Saturday, August 20, 2011

Sticking My Hand in the Tip Jar

I'm a big Seinfeld fan. I love the show and the antics of the characters crack me up. George Costanza is Jerry Seinfeld's bumbling friend. George doesn't always make the wisest decisions, but he is somewhat lovable anyway. One episode, George is at one of his favorite cafes picking up a calzone. On the counter by the cash register, there is a large tip jar. Every time George goes into the cafe he drops a few bucks into the tip jar. The problem is each time George drops in the cash, the guy behind the counter has his head turned and doesn't see George dropping in the money, leaving George feeling disgruntled because he wants credit for the tip. It isn't good enough for George that he did the right thing and dropped the money into the jar if no one witnesses it. On one of George's visits to the cafe, he drops in a nice tip, and of course the guy behind the counter doesn't see it. George wants a do-over, so he reaches into the jar, pulls out the money he had just put in, in hopes of dropping the same tip in a second time and having the cashier witness his act of kindness. The only problem was that the man behind the counter caught George with his hand in the tip jar, thought he was stealing, and proceeded to kick George permanently out of the cafe.

That is kind of how I felt tonight. I wanted to stick my hand back in the tip jar so I could get a do over...minus getting kicked out of the restaurant. Since our town isn't very diverse, I have to go looking for diversity. I decided this week I was going to take the kids to a fantastic restaurant in town that is famous for their Memphis style hot wings. My son calls their hot wings a "celebration on a bone." Even better, the restaurant is owned and operated by an African-American family. I've never been in this restaurant when there wasn't a crowd. The husband is usually in the back cooking, his wife is usually at the cash register, and their kids are serving and bussing tables. Bring on the diversity, baby!

Keep in mind...I'm there for dinner, but I'm also there because I want to make our lives a little more diverse.

Well, we got there and the husband was behind the counter. It would have been nice if the wife were behind the counter, because she interacts and banters with my daughter, but that's okay. As food starts to come out, the restaurant owner's daughter is delivering food to every table but ours. We are waiting patiently. All of a sudden, I see this man...a white man...headed our way with a tray full of food. The white man sets the food on our table and walks off. Seriously?! I have never seen a white person working in this restaurant...ever! And when I am there for the purpose of diversifying our lives I get a white man! No offense white man, but that wasn't really what I was hoping for.

If I hadn't been so completely stuffed I would have pulled a "Costanza," drug the kids back up to the counter, reordered, and sat at a different table in hopes of getting a new server. I wanted a do over! I know it is the thought that counts, so maybe I should just add points to my mama scorecard for taking my daughter to a somewhat diverse restaurant, but I somehow don't feel like I get credit for the "tip" if I didn't get my full dose of diversity.

I guess I could have wait...demanded my food be delivered by a black person. But that might have led to my permanent expulsion from our one diverse restaurant. Not that I would have blamed them for kicking out a crazed woman demanding a black waitress. However being somewhat prudent (and sane), I chose  to pack up our leftovers and pledged to return another day. By the way...I left a nice tip!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Soul Food = Yummy Goodness!

For a while, I've been planning on preparing a soul food dinner for my family so my daughter could try some food from her culture. Well the soul food night has happened!

Although I do enjoy starches, carbs, sugars, and grease. I am much more of a baked fish, brown rice, and salad with a little balsamic vinegar kind of a girl. I consider myself to be a pretty good cook, but I typically don't cook fried foods, collard greens, or grits. Since I was cooking a little bit out of my element and I was planning on preparing a lot of food, I recruited the help of my cousin, my cousin's daughter, my mom, my aunt, and my oldest daughter.

We cooked for hours. The kitchen was a disaster. The countertops were covered in flour, batter, and grease. The floors matched the mess of the countertops...times 10. However, the smells of cobbler, cornbread, and chicken frying made me completely overlook the mess, carbs, and calories we had before us. The six of us crowded into my kitchen as we cooked, listened to Motown, debated the best way to tackle a recipe, taste-tested, talked, and laughed.

When dinner was complete our families crowded around the long dining table, It was a beautiful sight to behold...fried chicken, macaroni and cheese, grits, collard greens, cornbread, sweet potatoes, egg pie, and fresh peach cobbler.

Throughout the day, I talked to my youngest daughter about soul food. Even though she wasn't completely sure what soul food was or why we were having it, she was very pleased at the prospect of having "chicken on the bone." 

The meal was a huge success in many ways. We had the old favorites like fried chicken and cornbread, but some new things thrown into the mix like the collards and grits. We all tried a little bit of everything even those things that were a little sketchy...still not sure I like the egg pie. My cousin's face when she tried the collard greens told me she probably wouldn’t cook those again!

But the best part of all was the togetherness, the joy of having all of us the kitchen, trying new recipes, laughing, sharing stories, and as my cousin said making our soul food together was a great way to "make memories."

Before we dug into the food, my youngest daughter, that led us to this path of discovery, said the prayer..."Thank you for our soul food," which for me...said it all!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Dominicans Are Adding to My Confusion!

I have been struggling with these zombie-like dark circles lately, so I decided to get a makeover. I went into a large department store (not in my town) and the makeup artist assigned to help conceal these circles was named, Yvonne. Through conversation, I learned that Yvonne was half African-American and half Filipino. We talked about all kinds of things as I sat there...what I was doing wrong with my makeup (ugh!), our kids, and adoption. 

As I was finishing up, Yvonne's co-worker, Tamara, reported to work. Tamara appeared to be a very light skinned, African-American woman. Come to find out, she was Dominican. As she walked around the counter, I caught a glimpse of her hair. Beautiful!! Exactly how I would like my daughter's hair to look. She wore her hair down and curly. It wasn't an Afro, more like borderline ringlets. I guess this wasn't a typical hairstyle for her because her coworkers were going on and on about how much they liked her hair curly.

At the sight of Tamara, I said..."I love your hair! My adopted daughter is African-American, how do I get her hair to look like yours?!" Well, that started an entire conversation about what type of hair my daughter has, how to get it looking like Tamara's, hair products, cultural differences in styles...I guess Dominican's don't wear braids...and more! By this time, Yvonne had entered the hair discussion, too.

Both women were in agreement; I must find a Dominican hair salon for my daughter. That was the best thing for her. "Dominican's are the best!"

Hummm....that puts a whole new twist on things...could my daughter possibly wear her hair down and curly? Could the Dominicans teach me a thing or two about hair products? What makes Dominicans the experts on Black hair care? And most importantly....Where are on earth can I find a Dominican hair salon?

I began researching Dominican hair salons as soon as I got home. Come to find out, there are no Dominican Salons within 300 miles of me. Not a complete surprise. But I also learned, Dominican hair salons are considered good because they are cheaper than the traditional African-American salons. Because of the Dominican's style techniques, a style lasts longer, and the Dominicans use a blow out method that involves a "round brush." The brush makes all of the difference! Supposedly after a good "blow out," the hair is bouncy and blows in the wind!

Well I supposed I won't be driving to a Dominican hair salon anytime soon. However, the ladies at the makeup counter did give me a list of hair products I should try, so I will start there. Even though my investigating did not lead to a Dominican hair salon, I did get Yvonne's number if I should have any hair questions, some hair advice which is always appreciated, and I look a little less zombie-like now that my circles are nicely covered!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

What's a Chit'lin?

I think the combination of being awake at midnight and being hungry has made me start contemplating soul food. I know soul food is traditional, African-American southern food. I'm just not sure what that food consists of exactly. A few years ago our family went to a picnic sponsored by a black church we had been attending. It was one of those yummy carry-ins, where everyone brings their favorite dish and plates are piled so high the food is almost dripping off the sides of the plate.  I was helping my son (very anti-vegetable) through the line when we came upon a green food that looked quite a bit like cooked spinach. I said to my son, "You won't like that, buddy. That is cooked spinach." I later learned it wasn't spinach, but collard greens. How was I to know? I've never had collard greens. I don't even know where one would go about buying a collard green. I'm guessing there was someone from the African-American church shaking their head at me thinking...How could she not know what a collard green is?

In the book, Growing Up Black in White, Kevin D. Hofmann speaks of his childhood being raised in an all white family. He talks about being in high school and introduced to soul food for the first time. His black friends took pity upon him because he had grown up with white people and decided to show him the black foods he'd been missing out on. It occurred to me, what better way to connect my daughter to her heritage than food? I like to cook and I like to eat! So it seems like soul food and I are a great combination.

I'm kind of a cooking nerd. I don't watch many cooking shows, but I do like to read cookbooks cover to cover. So researching soul food isn't that big of a stretch for me. Here is what I've discovered so far.

Chit’lin is short for chitterling, and it is stewed pig intestine. I'm up for trying new things, but we will not be serving chit'lins at our house. Collard greens are in the broccoli and cabbage family. To me, it looks a lot like a big spinach leaf when it is uncooked. 

Originally soul food or southern African-American food consisted of turnips, collards, pokeweeds, pig's feet, oxtail, ham hocks, chit'lins, and wild game (raccoon, squirrel, opossum, turtle, and rabbit). Traditionally, this food is high in starch, sodium, cholesterol, and calories.  These qualities were necessary for sustaining the grueling life of slavery.

Common twenty-first century dishes include: fried chicken, biscuits, macaroni and cheese, collard greens, grits, and okra.

I plan on tackling some new soul food recipes this weekend. I will report back on how it went. Anyone want to come over for lunch on Sunday?

Friday, July 22, 2011

Just Keep Swimming

Those of you have been reading my blog, know I am on a quest to connect my daughter to her culture and her heritage. During the summer I take the kids to the pool...the pool that has only white considering I'm on a quest to connect my daughter to her race, I do feel a little bad that 99% of the time, she is the only minority there.

It is interesting, because every time we go to the pool she is drawn to the same woman. She is so obsessed with this woman that I have enacted a new rule. If your "friend" is not sitting in the pool, you may not talk to her. When the woman ventures off of her chair and into the water, my daughter splashes over to the edge of the gradual entry pool, sits down, crosses her little legs at the ankles, and visits with the woman. After several days of this, I went up to the woman and said, "I'm so sorry if my daughter is bugging you, for some reason she is really drawn to you." The woman assured me that my daughter wasn't being a problem. The woman, who is Caucasian, but extremely brown noted that maybe my daughter is drawn to her because they both have such brown skin. I thought this was very interesting and probably quite true. My daughter is looking out for someone that looks like her…she is searching.

Today at the pool...yes we are there quite a bit, but it is 101 degrees in the shade and there is nothing left to daughter found a little girl to play with that looked to be just her age. This little girl and my daughter not only had their age in common, but also they were both adopted, and they were both minorities. The little girl was Asian. There were lots of little girls at the pool, little white girls, but only one other adopted, minority girl and that is the one my daughter decided to play with. I wondered if at the tender age of four, somehow she knew this little girl was more similar to her than all of the other little girls. Did she realize they were both minorities or was it just a coincidence? I don't know. But it does seem as if she has begun the search of finding who she is in this world and how she fits into it.

Since the beginning of my blogging journey, I've considered this to be something I'm doing all by myself. I am wanting to connect my daughter to her heritage. I am looking for answers. I am on a quest. I am searching. Maybe...just maybe...I am not alone. It seems as if she has all ready begun her own journey of discovery, I need to travel this road with her. We will have much more fun together!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

God Odds

I recently finished the book, Growing up Black in White, by Kevin D. Hofmann. He is a bi-racial man that was adopted into a white family as an infant in the late 60's in Detroit. In the book, Hofmann addresses racial tensions in the community, the loving support of his white family, and his desire to "define and embrace" his own identity. I really enjoyed his book, and it gave me an inside view into the mind of someone being black, growing up in a white family.

One thing in the book I thought he said beautifully was that it is his belief that each adoptee is "divinely matched and placed with their adoptive family." I believe this to be true! He went on to say the union between himself and his adoptive parents were "God odds; odds only God could overcome."

When we got the call that we had been matched with a healthy, 3-month-old baby girl, it was incredibly hard to believe, because we had been waiting years.  We were to pick her up in just a few days. Word began to spread we were getting a baby and gifts began to pour in. We were excited, nervous, and scared all at the same time. It was quite the emotional roller coaster to say the least. On the day before we were to pick her up, I was trying to get some work done before my maternity leave. Out of nowhere, completely blindsided, our agency called to let us know that the baby's birth father had decided to raise his daughter. We’d waited for years, never been matched, and then we get our dreams squished just like that! Ugh!

Words can’t really express the sorrow. I’ve never had a child die...thank heavens...but I can imagine it would feel something like the moment when I was told the birthfather was raising his daughter. I was devastated.

Well, we mourned her loss, returned the gifts, and moved on. What else can you do? Three months later, the agency called again. They had another match for us. This one was a little different. This baby was also a girl, she was also black, but a major difference was that this baby wasn’t healthy. She was born 3 months premature, weighed less than 3 pounds, wore a heart monitor, had acid reflux (which included formula shooting out her nose like a horror film), had potential for delays, and retinopathy  (a potentially blinding condition often seen in preemies). Yikes! We were very torn…not only did this baby have health issues, but also her birth parents' rights weren’t terminated yet…so there was the whole legal risk issue again. We just weren’t sure if we should take that leap of faith or not.

The agency was giving us a week to think about it. In that week, I was really on the fence. What to do? What to do? Then I began putting pieces together…a light bulb came on over my head…I grabbed a calendar…I realized three months earlier on the day we lost the first baby was the very day this new baby was born! The SAME day, I thought our hopes were squished, was the day God was making a way for our new baby!! At that moment, I began to weep because I knew this new baby was meant to be ours. She was "divinely matched" and placed into our family. Those odds...were God odds!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Speaking of...

I have just been invited to speak at a Catholic Charities training event. I will be speaking about the ins and outs of transracial adoption. It has been a while since I have spoken to a crowd of people that are not in elementary school, so I am a little nervous. However, I am very excited about teaching people about what I've learned about raising a child of a different race and the joys and challenges that go along with it.

As I begin to prepare my presentation, I was wondering...what questions would you want answered if you were thinking about adopting a child of a different race? Let me know.