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Friday, 31 October 2008

And I'm Not Even British!!

There is a tiny space under one's profile picture on facebook in which one is encouraged to "write something about yourself". For a woman of few words, this is an easily accomplished feat but for one with a more, shall we say expressive (perhaps even bordering on emotionally unstable;), personality, this provides quite the challenge. For months, I filled that tiny space with two words, "I write".

Imagine them being said in a rather bored, superior, snobbishly intellectual tone. But now, today, October 31st at 9:21 pm, those words are not enough. I must continue!

Not only do I write.

I also buy an embarrassing amount of tea. I drink it only occasionally but for whatever reason, I can't stop purchasing more. It is very strange and I do not consider words like compulsion and addiction as too strong to describe this bizarre desire to acquire more and more tiny tea bags that I arrange in rows in a large basket according to color and size.

Even today, as I passed a local health shop, I felt the tug to just go in and take a peek at the numerous delights, at the teas claiming to do any number of things, yet with true determination, I resisted.

I chose to keep walking, setting a brisk pace and gazing steadily ahead, which I did. I paused after passing the shop door to congratulate myself and there in lay my failure. As a reward, I turned around and flew into the shop that had tempted me so greatly, smiling confidently at nobody in particular as though it was perfectly normal to feel this way about reading tea labels. I stood for a quiet moment before the shelves of tea, promising myself "I'm only looking, I won't buy any...I don't need any...really, everyone does this..."

I looked, I wistfully reading the poetic names (in my head of course), imagining the scents of the crushed leaves, both sweet and spicy...when I saw there a tiny box colored beautiful with pictures of entwining dragons claiming to be a "tension tamer and to quell the dragons in your day". I don't know if I have any particular dragons in my day to be quelled but it was just too much! I had to have that tea.

In one swift movement it was in my hands and I was walking toward the cashier. Money was exchanged and the tea bagged and handed to me which I quickly, almost stealthily buried in the bottom of my purse. I rushed out of the store, picturing how later I would unwrap it and set it in the basket at home and say breezily if anyone asked, (Allow me to point out no one actually WOULD ask as no one would actually notice.), that oh no, that wasn't a new tea, I've had it just ages...

Ah, there. The first step after all, is admitting it.


(The Collection)

Monday, 15 September 2008

Insignificant

Ethiopia.

The land where perhaps even now our future child waits for us.

Last night in my dreams, I saw a brown-eyed, black-haired, chubby cheeked baby boy with lovely, healthy brown skin. I wanted so badly to go to him, every breath in my body seemed to be for this child, my arms ached to reach out to him and I felt I couldn't go another second without picking him up and holding him tightly.  I felt if I did this though, I could never let him go again, that I would rather die than let him go.

A brown-eyed, black-haired, chubby cheeked, smiling child.

The reality could be different.

 The reality could be a skeletal, sickly child with sunken cheeks and vacant eyes who wouldn't let me hold him if his life depended on it. Or a child, like thousands in Ethiopia who have actually seen their parents suffer and die. A child who has experienced trauma. A child who takes months to attach. A child used to starving, who didn't complain when hurt or abused. Or alternately, a child who is used to being loved. A child who knows nothing else but to be cared for but who by the death of a mother or father is left without this and doesn't understand how to cope with the great, gaping emptiness of a world and life without love. A child who cares already for younger siblings like a little mother or father. Who is generous and responsible. A baby. A 5 year old. A laughing child. An angry child. A wounded child. A knowing child. A quiet child. There are so many unknowns.

Some basic facts about Ethiopia for interests sake:

Population: 82,544,840
Capital City: Addis Ababa
Religion: Christian 60.8% (Orthodox 50.6%, Protestant 10.2%), Muslim 32.8%, traditional 4.6%, other 1.8%
Ethnic groups:
Oromo 32.1%, Amara 30.1%, Tigraway 6.2%, Somalie 5.9%, Guragie 4.3%, Sidama 3.5%, Welaita 2.4%, other 15.4%
Language: Amarigna 32.7%, Oromigna 31.6%, Tigrigna 6.1%, Somaligna 6%, Guaragigna 3.5%, Sidamigna 3.5%, Hadiyigna 1.7%, other 14.8%, English (major foreign language taught in schools)
Life expectancy: Between 52 and 54 years.

I recently read staggering statistics in the book (Without You There Is No Me). It is predicted that by 2010 there will be between twenty-five million and fifty million African children who will be left orphans, mostly due to AIDS. One stat (by UNICEF) stated that in Zimbabwe, a child dies of AIDS or is orphaned by it every 20 minutes. Every 20 minutes.

Compared to these unfathomable numbers, I, who have always had enough of everything, who can rush to the fridge for food the moment my stomach rumbles with even the slightest of hunger pangs, who has a warm, roomy house and any material thing I could want, who has never experienced a cross like these little ones are made to bear... well, it feels like my problems become pretty insignificant in comparison.

Sunday, 24 August 2008

Taking It In Stride

Throughout the course of my life, I've come to learn that government based bureaucratic systems are often rather tardy.

I try to take this in stride but occasionally for an instant my normally even temper gives out and I rant at my dog Tia about fools who can't do the jobs they've been given...she understands this concept because sometimes we forget to feed her and then I'm sure she feels the same about us.

Over a month ago I handed in our completed adoption file to be sent forward for approval, which in turn takes up to three months. A week ago, my husband called the municipality with a random question and as an afterthought checked to see if our file had got off alright (thinking it had long been sent out). As it turned out they rummaged around a bit and then informed him it was right there but they would do their best to send it out the following week. Maybe.

They did keep their questionable word though. On Friday we got a letter from Child Services (the people who approve us) saying that our criminal record checks would need to be redone and then they would be happy to look at our case...

Delays, though inevitable, can feel so disheartening but I firmly believe there is a reason for each, single thing that happens throughout this process. I know God's hand is in all of this and He is directing it exactly as He wants. I believe if there is a delay, it's because there was meant to be one. Perhaps because had our papers gone through sooner, we would have missed the perfect little child (or children) that are chosen especially for us.

Wednesday, 20 August 2008

Pearls of Wisdom in the Oddest Places

A few years ago I remember watching a movie called "Evan Almighty".  It was mainly ridiculous and slightly humorous, a comedy about a modern politician who is commanded by God to build an ark.

I was surprised to find myself actually moved by one quote. For me that made the silliness that caused me to roll my eyes at the stupidity of it all worthwhile. (Though I do have an excellent sense of humor, when it comes to comedies, I'm difficult to please.) :)

"Let me ask you something. If someone prays for patience, you think God gives them patience? Or does He give them the opportunity to be patient? If someone prayed for courage, does God give them courage, or does He give him opportunities to be courageous? If someone prayed for their family to be closer, do you think God zaps them with warm fuzzy feelings, or does He give them opportunities to love each other?"

Personally, I often pray for patience, courage, faith, wisdom, strength, discernment, etc...., and then wait expectantly for the Lord to do His part. I never before considered that perhaps these gifts come through the opportunities we're given in life and the way we react to them.

I hadn't considered that perhaps the large, frightful spider crawling on the wall, (larger and more disgusting than any you've ever seen, I assure you), is an opportunity for me to show courage, and when I begin crying and hyperventilating, and throwing objects both small and large at it and then fall in a dead faint on the ground only to awaken to the same nightmarish reality minutes later, I have had a God-given opportunity to be brave and not made use of it.

No, I excuse myself of the above. Even the most courageous person would do the same.

A better example is perhaps the many prayers I have prayed throughout my life for patience, strength, discernment, and wisdom. Patience is especially difficult. In April when we were at the second segment of our adoption preparation course, I remember laughing at one man who told Per and I that he thought if they really wanted to prepare us for adoption, they would have us come and simply sit and wait for the two day course to give us a small dose of the endless opportunities to wait that we would be forced to endure throughout the entire adoption process.

I have often prayed for strength but I have rarely viewed the challenges in my life as a chance to practice being strong. I have often asked for wisdom and faith and then not followed through by reading my Bible and praying more so as to come to understand God and His will better. I have also asked many times that I remain close to my friends and family at home in Canada but have allowed months to go by without picking up the phone to contact them at times. I have often asked God to give me the opportunity to help others, to give of myself, and yet, my first reaction (many months ago) to the idea of adoption was anger. Pure, strong, surging anger. Yes Lord, I want to do Your will but not like this.

Maybe God was saying to me those many months ago, this is your chance. Your opportunity to do all you have asked to do, Colleen. Your chance to grow stronger, though it will take time, even a lifetime. Your chance to learn patience, to learn to trust in me. Your chance to grow quiet, more humble and prayerful before me. Your opportunity to show courage and faith. Your opportunity to learn that though you are a treasured, cherished, beloved child of mine, that not everything revolves around you.

Wednesday, 13 August 2008

I Believe In The Health Benefits Of Red Wine

July 31, 2008

Now, here is an entry, not only meant to be charming but to impart some real information. You may decide for yourself what is real information and what I merely try to pass off as such.

Toward the end of June, after only two intensive interviews with our social worker, Per and I were given our finished eight page social report to read over in order to see if we agreed with her description of us and our lifestyle. Though it was an odd sensation to see our lives reduced to a strictly factual commentary in the third person, we were impressed with what was written and really felt that we couldn’t have been given a more positive letter of recommendation.

I took exception to only one small detail. When I was being questioned about my views on alcohol, I had said simply what I feel: that though I dislike drunkenness, I have no problem with a glass of wine with dinner or the occasional beer. Somehow this came out in the social report as as "Colleen has a relaxed relationship with alcohol." Maybe this sounds fine in Norwegian, but in English it sounds like an extremely polite ,or depending on the circumstances, humorous, way of saying that this woman is a total, raving drunk! And believe me, that was not the sort of impression I wanted to give whichever person will be deeming us fit or unfit to adopt as you can imagine.

So I mentioned this and it was rewritten in more conventional words. Aside from collecting several documents, our report was ready to be delivered for approval. So I made a doctor’s appointment, managed this time to not faint as I often do while making such visits and collected the official health report that states I can see, hear, do indeed have a heartbeat, and can move my arms and legs. Thank goodness. To see it all in writing helps a lot.

Then I delivered everything to someone who will in turn deliver it to someone else who will see to it that someone else gets our precious papers and voila, we should know within three months whether we will be approved for adoption or not! Please hope and pray with us that we are approved!

Now I have written two entries in one day and judging by my rather sporadic average of entries, if you check back in in three years time, I’ll have written another! :)

How To Win Friends

April 28, 2008

While I was in Manitoba over the summer, I occasionally escaped the burning Prairie sun by browsing in Gimli’s comfortable second hand bookshop. On one visit, I happened to glance through this self-help book that was probably popular at some point called "How to Make Friends and Influence People".   In the first chapter the author states that people love to talk about themselves and a sure way of winning friends is to allow people to talk, they will love you for it.

That was the thought process going through my head this morning as I talked my way from my own birth, through my childhood and relationships with my parents and siblings; what subjects I liked and disliked in school; the experiences I had at a Catholic girls boarding school; to my many months of globetrotting after graduation; to meeting Per and the gradual development of friendship to love.

I do enjoy talking. I always have. When there is no actual person around to talk to, I have no problem talking to myself for hours on end. There are times I catch myself talking out loud as I walk down the road to the train station. I also laugh at the things I say and the stories I tell myself. I am really quite amusing.

Of course, I found no need to include that particular information in the interview today.

Anyway, the interview this morning was not as terrible or as frightening as I imagined it would be. In my imagination, the social worker ran her fingers along windowsills checking for dust and examined our books, movies and CD’s as a means of judging our personalities and parenting skills. In my imagination she asked obscure questions that were impossible to answer correctly and the whole scenario was panic-inducing and humiliating.

In reality, the entire interview was conducted in a calm and relaxed manner and I felt quite graciously inclined toward this woman who listened so well to everything I said and even took notes.  I quickly abandoned my nervousness because there is really nothing so lovely as talking about oneself to someone who simply listens.

I’ve strayed from the original point of this entry…I actually meant to be quite informative and impress you all but I think my giddy relief at simply having survived this weekend and this morning got the better of me.

Group Therapy By Any Other Name...

April 25, 2008

…would unfortunately, still stink.

We gather in a dimly lit hotel lobby, some people clutching plastic cups of coffee as though their lives depended on it. There is the low murmur of voices, stilted conversation, someone laughs loudly then is abruptly silent and through it all, a slight awkward tension prevails.

We gather in a large conference room. To learn. To discuss. To perhaps, if we are lucky, connect with one another. This is not my usual scene, nor I am sure, is it anyone’s, but it is something we must do. Something deemed correct in a world that is becoming more and more uniform in it’s absolute correctness.

We listen to many people share their often heartbreaking stories and the circumstances that led them to choose to adopt a precious child from an unknown land, a child so desired that the obstacles to be overcome become minor when measured against the end result.

What is the end result? Put as simply as possible, it is love. It is the beauty of human life, the beauty of touching and knowing a human soul. It is perhaps recognizing that nothing in this world belongs to us alone anyway and therefore we are so amazingly free.

This weekend, we have the second segment of our adoption course, or as I think of it, group therapy session. I personally don’t enjoy sitting in a circle for hours on end discussing my innermost thoughts, in fact a small part of me views it as an advanced method of psychological torture. But I will do it and try to remember it is one more tiny step in the right direction and someday I will look back and laugh at my needless worry. Or else I won’t be able to recall any of this because I’ll have blocked it from my memory as people occasionally do with traumatic events.;)

I Want To See The Same Things Differently

April 23, 2008

There is this sort of panicky, dry-mouthed terror that strikes suddenly. In my case, I was walking down the stairs in the early evening, arms full of a pile of clothing desperately in need of a wash, (the clothing that is, not me), admiring my shadow on the pale green wall when I heard my husband talking quietly on the phone downstairs, making a date. And I knew what it was. It was my world changing. Something that was before only an indefinate idea taking tangible shape, forcing me to realize it was there, immediate, something to be dealt with now…not some distant point in the rosy future. It struck me so suddenly, my heart started pounding, my face flushed, my mouth felt like it was full of cotton balls and the only thing I felt was a certain sort of irrational fear. Forgetting the laundry, I walked as if in a dream into the living room and whispered a strangled, "So…? What did she say?"

He looked at me, his face serious and he said we’ll be meeting with the social worker who will handle our adoption process on Monday at 9am. Here in our own home.

Here in our own home?! Here? In our own home? Where I wash the floors on average twice a year? Where it’s…MESSY? And the plants have the unfortunate habit of not making it to old age? This home? Funny how one can be suddenly struck by thoughts of the extreme importance of long-ignored domestic duties when there looms on the horizon something much more significant…

So I stood in the fading daylight coming in through the window and asked repeatedly and somewhat hysterically, "But what will she ask us? What will she want to know?" To which Per replied that he didn’t know. Still, I insisted he tell me what she would ask, as though he would know any more than I would. Finally, in what amounted to a shallow despair I sighed in long-suffering frustration, "I’ll never be able to answer questions like those." and slumped down in a dejected heap on the couch. (’Questions like those’ being queries I had just made up randomly in my head that very moment.)

I should be happy, excited even, to have our interviews so soon…and maybe after I am more used to this idea of baring my heart and soul to a stranger, of talking about the most private and personal feelings and memories and experiences I have had and then having these personal griefs, joys, and experiences poured over and analyzed by countless unknown people to determine whether we are fit to be parents, I will be calmer and recognize the blessing in this not hanging over our heads for months to come yet. Here’s praying for the peace and grace to handle this situation with something less than acute terror.