process, you will start filling out forms.  You will not stop until your hand falls off.  One of the forms is extremely tough to fill out, especially for a pro-lifer like me.  You have to specify characteristics that you would not accept in a future child.  I’m not talking about superficial things, or even race, but mostly medical conditions or family history.

Now, most of us, when facing these questions, will glibly say, “we would accept any child”.  And it only seems fair, that’s what parents who have bio children have to do.  But the social worker will stress over and over the graveness of the situation, forcing you to think very hard about what’s involved in raising a child with certain conditions.  Since Lintilla is in the medical field, she was able to tell me specifically what we would have to do in each situation.  Janet stressed that we had to be honest with ourselves, for the sake of the child.  Every time I checked the “no” box, my heart sank a little more.  I know there are people more prepared for special needs kids, and we did the right thing.

But it haunts me to this day.

By the way, the wait for special needs children is MUCH shorter – if you are one of those blessed people who is equipped to handle it.

What’s the homestudy like? – Performing the homestudy, along with coordinations with the “big” agency, is the main purpose of your local agency.  There are (of course) forms to fill out for the state DHS, the FBI, and the INS.  You have to answer lots of questions, most of them framed like a job interview.  Have you decided on how you will handle discipline?  Where will the child go to school? And so on.  You’ll be asked questions about your personal history, and if one of you has previously been married, you’ll have to provide documentation of the divorce.  And of course, the social worker will look your house over.

One quick note about that: When that’s going on, take a good look around.  For the next twenty years, your house will never be that clean again.

More in the next installment.  Also, if you are a prospective adoptive parent and have questions, drop them in the comments and I’ll try to include them next time.