Saturday, December 21, 2013

the ghost of christmas past

christmas cookies
 (pentax, film)

Wherever you are when you receive this letter
I write to say we are still ourselves
In the same place
And hope you are the same.

 The dead have died as you know
And will never get better,
And the children are boys and girls
Of their several ages and names.

So in closing I send you our love
And hope to hear from you soon.
There is never a time
Like the present. It lasts forever
Wherever you are. As ever I remain.

 (The Christmas Letter, John N. Morris)

Saturday, December 14, 2013

it's christmas time

Just after Thanksgiving, the tree was up. A family crisis of sorts pulled me away from virtual reality and deeply into reality. Meanwhile, a very dear friend battles for her sons life and I prepare my daughter for his hair loss. E and I sing Chinese songs together, over and over. I dive into one novel after another. I teach 2 new RNs how to juggle the demands of hospital nursing, and there are so many rewards in this. I listen to rain and thunder. I let the humid air sink into my bones and ask the sky for a real autumn, which has yet to show its face for more than a couple of days. I miss my mom to the point of tears. I contemplate Jupiter, writing a book, or returning to school. I browse websites hosting "orphans", wishing we could bring another daughter or a son into this small family of 3. I worry constantly, about everything: my weight, E's future, finances, outcomes that can't be predicted. E demands more math facts and floors me with her knowledge and love of a subject I never truly mastered. I imagine the crunch of snow under my feet, something I have not felt in so many years I'm almost convinced I dreamed the memory. I put on my headphones and practice my tones, anxious to be fluent in a language I barely understand. I go to a movie with a friend. I ask G if we'll marry soon and hardly wait for an answer. We are already married and the paper holds so little meaning for either of us. I celebrate my birthday (12/12), and it is very very good. I listen to music. Sometimes I dance in the kitchen. I hold my daughter's hand. I hold G's hand. I skip mass for another week and another and those weeks have turned into years. I miss God. I turn the music up loud in my car. And make silly faces with E. I snuggle with the dog, listening to his soft snores. I sit by the light of our Christmas tree, melancholy and joy abundant in my heart. I smile.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

The beauty of this child is outrageous. And her inner beauty is equally astonishing- our girl is made of love, snuggles, giggles and apparently, lots of math facts.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

from light to light: Ellis.


It doesn't have to be
the blue iris, it could be
weeds in a vacant lot, or a few
small stones; just
pay attention, then patch

a few words together and don't try
to make them elaborate, this isn't
a contest but the doorway

into thanks, and a silence in which
another voice may speak.

~Mary Oliver~

Saturday, September 28, 2013

spinal defects clinic: in which we meet with E's specialists from ortho to neuro and everything in between.

the prairie and elle

Last night in this house. 

E: I don't like my legs. 
M: You don't like your legs? 
E: No. I want normal legs (tears begin). I don't want these legs. I don't like the scars Mama and they don't go straight and one is longer than the other one. I just wish I could have legs that looked the same and so I can walk. I don't like crawling. 
M: (long silence, hugs). I wish you could have the exact legs you wanted Elle. But I have to tell you how very much I love your legs. Those scars remind me all the time of how brave and strong you are, so I love those scars. And you have strongest arms ever which give the best hugs I've ever had, so I love your arms too. 
E: Well I don't. My hands hurt and I don't want to crawl, I want to walk. But I never will. 
M: Maybe never. But we don't know what your future will be like yet. I hope you have a chance to stand and not sit all the time too. I wish I could sprinkle magic glitter over your legs, and make it possible for you to use them like your friends. But I still think they are the coolest legs because they belong to the coolest girl I know, who does amazing things not using her legs. Things no one else would be able to do- and that is really awesome. (More silence, hugs, and tears). 

Spinal Defects clinic is tough in ways that go so far beyond the physical.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Family Day 2013

First, when I was apart from you, this world did not exist, nor any other.
Second, whatever I was looking for was always you. 

4 years since anticipation, excitement, fear and grief culminated in the creation of our little family of three. 4 years since the seeds of love were planted in each of us, and slowly bloomed. 4 years since you, Elle: light and grace and courage in one very small, almost 4 year old body- you, the bravest of us all. Happy Family Day, 高梅, who we are privileged to name and call: daughter.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

"Sometimes if people ask why I can't walk, I just tell them I was born this way. Other times, I say- it's a long story and I don't want to talk about it right now".
(and a very smart girl, my daughter)

Thursday, August 8, 2013

*At the end of my suffering, there was a door


Many, many years ago, long before this light came into my life (in many ways, not just by virtue of reuniting with G or bringing E home), a dear friend and then therapist opened a battered and much loved book of poetry by Gluck and had me read this poem, The Wild Iris. As a lover of the written word, and in particular, poetry, this introduction to delving into the root of my own suffering was unparalleled. But then, there is no match for one as gifted as my (now) friend H. He broke molds, including my own, and it is because of him that I have my being, full and well, scarred and renewed.

I think this is true for our daughter as well. There are countless doors she will and has passed through, all of them transforming her and us as we journey together. This poem is a testament to her many (and often excruciating) beginnings- from the womb into breathing life, born yet again to a nanny that was a mother to her, and born yet again to us, her adoptive parents. And each time, a departure that leaves a void incapable of being described. A primal wound, an unimaginable loss. She is, in a word, a hero in her own right. And that's nothing to do with the chair, or her physical challenges, but everything to do with her incredible spirit, her "though she be but little, she is fierce" soul.

I hold this poem close to my heart. I hold her closer.

The Wild Iris, by Louise Gluck

At the end of my suffering
there was a door.

Hear me out: that which you call death
I remember.

Overhead, noises, branches of the pine shifting.
Then nothing. The weak sun
flickered over the dry surface.

It is terrible to survive
as consciousness
buried in the dark earth.

Then it was over: that which you fear, being
a soul and unable
to speak, ending abruptly, the stiff earth
bending a little. And what I took to be
birds darting in low shrubs.

You who do not remember
passage from the other world
I tell you I could speak again: whatever
returns from oblivion returns
to find a voice:

from the center of my life
a great fountain, deep blue
shadows on azure seawater.

Monday, July 29, 2013

ellis at sunset
It has been a short summer it seems, as it closes in a few weeks and school begins again: second grade. I'm not at all sure how we landed here so quickly and easily.

E has been keeping up with her Chinese and practicing reading and math via her school website and has had a handful of play dates, never enough really for an only child. She's watched too much TV (insert My Little P*ny) and has barely read even one book (her least favorite activity). There are new challenges in physical therapy as she learns to navigate the world with this loss of sensation in her left leg. As she often says to me "It just feels like there is nothing there, like when I crawl, and it's like being in a hole". This weekend, she shared that "I just want to walk like other people mama" amoung other things she'd prefer to do just like us. I could only validate those feelings and let her process them. I refuse to sugar coat her life or tell her "But look at all the things you CAN do". When her grief surfaces, I've found that what is best for her is to experience it- somehow this allows her to move past it and never fear that she will be judged for what is in her heart.

I worry constantly about her future. A child of color, raised by white parents in a white family, who moves in this world differently than all of us: adopted into a culture she didn't choose, wheels for legs :) She remains shy yet confidant, and is a natural leader. It borders on bossy but I know one day this trait will only stand to serve her.

I continue my efforts to find all that I can about her past, which at this point is precious little. DNA testing has shown me that she is Northern Han (a majority group in China) and we have connected with 2 or 3 very distant cousins... so far, trails are cold. I have become an avid reader of news in China, corruption that is rampant in their IA program and trickles down to children with special needs (though it's not suspected in Ellis's case). I've had a birth parent analysis done by B. Stuy (very worthwhile for us) and keep in contact with her foster home, New Hope. If I have to take out a loan to get back to Beijing and Jiaozuo next year, so be it. It's just time to go.

As for me- well, work has changed. I've let go of the petty political BS and have embraced my role as a "healer" (never thought of myself in quite this way). I love my patients, my co-workers, and am constantly challenged and enlightened by those who fight for their lives. Cancer sucks, but it isn't without its gifts.

E is the same bright, healthy, growing girl-and a constant source of joy in all our lives. Our house is in need of major overhaul (floors, carpets, roof, broken garage door, screen door, peeling kitchen cabinets, accessibility accessibility accessibility-etc)... but we are content, and happy, and our lives are full. I couldn't ask for more.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

in this summer

A second spinal cord surgery, done. She is pain free, but not without new challenges. We are making the best of it and hoping for gradual and lifelong improvement.

me and my girl, second day post op
And now that surgery is past, we acquired a new wheelchair thanks to our friend Hayley and massive fund raising efforts (this chair allows Ellis to move over terrain she never has been able to independently before), and visited some family we miss like crazy- Aunt Kimmy and crew drove out  from Texas to say hi... our girl has proven she is ALL about family. She truly adores each and every last one of them, from grandparents to aunts/uncles to cousins.

chair train (cole)
only one missing: our Tod-o
cole, ellis, reed
ellis and aunt kimmy
  And then we squeezed in a wonderful trip to a beautiful aquarium just 2 hours south of us...

bubbles and  hands
baba and ellis
ellis in the water
silhouette 2
purple jellyfish
hello stingray
ellis and steam
silver fish
water play
Such a blast, can't wait to do this again.

Here's to the rest of the summer and memories in the making!

Sunday, May 26, 2013

lily pad, reflection
the bamboo forest
tea light
red bloom
sweet spring is your time 
is my time is our time 
for springtime is lovetime 
and viva sweet love 

ee cummings

Sunday, May 12, 2013

To mom: every year that passes, you are celebrated... thank you for the gifts you have given me and the way you taught me to be a better mom, and person. I miss you constantly.

To China mom: your loss and sacrifice are the reason I celebrate this day as a mother. I am so very sorry, and so very grateful. I wish you peace in your heart.

To the second mom in my life, my sister Karen: you are my rock. My confident. The place I know I can land, and my loudest and best cheerleader. I love you with my whole heart.

To all my family and friends who celebrate this day with me: you are a source of constant inspiration.. Kim, Dawn... through struggle and triumph and ups and downs, you rise above the rest. If I am half the mom you guys are... I am a very, very good mom.

To all those who have lost children, and moms- this day is bittersweet at best- my heart is with you.

Wishing you all a very Happy Mother's Day 

Sunday, May 5, 2013

in her hands
leaf and dew
my girl
ellis gaomei
the dandelion and elle
the answer is blowing in the wind
gone girl

every single day: celebrating the magic that is E.