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 people...so 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 do...my 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.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Hair I Come!

I have finally done it! I have taken the leap into black hair care that I have wanted to take for quite some time. I ordered hair snaps for my daughter's braids. For those of you not familiar with this hair bling accessory, it is somewhere between a bead and a barrette. You just snap it on at the end of the braid and wall-ah! You have a braid that doesn't unravel and a little girl that is happy because she makes all kinds of noise when her snaps are bumping together!

The snaps came in the mail today, so we immediately ripped open the package and found a large assortment of flower shaped, colorful snaps. Red, blue, yellow, pink, white, green...you name it. She immediately said, "put them in, put them in!"

So I began the process of putting one snap onto the end of each braid...all 60 of them. That is a lot of bling! Once we had them in she immediately began swinging her hair around, the hair snaps making a happy noise as they clinked together. To add to the party, my daughter began skipping and singing her own made up song about hair in her very big, four year old voice. "I love my Afro hair, I love my Afro hair." 

I want her to be proud of her "Afro hair." So that skipping, singing, snaps a-clicking girl, makes this one happy mama!

I am including on of our favorite hair videos: 

I Love My Hair, by Sesame Street http://youtu.be/enpFde5rgmw

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Are You My Mother?

My daughter's birth mother chose a closed adoption. I don't know what her reasoning was, but that was her request. In some ways, an open adoption would have been nice. I would have had a chance to see what she looked like, ask her some family history, or find out if she had any other children.

Typically in a closed adoption the adoptive parents have no idea who the birth mother is. You get some general information about her like...age, race, height, weight, marital status, level of education, and medical history. You never...well almost never...get her name or a photo.

By complete accident...I know her name. I've known her name for a while.

I find myself looking for her online. I don't spend hours doing this, but on the rare occasion I will type her name into Google. It just so happened; today I decided to look on Facebook. I've looked on Facebook before, but not for a very long time. 

Today...I think I may have found her. 

The little bit of information I know about her, matches what I saw today on Facebook. When I found her, it was a little bit of a cross between exhilaration and disbelief. I have to tell you, I also felt just a wee bit criminal. In my defense, I really didn't expect to find her and she did not have her Facebook blocked. It was if the stars somehow aligned in my favor...the name was accidently given to me years ago and she didn't block her Facebook account.

The woman in the Facebook photos smiling back at me was very young, and quite beautiful. It was strange looking in her face...looking for some sort of resemblance of my daughter...wondering if she ever thinks about the baby she gave up for adoption. 

You may be wondering...Ok, now what are you going to do with this information? Nothing. I am not going to do anything with it. I really just wanted to see what she looks like. I wanted to know if she was ok. I wanted to know if she had any other children. 

One day, my daughter will ask me questions. "Mama, who do I look like?" "Mama, do I have any brothers or sisters?" "Mama, why did my birth mother give me away?" As a parent, I would like to be able to answer those questions for her. Obviously, knowing just her name and seeing her photo doesn't help me answer all of those questions, but it is a start. 

I have no plans to pass this information on to my daughter anytime soon. In fact, I won't even mention it to her unless she asks me. For now, I am satisfied in knowing that I have a small piece of the puzzle tucked away for the time my daughter is ready put the pieces together.