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Thursday, 30 December 2010

Singing In The Night And Crying On The Elevator

Here are two tales from me to you. Do you believe that they are true?

Singing In The Night (Norway):

You know the sort of feeling when you wake up feeling as though "something" woke you? That the waking was too unnatural to simply be your own body telling you you've had enough sleep?
Eyes fly open, heart beats quickly...startled into a stillness that is as alert as some ancient instinct that we've mostly long forgotten.
I don't move a muscle. I quiet my breathing.
There is a woman's voice floating down the hallway. High and unusual. Singing steadily in a language I don't understand.
My body tenses and then relaxes and I tell myself "it's only your imagination...a fragment from a dream you just had..."
But a chill settles over my body despite the warmth in the room and I actually feel each individual hair on my arms standing on end and there is no pause in the singing from down the hall.

Crying on the Elevator (Sri Lanka):

There were two elevators in the elegant hotel. I could see by the bright red numbers changing rapidly on the panel on the wall that both were on their way to the floor I waiting on. One reached the main floor and I waited for the doors to open. They didn't. I heard pounding from inside so I leaned into the door and asked "Are you alright?" as I pressed the open door button on the outside. Nothing. The pounding continued along with frantic crying now. It sounded like a child and there was no comforting adult voice speaking reassurances so I assumed the child was alone. "It's ok, just hang on a second...the doors will open." The crying continued, broken and afraid. A man walked up to where I was waiting and I asked him "Do you hear that too?" He listened and said "Yes, that's very strange." While he waited with the elevator I ran to the front desk and explained "The elevator must be stuck, it's been on this floor for several minutes now but the doors won't open and there is someone screaming and crying inside it." The man behind the desk stared at me in disbelief but came with me to the where the other man was waiting still. "It's this elevator" I said pointing "Do you hear the crying?" The hotel worker pressed the button to open the door (as I had done several times to no avail), and for him the doors opened immediately. There was no one inside. The worker turned to me and smiled condescendingly as though I was just another demanding, hysterical customer to indulge. I shrugged awkwardly "I just thought I heard someone..." I said as he walked away. I turned to the man who had been waiting with me..."You did hear something right?" "Yes" he replied "that was definitely weird."

And it definitely was.

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Grace in the Going

Mandal, Norway

Do you know something? A secret? Something yours alone?
That you can hold loosely in your open palm? Or tightly in your fist?
A memory you can cherish, smile at, then let go of and send up into the chilly, distant sky?
Watch it scatter and flutter down around you like snowflakes caught in the blue-shine of a glittering December night?
Like tears too perfect to not be treasured?
Something lost temporarily that whispers to you of light?

Or maybe you know something the whole world knows too.
At its most vulnerable.
In the depths of its heart when it closes its eyes to sleep.
Maybe you see there is something fragile
...unutterably, unbearably, unimaginably...
Beautiful in each soul that will close its eyes tonight?
That will close its eyes and begin to leave a world so white with snow.

As if each snowflake were a gift.
Were a secret.
Tossed with joy by a careless hand into the air.

As if each soul were beloved, treasured and cherished.
Were created by an artist-God.
Tenderly, with the greatest love and utmost care.
As if each soul were a great work of beauty and art.
As if each soul were rare.

Rest in peace, dear Nils.

Monday, 22 November 2010

In Limbo

In the great scheme of things a camera being broken isn't really worthy of despair, so I won't exaggerate, (you know how I loath exaggeration after all), and say I've been despairing over my lack of photo documentation from the past month, but I have been...I don't know...antsy, fingers itching, going through a photo withdrawal of sorts. William on the other hand, ham though he undeniably is, has seemed to relish waking up without the flash of a camera going off repeatedly in his face. Or it could be he is just grateful for even one month in which his bad hair days (everyday) aren't scrupulously documented and filed away for future blackmail, er, enjoyment I mean.

So William at 17 months is a talkative little thing, never mind that aside from a few words I can't make out what he's trying to say at all. I think they call it baby talk. He adores his daddy. ADORES. Daddy can do no wrong. Everything good has the honor of being called "dada". He also loves the cats who he also calls "dada" as he yanks their tails with joyful abandon. He is quite generous to me in his way, trying to forcibly feed me pieces of lint and cat hair that he finds on the floor. He loves books and the movie Aristocats which I now know off by heart, and his meal of choice is cat food. He is quite funny and terribly dramatic.

(Disclaimer: Although I occasionally do a post on William now and again, I think it's fairly obvious that that this is not a mommy blog. That wasn't my goal when I started it, in fact slacker that I am I had no goal or aspirations at all when I began this blog aside from the therapeutic release of my own feelings in regards to the ups and downs of adoption. I certainly enjoy reading mommy blogs, but it just isn't me I'm afraid. If I'm going to write, I'm going to write my heart and soul and if not that, then I'd prefer not to write at all. And since writing is like a grand affair de coeur for me, I shall do it as I feel so inclined. ;)

So, my husband and I had this plan. When one year had passed, (and it has, incidentally), we would begin a new adoption journey. It would definitely be Sri Lanka again and if on the off chance Sri Lanka wasn't available, we would choose the Philippines. All would be well. Well, all will be well but the best laid plans of mice and men, right? :) We have our papers spread out before us and fresh enthusiasm for the venture ahead but it turns out we must choose a new country. Sri Lanka is presently not accepting new applicants and Norway has stopped (I hope only temporarily?) working with the Philippines.

When our list of possible countries is narrowed down further due to other rules and regulations, the countries that we can choose from are: Ethiopia, China, India, Chili, or Columbia. It is very possible that during the entire process, any of these countries could suddenly refuse to accept new applicants and yet other countries could begin to take in new ones so once again, it's all in God's hands. We have dealt with this before. Last time we had chosen Ethiopia for many months, been approved for it and then at the last minute told we had to choose between Sri Lanka and the Philippines and rather than being an inconvenience, it worked out wonderfully for us.:) So we don't know yet where we will choose. If it were possible we would wait for Sri Lanka to open again but that may be impossible so before we redo our social report and all that jazz, we may need to make a decision here!

Anyhoo, no matter where in the big world Adoption Journey 2 leads our small family, we're up for it! Open hearts, arms and minds and we're just settling in to enjoy the ride. :)

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Stumbling Over Lost Children

I see myself walking in a hot and dusty place. It's almost dark, I stumble over something and fall hard on my knees. My hands hit earth. Dry dust flies and dances in the air around my face. I choke and shake the hair out of my eyes. Look down to see what it was I stumbled over. Gently move the earth away. Something bright and beautiful lying unnoticed in the dirt.

You! I laugh in delighted dismay. What are you doing there?! I've been looking for you everywhere but never thought I'd find you here! Still laughing at my good fortune, I reach a hand down to pull you up, wipe my fingers across your dirt-streaked face...oh! But you're so beautiful! I shake my head in wonder. Sink down again until I reach your level. Gaze with a smile into your eyes. I couldn't find you, you know. At first, I cried and called and called. But you were gone! Just disappeared from life... I shrug my shoulders and trail off helplessly. ...I gave up, it looked so bleak...they said I'd never find you... I lift my head to your small face, will you to understand what even I do not about loss and living without and choices made and mourned.

You pull your small, thin hand from mine. Look at me so scornfully. Say:

You're far too late and now you have no claim on me. I'm not your child. Not yours to keep. I'm a dream. I am a ghost.

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Exile Part 2

When I wrote my last post on exile according to Kahlil Gibran's prophet, I desperately wanted to include something more at the end. Verses about exile taken from another source, the Bible. But for the life of me, I couldn't find the particular verses I wanted. I searched, hastily turning pages and even typed the bits I could remember into Google, but got all the wrong verses. So as it was late (well, late for me as I am no longer the night owl I used to be and now greedily lust after all the sleep I can get.:), I gave up gracefully and went to bed.

The next day I picked up my Bible again and as so often happens, turned to the very chapter that the previous night had eluded me. I want to share it because the words give a fuller explanation of exile, a fuller view, an idea that whatever sort of exile we are in can be embraced.

"Promote the welfare of the city to which I have exiled you, pray for it to the Lord, for upon its welfare depends your own." Jeremiah 29: 7-9

"For I know well the plans I have in mind for you, says the Lord. Plans for your welfare , not for woe, plans to give you a future full of hope. When you call to me, when you go to pray to me, I will listen to you. When you look for me, you will find me. Yes, when you seek me with all your heart, you will find me with you, say the Lord, and I will change your lot. I will gather you together from all the places to which I have banished you and bring you back from the place I have exiled you." Jeremiah 29: 11-15

I never viewed my own sadness as an exile until my mom sent me those verses one day in a message. One day out of many when I absolutely could not find the meaning in any of my sorrow, when every day seemed hopeless and my depression and resulting anger, eternal. I read them and cried, not because they suddenly made everything better but because I began to see that someday all the pieces of myself would be gathered together and returned to me and I, whole and strong, would be allowed to return to the life and the joy and hope and promise that I had been exiled from.

A promise of restoration. A promise I was not ever alone. A promise of incredible beauty and a future full of hope if I could just hold out for it.

Thursday, 11 November 2010


Aside from the occasional quote or lyric, I don't normally copy out other people's words on my blog. In my infinite modesty, I find my own quite sufficient. ;)

But these words...they absolutely took my breath away when I read them.

(They are from the book "The Prophet" by Kahlil Gibran. An exiled prophet is waiting to return to his homeland and when the day comes that he can, he is filled with first joy and then sorrow."

"How shall I go in peace and not without sorrow? Nay, not without a wound in the spirit shall I leave this city.

Long were the days of pain I have spent within its walls, and long were the nights of aloneness; and who can depart from his pain and his aloneness without regret?

Too many fragments of the spirit have I scattered in these streets, and too many are the children of my longing that walk naked among the hills, and I can not withdraw from them without a burden and an ache.

It is not a garment I cast off this day, but a skin that I tear with my own hands."

I can't claim to have been in physical exile before although occasionally, in utter exasperation with a country not my own, I have felt as though I was. :) But more seriously, I have experienced somewhat of an interior exile...a time of brief but extreme isolation from myself, others, joy and even I felt at the time, God.

I think that the returning to a place you have been exiled from, whether a tangible country or your own precious self and life, must be very similar in some ways.

I know my observation isn't terribly profound but then, who am I to compete with Kahlil Gibran in the space of just a few moments and paragraphs? I'm better off retiring gracefully tonight...

Good night and sweet dreams.

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Our Day In Court: A Cold And Broken Hallelujah

"Love is not a victory march,
It's a cold and it's a broken hallelujah." - Leonard Cohen

Tomorrow is November fifth.

November fifth, 2009 was the day we sat in the sweltering court room in Colombo waiting to be called into the judge's private room. We sat there with beating hearts and sweaty hands in our "formal attire", while behind us William lay in his biological mother's arms.  Beside her sat one of the nuns from the convent, her eyes closed, silently praying her rosary in the midst of the noise and heat and crowd. We were to be called, one by one, to answer questions.  We had prepared for this and gone over it with the lawyer.  Each answer was to end with a small bow and the word "Sir".

I was afraid I would forget my name, my age, my reasons.   It proceeded with an air of unreality.  We all answered what was asked, it was translated, transcribed, the symbolic act of William being placed in my arms by his biological mother in front of the judge was somehow managed.

I felt so clumsy. Inept.

Several more minutes blurred past.  Then, we were done.  It was done.  It was really, really done.

We walked out of the private room.  Couldn't meet anyone's eyes.  Down the stairs.   Out the doors. Into a heat that suddenly felt oppressive.  We took William, were told by someone, no, no, no, not here...wait until we are farther from the building.  Down the street.  We walked.  Per and I, our guide, William's biological mother and William and the kind nun.  "Now."   On the side of a crowded narrow street.  I met her eyes.  Held out my arms, wasn't sure what to do.  Nothing felt as I thought it would.

(I don't want to write about William's biological mother's grief or try to imagine what she may have felt at that moment. I don't want to cheapen it with my words and interpretations.)

But I will remember.

Taking William in my own arms.  This time not symbolically.  The nun reaching over and making the sign of the cross on his forehead.  His screams as I took him.  The sight of his mother walking away, bent over, weeping, the nuns arms around her, supporting her, keeping her from falling to the ground.  Mohan saying "let's go". The people on the street stopping whatever business they were busy with and watching.  The feeling of shame that swept over me.  The car ride back to the hotel which only lasted minutes.   I held William in my arms in the backseat. Cried.  Cried.  Cried.  "I'm so sorry baby. I'm so sorry. So sorry."

There were no outside the court building pictures. This was love on all sides but it didn't feel like victory.  Not at the moment it occurred.

It was gut-wrenching heartbreak. Incomprehensible. It was life in an imperfect world.

I couldn't write about it then and I find it very hard to write about it now.  This day was agony.  This day was joy.  An end.  A beginning.  A changing of hands.  An answer to prayers.  An uprooting.

So no, love is certainly not always a victory march but somewhere under all this pain, there were strains of a cold and very broken hallelujah.

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

It Has To Be Enough For Me

It's a good day for musing.

It's only 3:20 pm and the sky is dark, rain is shattering itself againt the windows from which a soft golden light shines against the gathering darkness outside. The kind of light you see in other people's windows when walking along busy streets lined with cozy houses, rain pounding the pavement all around you...the kind of light you see in someone elses window and long for, assuming their home must be filled with peace and quiet kind of soft glow that for a moment, you envy as you trudge past it in the cold. Even if you have your own window from which gentle light spills out illuminating the rich life within your own home that perhaps other people pass by on dark, cold, lonely nights and envy.

I'm not so certain as I sounded in my previous post. Don't think that my words on who I am mean I have it all figured out. Not by a long shot I'm afraid.:) The words sound confident and I know that they are true...but knowing doesn't make it easy to live in such a way and knowing is not the same as understanding.

I'm not certain but I'm not confused either. I am aware. I am searching. I always want...

Maybe I want soft light to illuminate my soul. To spill out of my heart and give beauty to all I do. Maybe I envy anothers light, a more obvious light, without cherishing and tending to the light in my own soul. Without understanding it.

Whatever the answers to my questions, I am who I am. I have my own gifts and light. They have to be enough for me.

"Five great enemies to peace are found within us: avarice, ambition,envy, anger, and pride. If these enemies were to be banished, we should without doubt, always enjoy peace." - Plutarch (Greek moralist)

Peace be with you then on this rainy night, I hope your unique light keeps the shadows and monsters away.

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Last September 25th

It was almost exactly a year ago that we learned of William's existence. Imagine that this tiny boy had already been in the world three months without our having had the faintest idea. Imagine that each day of those three months that we struggled and grew weary of the lethargy waiting created in our lives; when our patience began to wear extremely thin with ourselves and others and everything around us; when getting up in the morning felt like a dreary chore and the day that lay ahead seemed long, contentious, grey and boring; when we though that our prayers would never be answered: he was already alive!

A couple of days after we got "the call" we received the above picture. The first picture of William ever taken. He was exactly three months old. I remember looking at it and not being able to comprehend it all. I remember showing it proudly to everyone, carrying it in my pocket until it was crumpled and smudged with finger prints and kisses, until it was covered in wonder and excitement and anticipation. I could feel his soft skin, smell its freshness. I memorized the curve of his cheek and the sweet expression on his face, the color of his skin. I hid the picture away and then couldn't resist it and pulled it back out again to look at and giggle in giddy excitement. A hundred times a day.

It was like the most delicious secret to have this blurry rather unexceptional photograph, except it wasn't a secret at all, everyone knew. It was the highest of emotional highs.


What did we ever do to deserve such happiness?

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Blown Wide Open

"The defects and faults of the mind are like wounds in the body. After all imaginable care has been taken to heal them up, still there will be a scar left behind."
- Francois de la Rochefoucauld

I wrote a post last year, What Happened In Italy, in which I described a process of pain experienced so deeply that I lost a great deal of my confidence and my sense of security in pretty much everything. I felt like I changed overnight. This post describes how finding out we would never have a child affected me then.

I've grown past this and even though I have been blessed with so much goodness and joy, the memory of the pain hasn't entirely gone away. If it makes sense, it isn't not being able to have biological children that I mourn now because I have truly moved past that sorrow, rather it's the memory of the feelings, the hopelessness, the huge betrayal I felt, the memory of the overwhelming anger that hurts me. That I felt the way I did. That I said the words I did. That the anger filled me with a cold, cold fury I didn't know I was capable of. I have scars inside that I now barely think of but they pulse with distant pain sometimes when something sparks a memory of that period in my life.

I'm reading a beautiful book about a woman who finds out she can't have children and so adopts from India. I read it and I relate because it takes me back to when my own pain was strong in me. My heart beats out my understanding. I almost hold my breath thinking "How can anyone know this? How can they know what it felt like?" I understand what it's like to grieve in this way, to be set off at the most unexpected thing, (in the book the woman is tying her shoes before a run for example), so that the pain rushes up and takes over before it can be stopped. I've been there.

For me, it was a mild stomach ache. I sat at the table and said completely calmly "it hurts" and the next thing I knew I was screaming and pounding the table and sobbing "it hurts, it hurts, it hurts, it hurts..." in a frenzy of incomprehension. Why God? Why, why, why are you letting me hurt like this?

Yeah, for me, it was a million things...

I understand what it feels like to be powerless and incapable and stand helplessly on the sidelines watching my plans and hopes shatter. But God is so faithful and so I also have seen those hopes built up again over time, old dreams replaced with new, the pieces picked up off the ground and put back together more unexpectedly perfect than before. I've had my laughter and peace handed back to me.

I don't wish for anything different than what I have. I have come a long way in healing. Every so often though, I think about that bleak, sad time we struggled though and how it knocked me off balance. I'm content and I'm thankful but sometimes I don't think I'm fully recovered.

Maybe I'll never be the same again. Maybe I'm not meant to be.

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

A Bungalow Near The Beach

We are downsizing: selling our charming, spacious home that is surrounded by green rolling hills on the outskirts of town and moving to a city approximately three hours away into a much smaller bungalow within walking distance of the ocean. (All to fulfill my dream of being a beach bum you see, I stop at nothing...;)

For four years, this house has been a home to us. It's been exactly what we needed and for the most part we have loved it here. It's a good house, a home in which I've felt secure and safe and at ease. It was a wreck when we bought it and we've made it lovely and inviting, colorful and peaceful. I've lovingly planted every single flower in the garden.

At first it offered us a haven from pain and the privacy we needed to work through our hurt and disbelief at how different God's plans were for us than our own. It became a home we poured our energy, excitement, sadness, and love into. A place of privacy and of healing. I admit to an overactive imagination, but I always have felt that houses have their own life, apart from us. And this one seemed to be like a gentle grandmother, wrapping soft loving arms around me. A place to curl up and hide when I needed to. There have been several times when I've caught myself saying "Don't worry, we'll take care of you..." to this house. :) It's been a good home and we have had many very happy times here with friends and family but I suppose when all is said and done, it is just a home and it's time for us to move on now and live and laugh within other walls.

We are happy and excited to move as well! There is a wonderful sense of newness and fresh beginnings in a move and we are excited to see what this one has in store for us. Perhaps less privacy than we have out here in the boonies, that's ok, we're ready for that and welcome it. A smaller space but that's also ok, there's something in me that finds it a bit funny and fantastic to be downsizing before we turn 30!:) The excitement of renovating the new house to suit us and the pleasure in meeting new friends to add to the old.

We have a perfect mix of convenience and privacy where we are's right in town, near the town center and in a peaceful and child friendly neighborhood and yet directly across from our home is a forest filled with beautiful walking paths that almost all lead right to the ocean. It will be good.

I know though too that it is always slightly bittersweet. I've lived in Rogaland since I came to Norway six years ago and there are many people I love and care for here. I've been blessed with a job for the past five years that has suited me perfectly in an English kindergarten with staff from all over the world and I have had fun there. We have also been able to attend an English mass in Stavanger each Sunday which is also a very international environment which I love. I can't help it, I'm's just in me to love multiculturalism. ;)

But it's all good. I think the blessing is to be able to recognize and appreciate how good we actually have always had it here but also to anticipate and realize that life is full of goodness, good things and good people are everywhere.

We are very adaptable. And since life and circumstance are constantly changing, I thank God for that.

So please, wish us well and if you're ever in Mandal, do come by and we can drink tea from my huge stash and look for shells on the beach. :)

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

This waltz, this waltz, this waltz, this waltz...

When I dance with William to silly childrens songs we whip around in circles on the floor. He throws himself back in my arms, trusting that I will catch him and laughs with sheer delight or if we just sway slowly to the music he stares intently at me and smiles, his nose all wrinkled up and his lips pursed in a funny little way as if he just never imagined that this much fun was possible and wants to make sure I feel the same. I always laugh too of course, I can't help it.

At The Good Shepard Convent in Colombo, Sri Lanka, where William and his biological mother lived from sometime before she gave birth until the day she handed William to us in the courtroom, the nuns told us that every Friday evening they played music for the women there and the new mothers would clasp their new babies in their arms and dance the evening away.

I think about that a lot for some reason. Strains of Sinhalese music filling the warm evening air, a roomful of women in colorful skirts carefully holding their little ones to their chests as they dance, probably some laughter and chatter shot through with the heavy weight of grief for the mothers who know they won't have many more chances to dance with their babies like this.

They have three or four months of Friday evenings...

Some pictures of the peaceful, beautiful gardens of The Good Shepard Convent where we spent a good deal of our allotted daily two hours walking with William:

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

The Mystery

You've got it all wrong.
It has nothing to do with me my dear.
I'm not speaking of some great, soul-searching mystery like:
Who am I? or Why am I here?

Rather, it has to do with you.
Why, why, why
By a river on a cold early evening,
In autumn-heavy, dull-dark air,
At that exact moment at that exact hour of that specific day...
Why were you exactly there?

I know it is a mystery but still I think the question fair.

Sunday, 8 August 2010

A Baby Raised By Wolves (Portrait of a Thirteen Month Old Boy)

Or bears for that matter.

I admit there are days that I think William acts like a boy raised by a pack of wolves. Yes, his manners are sometimes just that bad: loud belches and other noises best left to the imagination at the table or spitting on the priest when being blessed at communion time in church. He is by far the loudest child I have ever encountered. That being said, these things are all done with great enthusiasm, wild laughter and a spirit of silly fun. I'm not sure if that makes it better or worse though. He certainly delights in his mischievous behavior and seems quite oblivious to the excellent manners that I, being a good Canadian, am eager for him to learn.

He has mastered the fine art of guttural growling for a few months now but more recently has begun to growl in response to the word "no". He understands no but something in him rebels against our daring to say such a thing to him. For a while every time we said no in a firm voice, his eyes would narrow and he would turn what he imagined an intimidating glare upon us and a deep, churning growl would come from his throat. Then he would settle back satisfied he had made his point. But we bravely persevered. Now when we say no, he seems more resigned but still gives a quick sullen low growl and more often then not, stops his offending behavior. Hey, we'll take whatever small victories we can get around here. ;)

What else? Ah yes, he has added another excellent piece to his conversational repertoire. At the table over breakfast one morning in a state of high excitement over the taste of jam on bread, he slammed his fists down on the table, eyes blazing fearfully and shouted out what sounded like "Mother Calcutta". I can imagine that by using that along with "hyena", "mama", and "dada", he will be able to create a marvelous sentence. Maybe he'll be a creative writer or a charismatic speaker or the dictator of a small country when he grows up. We can only dream...

I should add though that even in the midst of the craziness his waking hours entail, there are quiet moments of absolute sweetness as well. Soft baby boy sweetness, with his small head resting against my shoulder as he wakes up slowly from sleep or watches his mentor, Mowgli from the Jungle Book, on TV. Sweet little songs he sings while playing or sitting in his stroller. His beautiful, crooked little smile and the way his face lights up when he sees Per or me. Chubby little arms around my neck. So you see it isn't all wildness although some days it feels like it.

And this William, is a silly, tongue-in-cheek, imperfect attempt at describing your energy, playfulness, stubbornness, and sweetness. This is you at 13 (and a half) months old.

Friday, 30 July 2010

And I Could So Happily Be A Beach Bum For The Rest of My Days...

Yes, a beach bum living in a little beach hut who goes out every morning searching for bits of driftwood and beach glass and lovely whimsical seashells. Feet splashing in the cool water, sand between my toes. Sun shining radiant beams of light and color on the endless, stretching water. The smell of salt and sand in the air. Dried starfish. Waves lapping gently at the shore. Eternal. Insignificant. Tiny in a huge world. Meaning and art instead of business and money. Ah, I could have been a marvelous hippie...

Or a gypsy queen. A wanderer. A traveler. Eyes shielded against the sun. The exotic jingle of an arm full of bangles. Sleeping under the stars, catching trains to unknown destinations. Not knowing where in the great wide world I'll end up. Wild colors and irregular patterns of life. Free and powerful in that freedom. What if I would have been born a gypsy queen?

Or a writer. A poor, penniless writer. Sitting in dark, smoky Parisian cafes. Like Ernest Hemingway. Indulging in my own movable feast. A gormet feast of people watching and words...sights and explorations...I'd certainly wear a dreary hat and have a steaming cup of coffee before me on the scarred wooden table if I could afford it that particular rainy morning. I'd watch. I'd write. I'd wander the city streets in deep thought. Serious and obscure. I'd buy baguettes and drink too much espresso and wine and create my own world view and never buy into society's norms...

Ambitious undertakings, all of the above. Ah well, somewhere inside myself, I'm a little bit of all those things...and a little bit of an artist as well. ;)

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Forever Capturing Castles

(Southern Manitoba)

"I decided then that beauty was sad
And always eluding us
Because we don't know how to care for it
Or cherish it as we should.
I decided none-the-less that I would wait for beauty
Because it was worth waiting for
." (Verse 3 from a poem I wrote in 2003)

"Perhaps he finds beauty saddening--I do myself sometimes. Once when I was quite little I asked father why this was and he explained that it was due to our knowledge of beauty's evanescence, which reminds us that we ourselves shall die. Then he said I was probably too young to understand him; but I understood perfectly."(pg. 147, I Capture the Castle)

I love beauty. I struggle with beauty. With its transience. Its brevity.

Where I'm from:

Occasionally where I'm from, there's a quality of light on a summer evening, soft and silvery, ethereal. When I sit outside in the evening, it speaks to me of childhood and purity. It's the same sky overhead. The same sounds of insects chirping in the fields. The same scents of the prairies and lakes that breathe stories to me of the days when I was closer to the earth. All around me, land. I can breathe so freely here. It has always made my heart ache.

Sometimes I struggle with sadness because I miss these things. Easy laughter and soft conversations into the night. A gently creaking porch swing. A different depth. A different way of living and being. I breathe so freely here.

Where I am:

I search for different beauty here. I must seek out different joys. I have to put more of my soul into my faith because breathing freely doesn't come as easily for me here. Some days I have to remind myself to breathe, to be who I am without apology. I have to remind myself of what I wanted, the life I sought and how blessed I am that it in fact is the life I've found.

There is wonder in the sound of the horses hooves pounding the earth as they race each other in the field beside our home for no reason other than joy. There is beauty in our lush green garden in which the sun dances on a beautiful Northern summer day like today. There is contentment in those I treasure...the family God has blessed me with. Who make this slightly shabby, charming house on the outskirts of town a home. I can love this life. I can do my best. I can bridge two worlds and be at peace in both.

How can I not be thankful for that?

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Strangers on a Plane

There's a woman across the aisle from us.  She's a few years older than we are, mid thirties perhaps. She's watching us from the moment we take our seats and and sit William down snugly in the space between us. She gets up several times, walks up and down the aisle slowly.

A few hours into the flight she leans over, asks us, "Where are you going?"

"We're going to visit my family in Canada."

"Oh?" she turns her lips down in an exaggerated pout and asks in an intimate tone "You're going out of duty?"

There's a pause while we consider what that even means. "No, not out of duty, for a visit."

"Where do you live?" she continues.


"Oh Norway! Lovely! And tell me, how do you feel living in Norway where it's so rich when there are so many suffering people in the world? And have you seen the Northern Lights?" "No, not where we live..." is our puzzled reply. Her eyes widen and she stares at us and says in an innocent voice full of disbelief as though we were lying, "But...I thought you said you live in Norway! Oh! What a beautiful child you have!", she continues in a flash smiling sweetly at William, "Where is he from?" "Sri Lanka", we reply cautiously. Again her eyes widen, this time in exaggerated delight, " did that work? Did you just go there, pay his mother a lot of money and take her child away from her? How wonderful that you did that!", she says in a bright, falsely sweet voice.

Obviously something is very wrong. (We probably should have stopped the conversation dead in its tracks but easier said than done.)

"No, we adopted him legitimately."
She puts her hand under her chin and leans forward as though we're old friends sharing secrets over tea and asks in a voice dripping with honey and sarcasm, "But how did that feeeeel for you? Taking him away from his mother like that? What a good thing you've done! How selfless you are!" She shakes her head in a parody of exaggerated admiration.

I sigh. This feels overwhelming and is made all the more difficult by the fact that she is so manipulatively sweet and not blatantly hostile which is a world easier to deal with.

After about an hour of conversation in this vein, we turn away and begin to feed William, hoping this will signal an end to this bizarre, invasive and dark conversation.

But nothing deters her and she stands up and comes over and sits down beside Per, almost clapping her hands together in mock pleasure and says in a bitter, cloying voice "I just had to come over here and witness this beautiful little moment of perfect family happiness!" She carries on "So what was wrong with you anyway? That you couldn't adopt a child from one of your own countries? What sort of marriage do you have anyway?" Finally I say "I don't want to answer those questions. Why don't you tell me what sort of view you have on adoption because you sound very negative about the entire issue." She gasps in surprise, as though entirely taken aback at my rudeness and answers sweetly "No, no, no! It's only that I admire you and what you've done so much!" And then she mumbles something that sounds as though she is asking me if I am religious. So I answer hesitantly, "I am religious..." And she looks at me with such naked dislike and says in an ugly voice "I didn't ask you if you were religious but since you feel the need to talk about it, go ahead then, tell me..." I reply, "Actually I don't want to tell you anything. We need to lie our son down now, would you please go back to your own seat?"

My heart is pounding and my hands are shaking in my lap and I'm hoping she doesn't notice. She stands up and says very loudly "Well, it's just that I think your little boy is so beautiful and that what you've done is so wonderful...imagine that, ripping a little child away from its home and its mother! It's so absolutely wonderful! Look!", (she says while gesturing to people in the seats around us), "Everyone's smiling at what you've done, they're just so happy you've taken a little baby away from it's mother!"

I reply, "We didn't do it for anyone else's approval."

She smiles condescendingly "I know, I know, you're so purely selfless! Such a good person! Well let me just tell you one thing before I sit down and that is that there is no one, absolutely no one on this plane who cares at all about you and what you've done. Alright? No one cares."

And that was that. This went on for well over an hour and there was far more to it than I want to write but that was the gist of it. I think it's the only time in my life where I have genuinely felt harassed and it was so overwhelming that all the logical responses (as in, stop talking to her altogether, ask a flight attendant to intervene, etc,) just flew out the window.

But live and learn, right? If we ever have to deal with such an atrocious person again, we'll be much better equipped. ;)

Monday, 21 June 2010

A Joyful Soul

Joy is the great mystery of our time.
It's rare but
Some people are born with a spirit of joy.
Like you.
You aren't just mildly content or blandly happy.
You are exuberant and wild and sweet and mischievous.
Laughter dances in your eyes and bubbles up from your belly.
You wake up most mornings with a smile and joyful shrieks.
Life is exhilarating, hilarious, and exciting.
The world is wonderful for no reason other than that it exists.

I'm so thankful for you.
Thankful because you are a gift of light and hope.
A blessing of promise and goodness and more laughter than we expected.
An example of the power of prayer.

God bless you as you turn one year old tomorrow William. You are cherished. Your life has worth and beauty. Your spirit and heart are precious to the Lord.

Thank you beautiful boy for your great gift of joy.

Happy first birthday Baby. If angels danced the day you were born then you can bet they're still dancing now.

Thursday, 22 April 2010

She Rode There In A Tuk Tuk

We don't know the exact moment William entered this world. We don't know what sort of labor or birth his mother had. We don't know what she felt when she held him for the first time.

But 10 months ago today William, (then Darshana), graced this rather shoddy world of ours with his brand new, pure little presence! I wonder how it feels to hold something so fresh in your arms. It must feel like a miracle, like you have just been showered in sparkling must feel like awe and power and weakness all at once.

And 10 months later, here he is. Half way around the world with us, riding in cars with car seats rather than in wildly careening tuk tuks held in someones arms! Beautiful baby...he is growing quickly and already has a fabulous sense of humor and playfulness. He delights in silliness. His eyes are as huge and glossy as ever and he has more hair on his head that I thought possible at such a young age. People are still his favorite things. ;)

He has a lot in store this month...meeting all his Canadian family for the first week!!!! Imagine that! Imagine how incredibly far reaching the absolute joy of our William is! It stretches from Sri Lanka to Norway to Canada!
It makes the world small. It makes the world beautiful for us.

10 months old today. I'm sure we're not the one ones who are thinking about you today, William. Somewhere in Sri Lanka, there's a woman who is remembering that it was 10 months ago today that she held you and kissed you for the first time.

Adoption can bring so many hearts together in hope.

Friday, 16 April 2010

Travels With My Brother (Sketches)

Beautiful Munich

Sketch One:

Munich is a beautiful, exhilarating city of lively beer gardens, ornate buildings and churches, and of fascinating historical significance. It is a warm and friendly place and crowded with tourists and travelers, especially in the summer months. I like to think that as we sat, drinking our coffee at an outdoor cafe late at night with a waiter hovering over us wringing in hands in what appeared to be anxious despair, that we were of the chosen few...that Kelly and I were travelers. We took a Third Reich walking tour and murmured appreciatively at all the truly fascinating bits of history that we had never heard before. Imagine what happened in this particular square, this uninspiring building here, that beer garden, these streets and homes and lives. Imagine the grief this beautiful city has seen.

On our own walks through the city we came upon a statue of a giant warthog. It was impressive and in fact, it had the dubious honor of being the only thing on our entire trip that Kelly actually asked me to get his photograph with. The stuff precious memories are made of I suppose...

There was one instance in Munich that I wish I would have witnessed but I chose just the crucial moment to go off in search of a restroom leaving Kelly waiting on one of the narrow, one way streets in the downtown area. What he saw was a unique example of the horrors of road rage. Two tourists were ambling down this narrow cobblestone street, guidebook and bottled water in hand and at the same time a car was trying to make its way down the street as well. The car horn honked loudly. The tourists perhaps absorbed in their book didn't notice. The car stopped and an angry man got out and stomped his way over to the unsuspecting couple, yelling and gesturing and as the piece de resistance, the ultimate lesson that they should never dare do this again, he thrust out his hand, grabbed the man's water bottle and heaved it mightily into the air and stalked off back to his car. As the water bottle fell, lets imagine in slow motion, back to the ground and broke, water droplets flying every where, this poor couple stood open-mouthed and staring in wide eyed surprise. I'm sure that day they learned a lesson that will never leave them. :)

Sketch Two:

A sunny afternoon in Mainz. Relaxing on a bench in the beautiful old city. It's lunchtime and many business men and women are sitting outside, talking quietly and enjoying their break from work. All of a sudden a group of giggling children appear from nowhere armed with spray bottles and begin to shriek with delight as they spray these business people who react with quiet embarrassment as having been the center of such unwanted attention, eyes downward, ignoring these small hooligans. That was perhaps the best reaction. Kelly and I watched and snickered because well it was funny. And then with exceptionally bad judgment, I called over to them as they made their way around the city square spraying everyone in sight and asked them what they were doing and what was in the bottle. They came over to our bench and sprayed us both mercilessly as we laughingly protested and got up, edging our way backward, down yet another cobblestone alley, hands out in front of us to ward these little demons off. They followed us and I have to admit that they actually chased us out of the the city square while we laughed helplessly. It felt a little bit medieval.

Sketch Three:

Things that happen on trains. Most trains in Germany are sleek, fast, and among the most modern in the world. But occasionally for the more local journeys between smaller villages and towns, the more charming, old fashioned trains pull into the stations. On one such train, between Bacharach and Koblenz, we sat in an almost empty compartment. There was only us, an elderly man, and a group of people across from us. The group of people across from us opened the window as it was a stifling day and the breeze blew in fresh and clean. The elderly man became alarmed, sat up straight in his seat and began patting his hair frantically and glowering. Finally after no one took whatever hint this was intended to be, he marched over to the rebel window openers and demanded they shut the window all the while brushing his hair down and exclaiming that he couldn't possibly keep it neat with a breeze like that blowing in.

Sketch Four:

Trier is the oldest city in Germany and boasts some really incredible Roman ruins. We arrived on a seriously sweltering August day and set out to find these ruins. Now I'd been in Trier before but my sense of direction is sketchy at the best of times and I don't generally use maps. So we wandered. For hours actually. I began with a positive spirit "Roman ruins, can you imagine? How wonderful! I can't wait to see them! think of all the history here!" and as the hours stretch on and we seemed to be no closer, my mood changed " even want to see the Roman ruins because I'm starting to think I don't...I mean, what's so special about them anyway?" (Kelly was very patient and didn't complain I might add.) We walked a bit more. "Ok, look let's just go to our hostel because I can tell you one thing and it's that I don't want to see those ruins. Stupid Romans. Think they're so great. Forget it, let's go back."

We went back, had a rest and then went out for a coffee late at night. On our way back, a mere five minutes away from our hostel, there rose before us, these brilliantly lit, massive ruins and well in all honesty, they were quite amazing after all. I guess that the Romans can think they're pretty great if they want...

We did have excellent luck though finding the Karl Marx Museum. Sadly neither of us bought a coffee cup or stone bust of the man though.

These are just a couple of sketches out of many from gallivanting in Germany with my brother. I hope you enjoyed them.

Bacharach, Germany

Kelly exploring the ruins of a castle on the Rhine

Me posing in the ruins of a German fortress (clearly not all ruins are "stupid", some are actually quite lovely and fascinating.;)

Monday, 5 April 2010

There's A Wild Thing Upstairs...

This wild thing seems an expert in wild ferocious sounding shrieks and roars; low, rumbling growling sounds that come from the bottom of his throat (I swear I didn't teach him these); and joyful gales of giggles that erupt from his bedroom and float down the stairs long after he's been put to bed and to be totally honest with you, the best word I can think of to describe his actual laughter is all out "guffaw".

There are two things that this wild thing finds unbearably awful. The first is having his face wiped, which he finds the very height of presumption on my part. The second is when I put a hat on his head. He doesn't cry or fuss when I do this. He scrunches up his eyes and glares at me, clenches his fists and shakes them in the air and roars with outrage at me. I think he thinks it's a fearful sight to behold. But you know what, he's smaller than I am and so I laugh, which obviously just rubs salt in the wound, and that hat goes on.

There is one thing the wild thing loves above all else. In Sri lanka we bought him blue dolphin chimes and he is entranced by them. When he wakes up, after giving an encouraging, cheerful little yell, (there are so many sorts you see), to let us know he's awake and we can come get him this very instant, he twists his head in the direction of the chimes. So we go over to them and give them a nudge and as they make their soft sound and the dolphins sway back and forth, a look of blissful awe comes over his face. Then a slow, slow smile. And then he starts hitting me in excitement and squealing in delight and frantically twisting his head between me and the chiming dolphins to make sure than I find this as wondrous as he does. How could I find it otherwise?

He kicks constantly in his crib with all his might and every time I enter his room after a nap, he is in some bizarre position. But even with one arm and one leg poking through the crib bars, he offers up a huge smile like this is the most normal way to sleep in the world.

He has a great sense of his own self worth and self importance. He simply is charming in his own opinion. Yogurt splattered all over his face? Oatmeal dribbling out of his mouth? Huge belches at the table? Appallingly stinky diaper? No, he feels none of these things detract from his innate charm. He beams at the camera just the way he is and is suitably outraged if anyone tries to make him more presentable. Why tamper with perfection after all? :)

So William, my sweet, silly little boo, with your huge brown eyes and beautiful smile: this is a tiny, woefully incomplete glimpse of how you were when you were in the ninth month of your life.

Sunday, 4 April 2010

Who Will Pay For This Uprooting?

Night seems a good time for confessions.
I'm sure that more secrets have been whispered into the darkness than ever were into the light.

In darkness there are no distractions, we are just essentially ourselves. We are a quiet voice, a searching soul. We hesitantly whisper our feelings, recall things too deep for daylight. We can speak the gut wrenching truth. I wonder if this truth is there, at the core of our beings, always. What we wonder in the darkness, the things that pierce our hearts, the things that haven't healed or been resolved.

Who are we? What do our souls consist of?

Sometimes at night, there is something inside me that cries at the dishonesty and the shallowness of life. Why do we never speak to one another? Why do we never say what needs to be said? Why are we content with so very little from ourselves? Why do we not seek out things that nourish our souls? Why can't we see how fragile we are? How truly beautiful and worthy? Why do we ignore our souls?

Sometimes at night I think about the soft sound of bare feet walking on sun drenched sand. A baby's arms around its mother's neck. I think about the feeling of wondering if I was instrumental in pulling someone's world apart. In my heart I know what we did was the right thing to do, I really do know it...yet I am still sorry in ways I don't understand fully. Not sorry for the result which is pure and beautiful and most definitely right, but sorry for another person's pain. I'm sorry the world is such a mess.

Why are we content with so very little in our lives? What are we sacrificing in order to be so unimaginative, unquestioning, and placidly content? Why is examining our thoughts, minds, lives, actions, and souls not something we do often?

What does it mean to be uprooted? Who is responsible for such things and who will pay?

Sometimes at night I think these things. Then I go to sleep and in the morning they have gone. My thoughts, feelings, and questions...uprooted by the light of day.

When morning dances in dispelling the darkness of night, I gladly meet her there.

Our souls are infinite and vast, they allow for both night and day.

Saturday, 27 March 2010

Going Home

Per and I in Gimli Summer 2007 Isn't this absolutely surreal?

I come from the prairies, from the "land of the big sky" as the Natives called it. The prairies of Canada are vast and seem endless. They stretch on for days with no apparent variation. Most people not from the prairies find them difficult to understand and they fail to appreciate the beauty of the space and sky. The violent thunder and lightening storms, the sun rises and sunsets that absolutely gush flaming shades of red, orange, pink, and purple all over the sky, the golden wheat fields, the heavy scent of the sun scorched earth in summer, the unbearable whiteness of winter when for months on end, you see nothing but the glare of sun on snow and pale green northern lights moving across the star filled sky at night. There is no where in the world like it except parts of Russia.

I need space around me, it's how I feel most comfortable. When I was 21, I spent six months living in Banff, Alberta, a mind blowing town/ national park in the Canadian Rockies. It's a fantastic, unbelievable place. I remember walking at night there, seeing the dark shapes of the mountains rising all around me and knowing in my head they were beautiful but feeling in my heart a slight tug of frustration because I couldn't see anything. You know, those cold, aloof, glorious, STUPID mountains weren't my view, they were blocking my view. :) (Now I realize this must sound like madness but thus are the inner workings of the mind of a person from ridiculously flat land.)

My parents now live in Gimli, Manitoba which isn't really the prairies but an interlake region. It has a statue of a large viking and a wonderful beach and about a million ice cream stands and boasts the largest Icelandic population outside of Iceland. For real. It's an artsy little place with live music on summer nights and diverse cultural paintings decorating the long pier. It's cool. It's where I go home to now when I go.

Now enough rambling for one day.:) I am thrilled to say I'm going home on April 30th for six weeks! I haven't been home for very close to three years now! I have seen my mom and sister in that time but it has been just shy of three years since I've seen my dad and my brothers. I need to be home in a friendly open place, I need to relax with people I love and miss, I need to let the tension of the last three years ease gently out of my bones! Three years ago we weren't even in a place where adoption had ever crossed our minds, now we've been through the entire process...having our hearts broken and pieced slowly back together...probably aged visibly...learned to trust and wait...found the courage to move well outside our own hopes, expectations, and comfort zones...journeyed to Sri Lanka and back we simply must introduce William to the rather wild, silly, and loving, Wilson side of the family who are eager to meet and squish and kiss him.

So...two years and ten months...yeah, it's time!!!:) *breathes a big sigh of relief*

Sean and I on the Gimli pier:

Gimli's enviable viking:

Sunday, 21 March 2010

The Straw That Broke The Camel's Back Really Wasn't All That Dramatic Actually

Do you know what I remember about September 24, 2009?

Waking up to a lovely fall morning, throwing on my old green hoodie (and something else I assume, though I don't recall what), putting the leash on Lily (our dog) to take her for her morning walk, not being able to put my shoe on without untying it first and that little struggle with my shoe just sent me over the edge, into a full blown fit of frustration. I kicked the cement wall in our entry way. I screamed (in vain I might add) at my red running shoe. I opened the door and slammed it again just to hear it rattle and bang. I threw my hands up to my head and began to gulp back big, noisy heaving sobs of irritation and probably more than a touch of self-pity as well. When I caught my breath I brushed the tears roughly off my face and threw a defiant challenge out into the still, sun-dappled air of our little entrance way: "How long are you going to make us wait God?! Huh??!! HOW LONG??" And then I started crying in earnest because it was going to be one of those days. I just knew it.

Then Friday, September 25th rolled around. I woke up and felt better, serene and calm. My husband was going to Aberdeen for a business trip for the weekend but that was alright. I was just reading over my Facebook status' for that day and they were:

6:40 am: Colleen feels happy that it's Friday and positive it's going to be a great weekend even though she is alone until Sunday...that just means lots of hot chocolate, cozy candles, and could be worse!;)

8:30 am: Colleen thinks someone must have been praying for her because she woke up this morning feeling wonderful, full of energy and confidence and the knowledge that everything is in God's hands! Thank you!:)

7:20pm: Colleen heard today that far away in Sri Lanka on June 22, her baby boy was born!

I don't recommend temper tantrums. I certainly don't recommend kicking cement walls. I absolutely don't recommend yelling at God as though He actually owes you an explanation but quite honestly, as far as answers to childish, defiant challenges go, that's really not too shabby.


September 24th, 2009: Feel like I can't take even one more day of uncertainty and waiting without going out of my mind and causing serious damage to myself, my shoe, my rattling front door, my sanity...

September 25th, 2009: God shakes His head, smiles, says "Oh Colleen, I've had this perfectly planned for so long...I haven't forgotten you...just you wait and see what happens today!"

Monday, 15 March 2010

A Blatant Disregard For Authority

The authority being me. The one blatantly disregarding it: William.

Yes, he's sweet. Yes, he has a smile that lights up the room but...BUT...
this rebel-child, this tiny soon to be nine months old... renegade, has somewhere learned a charming little trick while eating that I wouldn't mind nipping in the bud. I shovel a spoonful of porridge of dubious taste I admit, into his eagerly opened mouth and smile a goofy smile at him saying "mmmmm, yuuuuuuuummmmmmy" in an exaggerated voice and's where his behavior turns shocking I'm afraid, so at least you've been warned and won't faint dead away when you read this...he spits it backs out at me in all it's slobbery, messy glory. And as slimy brown threads of his meal hang from his mouth, and as I wipe them from my own face, he has the audacity to grin at me.

But that's not all.

I take a deep breath and give him a very stern look. Yes. I don't call myself "authority figure" for nothing! So I turn this stern look on William and say in a voice that I flatter myself brooks no argument "No!...nei!...stop!..." All the while I continue to look at him disapprovingly.

And to my surprise, he opens his mouth and shrieks with wild laughter! Forget my last post, this is the laughter of a maniac! Not just small giggles but peals of it, a devious grin wrinkling his face.

Now, I work in an international kindergarten with toddlers. I am used to disobedience on a large scale. :) But at the end of the day, as much as I always have loved the little ones I care for at The Children's House, they don't come home with me. I don't actually have to deal with their charmingly ill-mannered behavior anywhere but at work so it's all good.

But this is like bold, bold civil unrest in my own home. Unapologetic, I tell you. A mutiny of sorts. He has an angel on one shoulder and a wickedly grinning little devil on the other!

So...please...can anyone tell me...
How in the world do I go about reclaiming my dignity with gooey brown muck dripping off my face? Actually, how do you deal firmly with pesky yet absolutely lovable, baby boys without...laughing?! Is this impossible? Because if it isn't, I just want to know now and then I can give in quietly.


Saturday, 6 March 2010

The Old Woman On The Steps

"Who are you and what do you want?"

"I am nobody. I want nothing.
I sat here on this very spot. Years ago now. It was November and cold. Remember?
My bones ached in the chill air and my breath made clouds in front of my face.
You saw me. I know you did.
I saw you look and then look away. I made you uncomfortable.
I was hoping someone would see me.
As a person.
As someone's daughter. Someone's mother.
Someone worthy of, if not love, then worthy at least of a small, the smallest really, act of kindness. Charity.
Out of all the people walking up the steps, I saw you after all.
And when I saw you I hoped...
But you ducked your head and passed me without smiling.
It was November. It was so cold.
I needed to be seen. I thought I'd come to the right place. It was the only place I could think of where I might have had a hope.

But when nobody in the crowds filing by me would meet my eye,
I began to believe they didn't see me.
It was an uncanny sensation.
Like I didn't exist. Like I wasn't there.
I couldn't stay much longer.
I was dying of the cold.
Everything was grey and biting and the cathedral steps were hard.

By the time you came back out again, I was gone.
You saw God in the dark beauty of the cathedral. You saw God in the stones and the statues and the artwork on the walls.
Yet you could not see God in me.

Who am I?
Your sister. Your mother.
A chance to show love that you didn't take."

- Mainz, Germany -

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Sunshine Sketches of a Sri Lankan Spice Garden

(Pepper Tree)

I was absolutely smitten with the idea of visiting a Sri Lankan spice garden. You see I have delicious peppermint and fragrant thyme plants in my own small garden here in Norway and so naturally see myself as something of an expert on all things herbal.

Upon arriving at the spice garden, we stepped out of the car into the sweltering mid-day heat and were greeted with tiny, delicate glass cups containing only a sip or two of the most delicious vanilla, cinnamon, and spice tea. The taste was heavenly. Because I am an enthusiastic tea buyer, I asked eagerly if this was for sale. I was solemnly assured that everything was for sale and I would have a chance to peruse a large quantity of items at the end of the tour. Our guide was a very smooth, urbane man with a level, cool stare and he imparted his knowledge of various spices to us in such unsmiling, dispassionate manner that it was almost alarming causing me to overcompensate by smiling and nodding like I wasn't quite all there and exclaiming with amazement at everything he said. My husband said afterward that this guide had the manner of a mafia boss and he was correct. 

He showed us thick, fleshy aloe vera leaves and broke them open so we could smell the sharp scent, pineapples with spiky green leaves shooting up from the ground, clove, sandalwood, pepper and most fascinating due to where we were, curry leaf trees and much more. Everything was very fragrant and had fascinating, unexpected uses. It was a beautiful place.

After we had been shown the gardens, we sat down and a couple of men came to demonstrate the uses of each plant, herb, and spice while our guide issued grim- sounding instructions and stood off to the side with his arms crossed in front of him. After this flurry of description, we received a face and neck massage. We didn't really have much choice about it actually...they didn't ask us if we wanted a massage, we were just suddenly getting one, being manhandled if you will, whether we liked it or not and call me crazy, but I did not. I like being asked before people touch me and rub oils into my skin so pungent, that even with three long showers don't come out...kind of weird, I know. Alas, gentle, yet very insistent forcefulness was the name of the game here and I was a poor player when it came to finding the courage it would take to resist such persistence.  I found this entire segment of the tour bewildering that when the time came to look in the shop in which a wealth of very expensive healing and beautifying lotions, creams, and medicines were sold, I was so overwhelmed and slightly flustered and quite honestly, intimidated, by our unflinchingly smooth guide that I bought...of all removal lotion.

My goodness, of all the things I don't need! Why did I not just buy a little bag of the vanilla spice tea I enjoyed so much? I'll never know for sure, I'm afraid. All I can say is I wasn't myself really when I pulled it off the shelf at random, paid an outrageous price and tried to explain in my most forceful voice to our disapproving guide that no, I really didn't want to spend several hundred dollars more on their remedies, smiled shakily like I'd been through a war and turned to Per and whispered "Let's get out of here!"

So we made our escape through sandy, winding paths with the scent of the spices hanging in the tropical air all around us to the air conditioned car and onto the beautiful city of Kandy...

Monday, 1 March 2010

Be Careful What You Pray For...

This is lent, a traditional period of fasting, restraint, contemplation, prayer, and charity.

One area that I really seem to struggle with in my daily life, in almost every situation, is pride so I have been focusing more effort and prayer on becoming more humble. But humility is so difficult because probably more than anything else, it absolutely has no place in human nature or in the world we live in for that matter. Humility isn't respected, sought after, encouraged or desired. Self promotion is.

So I have been praying for help in this area. Even in church yesterday, before communion, I again asked for help in being more humble. I was the last one in the line walking up to receive communion and my thoughts which had been so noble and earnest only moments before began to wander...I wonder if these boots go with this skirt...yeah I think they do...they're black after all and black goes with most things...they're kind of nice boots actually...come to think of it, everything about me is kind of fact you know, I think I probably look pretty good today...yeah...

Then it was my turn to receive communion and as I was walking back to my seat my thoughts wandered yet, let's see if I can walk like I'm on a runway...that's a good idea! foot in front of the other...oh yeah I have definitely missed my true calling...what am I doing working in a kindergarten when I could be "Colleen, Supermodel Extraordinaire"?... (Ok, perhaps this isn't exactly what my thoughts were but you get the general idea.:)

Ok, what is wrong with me?! Honestly! Why can't I focus?! And no, this isn't humble-talk now, this is sheer exasperation at the idiotic musings of my mind!:)

So on the way home I remembered I needed milk so I asked Per to stop and I ran in to the little grocery shop to grab some. When I came back to the car, Per was smiling and he said "You have a big hole right in the back of your skirt you know." I was mortified! Simply mortified. "What?! I do?! How long has it been there? Was it there in church too? Oh my goodness!! Noooo!"

And there went my daydreams of looking like some suave, graceful supermodel extraordinaire. Really, they were gone just that quickly.

Maybe this is an example of God's sense of humor. Or of Him not answering a prayer exactly the way we envision. (I had kind of envisioned that I would become more humble and everyone would notice and remark upon my saintly manner quietly among themselves with a sort of reverent awe.;)

Whatever the case, for at least the remainder of yesterday, my embarrassment certainly assured that I was more humble.:)

Ahhh, the spirit is so willing but the flesh is so weak...

Friday, 26 February 2010

Iceland: Part One

When I was 18 I applied for something called the Snorri Program, which in 1999 was just an experiment. Basically this was a six week journey to Iceland for people of Icelandic descent in North America with one week in Reykjavik attending language school (I think it was on the second day of our very relaxed Icelandic classes when we were handed our sheets of necessary phrases to know while going about our daily business in Iceland. One whole page consisted of pick up lines and where to find birth control and alcohol and the likes. Unfortunately a week isn't nearly long enough to learn such a unique language nor such lofty ideas.)

At the end of the first week we were all given a secret assignment, an envelope which upon opening, we would see where and with whom we would be spending the next four weeks. We were also given a summer job for that month.

The last week consisted of an adventure tour throughout Iceland...whale watching in Husavik, white water rafting and Icelandic pony riding, magnificent hiking and geysers, waterfalls, lava fields and sulfur deposits, snowmobiling (I am ashamed to admit that I was the only one that managed to tip the snowmobile over into a snowbank while driving about 10 km/ hour and as a result the only one that the instructor seemed to think maybe didn't need their own snowmobile and told me I could ride with him.), and hiking (with little ice hammers and spiked shoes even:) on Vatnajokull Glacier, natural hot springs and all that jazz. When it comes to uniqueness of geography and almost mystical, fog-shrouded beauty, Iceland really does have an embarrassment of riches.

So you can see why this 6 week program appealed to me. It didn't just appeal to me, it filled me with wonder and fascination and romantic notions at the idea of walking where my ancestors had. I am told by Europeans that this is a distinctly North American trait.:) But coming from North America, it does make sense. We are all displaced, our country of origin is elsewhere and we hear about it constantly from our parents or grandparents, we have multi-cultrual days in school to celebrate it and in Canada at least, you are German-Canadian, Irish-Canadian, Japanese, Italian, Icelandic, Whatever-Canadian, it always comes we long to find it so that we can reach a better understanding of who we are. It's a way of identifying ourselves if that makes sense.

I loved Iceland at first sight. It was summer, grey and cool. I stayed a gloomy bluish white color the entire time I was there.

After that first week in Reykjavik, I discovered upon opening my mysterious envelope that I would be sent to Isafjordur in the Westfjords, the region where my great grandmother Rannveig came from and where I had relatives still living with whom I would stay. I would also be spending my days working in a hospital, which was great fun for the most part and consisted of many interesting experiences. I worked in the kitchen first with a free-spirited middle-aged man named Reynir Ingason who took a refreshing delight in all he did, and who incidentally turned out to be a relative of mine.:) He loved to laugh and was full of mischief, the sort of man who grabs your arms and sweeps you along the floor doing exaggerated ballroom dancing moves which probably look quite ridiculous while wearing the white hospital uniform or who tells you to shut your eyes and hold out your hands and then places a beautiful garden grown rose in them that he brought back after his lunch break at home. There was no romance in it, just joy at being alive, he was lovely and treated me like a friend and I was very sad to hear that he died of cancer just four months after I'd left Iceland.

After the kitchen I went on to work in an elderly person's unit and even spent one day working in the morgue, a small cold room with sunlight slanting through the windows, making the all the metal in the room shine and me think that death is such a strange way to end life.

As it turned out I only worked three weeks in the hospital because the family I was staying with, my family actually though I have no idea how we are related as it all gets so complicated in Iceland:), were avid scouts and going to take me along on a camping trip, an international scouting jamboree, for my first week with them. I kind of shrugged and said ok although I hadn't camped before and didn't really understand why exactly people would want to camp in Iceland. Outside at that.

We arrived at the huge camp and I remember shivering with cold, dressed in like three Icelandic wool sweaters, huddled up in my sleeping bag writing furiously in my little diary about how exactly was this supposed to be fun?! The Icelandic group that I was with didn't really want me with them to be honest. In fact one told me quite clearly that I would have a very hard time making friends with them because they had all known each other for a very long time so I shouldn't expect too much. It was charming really.:) I am pretty friendly and have mostly just encountered other pretty friendly people, so at the time I was quite dismayed by these words but I am also quite independent so I thought eloquently "Eh, who cares?" and determined to enjoy myself anyway...

First I met the Americans. I hugged them and almost cried with happiness at hearing English after so much Icelandic. (Remember it was my first time overseas.:) I became quick friends with two guys in particular, hiked with one of them to the top of a small mountain where we sat down and looked at the view and he interrupted my appreciation for the beauty before me by asking " you ever watch porn?" I sighed inwardly, turned to him and said "I'm done, let's go back down now." And by my own doing, I never encountered him again. Then I met the Canadians and the Scots (who also wore make-up while camping in the wild, the girls at least, and it bonded us together like nothing else.) and...Janet who is a confusing mix of nationalities. Janet and I were friends immediately and went off in search of more friends.

One night, very, very, very late although it was still light because in Iceland in the summer, darkness doesn't fall, I saw a group of loud, crazy, rowdy people howling like wolves and they looked like a lot of fun. And I wondered what time it was. In other circumstances I might have passed them by but I really had to know so I stopped them and asked "Excuse me, but could one of you tell me the time?" There was a lot of noise and commotion and I discovered who they were and I went with them and we talked and laughed until almost morning.

I had met the Norwegians. My future husband among them. It was 2:18 am.

I'm so glad I asked.;)

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

One Woman's Rights

Since Sri Lanka is one of the countries where meeting the biological mother of the child one will adopt is a pretty likely event, we were encouraged to prepare beforehand for this possibility. Of course, this is a wise thing to do as it is perhaps one of the most poignant meetings a person can experience. I try to imagine it from the biological mother's perspective but I can't, except that if I were giving William up, there is so much I would want, no beyond "want", that I would just be desperate to know about the people in whose hands I was placing my child, my heart and world.

I think I would tuck the answers away in my heart and memory like secrets, so that regardless of what my life consisted of, I would have that hope and knowledge that he was loved and cherished.

Yet we were the ones encouraged to prepare. To make a list of questions for her. As though to interrogate her was our right. As though she somehow, along with everything else she was giving us, owed us information about herself as well. As if we had a right to the private pieces of experience and pain and joy that made up her life.

To be honest, at first I didn't question that we did have this right simply because it didn't occur to me to question it. It was only later, when we were told that we would be meeting the biological mother the next day that I began to genuinely consider what we should ask her. Lying on the hotel bed, I thought and thought and with every question that popped in to my inquisitive brain, my immediate response was " but that's none of my business". None of my business may be true, but what about William's business? Doesn't he have a right to whatever information I may be able to glean from his biological mother's answers?

Here is where some people may disagree with me, (or maybe I flatter myself to assume that disagreement comes so late in the post and you've really been fiercely disagreeing with me all along?:), but I don't believe it is William's right either. Not now at least. Most of us have a natural curiosity about those who came before us ingrained in us and if William does, then I will encourage that one hundred percent. I hope he does. I hope so much that he decides someday to meet his beautiful biological mother, a woman of quiet strength and grace. Then she can share her story with him and it can become his as well and he can choose to ask questions and she can answer them if she chooses, but for those involved, the seeking and imparting of intensely personal information is a matter of choice and not a presupposed right. It should be treated as such.

After a lot of thought, Per and I could only think of two questions that we had a right to ask. First, if she had anything she wanted to know about us, anything that might help put her mind at ease, that she could remember and draw strength from in the future, even just anything she was curious about. And second, if there was any message she would like us to pass on to William when we is older.

All the other details that make up a life...all the questions and answers...everything, both huge and small that love encompasses...every sacrifice made...there's time for everything. And while lives may touch, intersect, join, meet, or separate, every person's journey in life is always their own.

I see William, Per, William's biological mother and I as a circle. Our lives and hearts and hopes are now connected for eternity.

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

When the Sun and Earth Collide

Nostalgia. I woke up this morning to it humming and singing in my mind. All the bits of precious memory that accompany it, the things you swear at the time you won't forget. A voice, a feeling, a scent, a play of light or shadow, a rare moment. The things that leave their mark on you.

We spent five weeks in Sri Lanka and while it wasn't necessarily a vacation, it was probably the journey that so far has made the hugest marks on our hearts and lives. Every day, along with the absolutely unreal beauty of this small island in the Indian Ocean, we were faced with challenges. There were many mornings when we sat over breakfast, smiled at each other and said "We can get through this or that, we've lived through worse things already." It didn't stop the butterflies in our stomachs but along with the challenges, was so much joy. So much. And also along with the butterflies was excitement as well, anticipation, and adventure. I'm sure there is nothing really worth doing that doesn't throw your mind into some sort of turmoil of emotions.:)

Because of this feeling of nostalgia I thought I would do something I never do, add a couple of photos for those who are curious and who haven't seen the absolute legion of them I have posted on facebook. So, here I sit, drinking peppermint tea while William sleeps, trying to avoid looking out the window at the miserable rainy/ snowy/ icy (Yes, all three seem to be possible here in Norway at the same time.:), day and remember warmth of both people and place; beauty and chaos; Colombo where stunning mansions were side by side with bombed out homes and buildings, where the churches were surrounded with cement walls with shards of broken bottles and glass stuck in them, where flowers were fragrant and vibrant; Buddhist temples and shrines; and my own feelings while there as well.

Drinking in the beauty. Trying to make sense of the differences all around me. (Which were numerous and extreme and sometimes mind boggling.) Eating too much fish curry and bakmi goreng and fresh mango. The relaxing of the spirit and body that the tropical warmth inspires. The wonder at seeing elephants and monkeys (and thank the good Lord, no spiders) in the wild. Taking advantage of the moments. Every last one.

So, carpe diem and enjoy.:)