Go on over to Give1Save1.com to enter a giveaway to win one of five copies of Simple Language for Adoptive Families. (And don't forget to donate your dollar to the Mortellite family adoption while you're there!)
I am so excited announce a Mary Kay fundraiser for the Merritt family! The Merritts live near Nashville, TN and are in the process of adopting two young children from Ethiopia.
Shop Mary Kay online at www.marykay.com/brandydwade and a portion of all sales (until November 30th) will support the Merritt families adoption expenses. Here are a few holiday gift ideas to get you started:
Filigree Eye and Cheek Powder
Miniature Fragrance Collection
Contact me at BrandyDWade (at) gmail (dot) com for details about hosting a Mary Kay Fundraiser for your own family!
This blog post has been widely shared on adoption blogs these past few weeks. But I wanted to share it here specifically for our friends and family. This post, written by Jen Hatmaker (an AWAA Ethiopia adoptive mom and published author), is the perfect follow-up to What We Want You to Know About Talking About Adoption and Tonia's Outside Looking In post.
You can see the original blog post here:
How to Be The Village
by Jen Hatmaker
Sometimes being ever-so-slightly in the public eye is rough. With a mouth and discernment problem like mine, you can imagine. I basically offer my life on the altar of criticism daily, then douse the sacrifice with plenty of fuel to make disparagement a lay-up.
For instance, Brandon and I attended a Halloween party last weekend with the theme “Heroes and Super villains.” Our friends came in such costumes as Captain America and the Joker and Kim Possible. They were all very polished and adorable. We came as washed-up, possibly strung out Superman and Supergirl complete with ripped fishnets, smeared makeup, and pistol tattoo drawn with Sharpie. We may or may not have had unlit cigarettes dangling from the corners of our mouths.
These choices are often met with disapproval from the watching masses, as you might well guess. I know you wish I would only dress up as Little Bo Peep or Mary Mother of Jesus, but Brandon and I are very, very silly and immature, and I’ve been trying to tell you people this for some time.
But usually I am grateful for the connection to the greater world, if only through social media and the miracle of emails (plus embarrassing transparency). For example, just a few days ago, I received this email:
Our good friends just returned from Ethiopia last night with their two little boys. Ok, they've had their "airport" moment and we were right there with them. What are some things we can do now to support them in the "real life" journey without overstepping our boundaries? Thank you so much for your transparency and honesty. Everyone can benefit when you share from your heart.
I was so moved by this email. Having benefitted from a community that practically smothered us with support throughout our adoption journey, I am so grateful for all the other good friends out there, loving their people and asking how to help. Since reading this email, I’ve been marinating on her question, and I’ve decided to write this Field Guide to Supporting Adoptive Families. (And it will be brief because I will try to remember that this is a blog and not a manuscript and the rules of blogging include succinctness, so that is exactly how I’ll proceed today, except for the exact opposite of all that.)
Let’s break this down into two categories:
Supporting Families Before the Airport
Your friends are adopting. They’re in the middle of dossiers and home studies, and most of them are somewhere in the middle of Waiting Purgatory. Please let me explain something about WP: It sucks in every way. Oh sure, we try to make it sound better than it feels by using phrases like “We’re trusting in God’s plan” and “God is refining me” and “Sovereignty trumps my feelings” and crazy bidness like that. But we are crying and aching and getting angry and going bonkers when you’re not watching. It’s hard. It hurts. It feels like an eternity even though you can see that it is not. It is harder for us to see that, because many of us have pictures on our refrigerators of these beautiful darlings stuck in an orphanage somewhere while we’re bogged down in bureaucracy and delays.
How can you help? By not saying or doing these things:
1. “God’s timing is perfect!” (Could also insert: “This is all God’s plan!” “God is in charge!”) As exactly true as this may be, when you say it to a waiting parent, we want to scratch your eyebrows off and make you eat them with a spoon. Any trite answer that minimizes the struggle is as welcomed as a sack of dirty diapers. You are voicing something we probably already believe while not acknowledging that we are hurting and that somewhere a child is going to bed without a mother again. Please never say this again. Thank you.
2. “Are you going to have your own kids?” (Also in this category: “You’ll probably get pregnant the minute your adoption clears!” “Since this is so hard, why don’t you just try to have your own kids?” “Well, at least you have your own kids.”) The subtle message here is: You can always have legitimate biological kids if this thing tanks. It places adoption in the Back-up Plan Category, where it does not belong for us. When we flew to Ethiopia with our first travel group from our agency, out of 8 couples, we were the only parents with biological kids. The other 7 couples chose adoption first. Several of them were on birth control. Adoption counts as real parenting, and if you believe stuff Jesus said, it might even be closer to the heart of God than regular old procreation. (Not to mention the couples that grieved through infertility already. So when you say, “Are you going to have your own kids?” to a woman who tried for eight years, then don’t be surprised if she pulls your beating heart out like Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.)
3. For those of you in Christian community, it is extremely frustrating to hear: “Don’t give up on God!” or “Don’t lose faith!” It implies that we are one nanosecond away from tossing our entire belief system in the compost pile because we are acting sad or discouraged. It’s condescending and misses the crux of our emotions. I can assure you, at no point in our story did we think about kicking Jesus to the curb, but we still get to cry tears and feel our feelings, folks. Jesus did. And I’m pretty sure he went to heaven when he died.
4. We’re happy to field your questions about becoming a transracial family or adopting a child of another race, but please don’t use this moment to trot out your bigotry. (Cluelessness is a different thing, and we try to shrug that off. Like when someone asked about our Ethiopian kids, “Will they be black?” Aw, sweet little dum-dum.) The most hurtful thing we heard during our wait was from a black pastor who said, “Whatever you do, don’t change their last name to Hatmaker, because they are NOT Hatmakers. They’ll never be Hatmakers. They are African.” What the??? I wonder if he’d launch the same grenade if we adopted white kids from Russia? If you’d like to know what we’re learning about raising children of another race or ask respectful, legitimate questions, by all means, do so. We care about this and take it seriously, and we realize we will traverse racial landmines with our family. You don’t need to point out that we are adopting black kids and we are, in fact, white. We’ve actually already thought of that.
5. Saying nothing is the opposite bad. I realize with blogs like this one, you can get skittish on how to talk to a crazed adopting Mama without getting under her paper-thin skin or inadvertently offending her. I get it. (We try hard not to act so hypersensitive. Just imagine that we are paper-pregnant with similar hormones surging through our bodies making us cry at Subaru commercials just like the 7-month preggo sitting next to us. And look at all this weight we’ve gained. See?) But acting like we’re not adopting or struggling or waiting or hoping or grieving is not helpful either. If I was pregnant with a baby in my belly, and no one ever asked how I was feeling or how much longer or is his nursery ready or can we plan a shower, I would have to audition new friend candidates immediately.
Here’s what we would love to hear Before the Airport:
1. Just kind, normal words of encouragement. Not the kind that assume we are one breath away from atheism. Not the kind that attempt to minimize the difficulties and tidy it all up with catchphrases. We don’t actually need for you to fix our wait. We just want you to be our friend and acknowledge that the process is hard and you care about us while we’re hurting. That is GOLD. I was once having lunch with my friend Lynde when AWAA called with more bad news about Ben’s case, and I laid my head down on the table in the middle of Galaxy Café and bawled. Having no idea what to do with such a hot mess, she just cried with me. Thank you for being perfect that day, Lynde.
2. Your questions are welcomed! We don’t mind telling you about the court system in Ethiopia or the in-country requirements in Nicaragua or the rules of the foster system. We’re glad to talk about adoption, and we’re thankful you care. I assure you we didn’t enter adoption lightly, so sharing details of this HUGE PIECE OF OUR LIVES is cathartic. Plus, we want you to know more because we’re all secretly hoping you’ll adopt later. (This is not true.) (Yes it is.)
3. When you say you’re praying for us and our waiting children, and you actually really are, not only does that soothe our troubled souls, but according to Scripture, it activates the heavens. So pray on, dear friends. Pray on. That is always the right thing to say. And please actually do it. We need people to stand in the gap for us when we are too tired and discouraged to keep praying the same words another day.
4. If you can, please become telepathic to determine which days we want to talk about adoption and which days we’d rather you just show up on our doorstep with fresh figs from the Farmer’s Market (thanks, Katie) or kidnap us away in the middle of the day to go see Bridesmaids. Sometimes we need you to make us laugh and remember what it feels like to be carefree for a few hours. If you’re not sure which day we’re having, just pre-buy movie tickets and show up with the figs, and when we answer the door, hold them all up and ask, “Would you like to talk for an hour uninterrupted about waiting for a court date?” We’ll respond to whichever one fits.
Supporting Families After the Airport
You went to the airport. The baby came down the escalator to cheers and balloons. The long adoption journey is over and your friends are home with their new baby / toddler / twins / siblings / teenager. Everyone is happy. Maybe Fox News even came out and filmed the big moment and “your friend” babbled like an idiot and didn’t say one constructive word about adoption and also she looked really sweaty during her interview. (Really? That happened to me too. Weird.)
How can you help? By not saying or doing these things:
1. I mean this nicely, but don’t come over for awhile. Most of us are going to hole up in our homes with our little tribe and attempt to create a stable routine without a lot of moving parts. This is not because we hate you; it’s because we are trying to establish the concept of “home” with our newbies, and lots of strangers coming and going makes them super nervous and unsure, especially strangers who are talking crazy language to them and trying to touch their hair.
2. Please do not touch, hug, kiss, or use physical affection with our kids for a few months. We absolutely know your intentions are good, but attachment is super tricky with abandoned kids, and they have had many caregivers, so when multiple adults (including extended family) continue to touch and hold them in their new environment, they become confused about who to bond with. This actually delays healthy attachment egregiously. It also teaches them that any adult or stranger can touch them without their permission, and believe me, many adoptive families are working HARD to undo the damage already done by this position. Thank you so much for respecting these physical boundaries.
3. For the next few months, do not assume the transition is easy. For 95% of us, it so is not. And this isn’t because our family is dysfunctional or our kids are lemons, but because this phase is so very hard on everyone. I can’t tell you how difficult it was to constantly hear: “You must be so happy!” and “Is life just so awesome now that they’re here??” and “Your family seems just perfect now!” I wanted that to be true so deeply, but I had no idea how to tell you that our home was actually a Trauma Center. (I did this in a passive aggressive way by writing this blog, which was more like “An Open Letter to Everyone Who Knows Us and Keeps Asking Us How Happy We Are.”) Starting with the right posture with your friends – this is hard right now – will totally help you become a safe friend to confide in / break down in front of / draw strength from.
4. Do not act shocked if we tell you how hard the early stages are. Do not assume adoption was a mistake. Do not worry we have ruined our lives. Do not talk behind our backs about how terribly we’re doing and how you’re worried that we are suicidal. Do not ask thinly veiled questions implying that we are obviously doing something very, very wrong. Do not say things like, “I was so afraid it was going to be like this” or “Our other friends didn’t seem to have these issues at all.” Just let us struggle. Be our friends in the mess of it. We’ll get better.
5. If we’ve adopted older kids, please do not ask them if they “love America so much” or are “so happy to live in Texas.” It’s this simple: adoption is born from horrible loss. In an ideal world, there would be no adoption, because our children would be with their birth families, the way God intended. I’ll not win any points here, but I bristle when people say, “Our adopted child was chosen for us by God before the beginning of time.” No he wasn’t. He was destined for his birth family. God did not create these kids to belong to us. He didn’t decide that they should be born into poverty or disease or abandonment or abuse and despair aaaaaaaall so they could finally make it into our homes, where God intended them to be. No. We are a very distant Plan B. Children are meant for their birth families, same as my biological kids were meant for mine. Adoption is one possible answer to a very real tragedy… after it has already happened, not before as the impetus for abandonment. There is genuine grief and sorrow when your biological family is disrupted by death and poverty, and our kids have endured all this and more. So when you ask my 8-year-old if he is thrilled to be in Texas, please understand that he is not. He misses his country, his language, his food, his family. Our kids came to us in the throes of grief, as well they should. Please don’t make them smile and lie to you about how happy they are to be here.
6. Please do not disappear. If I thought the waiting stage was hard, it does not even hold the barest candle to what comes after the airport. Not. The. Barest. Candle. Never have I felt so isolated and petrified. Never have I been so overwhelmed and exhausted. We need you after the airport way more than we ever needed you before. I know you’re scared of us, what with our dirty hair and wild eyes and mystery children we’re keeping behind closed doors so they don’t freak out more than they already have, but please find ways to stick around. Call. Email. Check in. Post on our Facebook walls. Send us funny cards. Keep this behavior up for longer than six days.
Here’s what we would love to hear or experience After the Airport:
1. Cook for your friends. Put together a meal calendar and recruit every person who even remotely cares about them. We didn’t cook dinners for one solid month, and folks, that may have single handedly saved my sanity. There simply are not words to describe how exhausting and overwhelming those first few weeks are, not to mention the lovely jetlag everyone came home with. And if your friends adopted domestically right up the street, this is all still true, minus the jetlag.
2. If we have them, offer to take our biological kids for an adventure or sleepover. Please believe me: their lives just got WHACKED OUT, and they need a break, but their parents can’t give them one because they are 1.) cleaning up pee and poop all day, 2.) holding screaming children, 3.) spending all their time at doctors’ offices, and 4.) falling asleep in their clothes at 8:15pm. Plus, they are in lockdown mode with the recently adopted, trying to shield them from the trauma that is Walmart.
3. Thank you for getting excited with us over our little victories. I realize it sounds like a very small deal when we tell you our kindergartener is now staying in the same room as the dog, but if you could’ve seen the epic level of freakoutedness this dog caused her for three weeks, you would understand that this is really something. When you encourage us over our incremental progress, it helps. You remind us that we ARE moving forward and these little moments are worth celebrating. If we come to you spazzing out, please remind us where we were a month ago. Force us to acknowledge their gains. Be a cheerleader for the healing process.
4. Come over one night after our kids are asleep and sit with us on our porch. Let me tell you: we are all lonely in those early weeks. We are home, home, home, home, home. Good-bye, date nights. Good-bye, GNO’s. Good-bye, spontaneous anything. Good-bye, church. Good-bye, big public outings. Good-bye, community group. Good-bye, nightlife. So please bring some community to our doorstep. Bring friendship back into our lives. Bring adult conversation and laughter. And bring an expensive bottle of wine.
5. If the shoe fits, tell adopting families how their story is affecting yours. If God has moved in you over the course of our adoption, whether before the airport or after, if you’ve made a change or a decision, if somewhere deep inside a fire was lit, tell us, because it is spiritual water on dry souls. There is nothing more encouraging than finding out God is using our families for greater kingdom work, beautiful things we would never know or see. We gather the holy moments in our hands every day, praying for eyes to see God’s presence, his purposes realized in our story. When you put more holy moments in our hands to meditate on, we are drawn deeper into the Jesus who led us here.
Here’s one last thing: As you watch us struggle and celebrate and cry and flail, we also want you to know that adoption is beautiful, and a thousand times we’ve looked at each other and said, “What if we would’ve said no?” God invited us into something monumental and lovely, and we would’ve missed endless moments of glory had we walked away. We need you during these difficult months of waiting and transitioning, but we also hope you see that we serve a faithful God who heals and actually sets the lonely in families, just like He said He would. And even through the tears and tantrums (ours), we look at our children and marvel that God counted us worthy to raise them. We are humbled. We’ve been gifted with a very holy task, and when you help us rise to the occasion, you have an inheritance in their story; your name will be counted in their legacy.
Because that day you brought us pulled pork tacos was the exact day I needed to skip dinner prep and hold my son on the couch for an hour, talking about Africa and beginning to bind up his emotional wounds. When you kidnapped me for two hours and took me to breakfast, I was at the very, very, absolute end that morning, but I came home renewed, able to greet my children after school with fresh love and patience. When you loved on my big kids and offered them sanctuary for a night, you kept the family rhythm in sync at the end of a hard week.
Thank you for being the village. You are so important.
21 pounds of formula, enough to make 338 6 oz bottles, along with donations from Angi's niece are on their way to a family in Virginia this evening. It will all travel with them to Ethiopia on the day after Thanksgiving.
I also delivered three stuffed shoeboxes to Sullivan yesterday for Samaritan's Purse. Thank you all so much for donating!
Anyone who knows me, knows Tonia is my best friend. And anyone who knows Tonia, knows that she is an amazing writer. Let me tell you, it makes me nervous every single time I use punctuation, because I know Tonia reads every letter of on this blog (because that's the kind of friend she is) and I know she is noticing each of my many grammatical errors (because that's the kind of friend she is... just kidding... no, I'm not).
I have been begging Tonia to write a blog post forever. And after the post, What We Want You to Know About Talking About Adoption post, she confessed that she had been working on a blog post about what it is like to be on the outside of an adoption. So I thought it would be good, for those of us inside the adoption world, to read what it feels like for our friends and family on the outside. I hope you enjoy it!
Outside Looking In
by: Tonia Carroll Johnson
My friendship with Brandy started when we were two college freshmen who knew of each other but didn’t really know each other. We had been high school tennis teammates, and although we had talked before, we had never really had a real conversation. We found ourselves away at college, two and a half hours from home, lonely and homesick. We started spending evenings together, and the rest, as they say, is history. I’d love to add a lovely picture of us, circa 1999, but I have already been warned about ever posting such a thing on the internet…
A lot has changed over the years, and we have been there for each other through the peaks of happiness and the pits of despair. One thing that has not changed, however, is Brandy’s desire to adopt. Before she even spoke of marriage, she spoke of wanting to adopt. It may have been during one of those lonely college evenings when we were still teenagers. I know that it has always been her heart’s calling. Logan shares that calling, and their passion for the orphans is contagious.
As an outsider looking at their adoption journey, it isn’t always easy, though. I am excited for them as they anticipate the arrival of their second child, but I find myself not always knowing what I can do to help, or wondering if I’m doing enough. I am careful in my conversations about adoption because I worry that I’ll say the wrong thing. It is difficult for me to understand the adoption process, and I know that there are times when I should say something, but I don’t know what to say, so I say nothing. Nothing, when my better judgment pleads “Say something!”
I don’t speak for all family and friends of adoptive families, but these are specific things that have, or would, help me wrap my brain around things my heart already knows. Or is it the other way around?
* When we ask what we can do, give us specific ways that we can help, whether you are in need of prayer, are collecting supplies to send to the orphanages, or just need encouragement. Suggest ways we can use our God-given talents to help. For me, those things are “write a letter,” or “make a craft.” I can do those things and know that I am helping.
* Be forgiving when we say the wrong thing and gently correct our misconceptions. Or, when we’re really just not getting it, be blunt. Know that adoption is a foreign concept for some of us, something we can’t fully understand without having experienced it ourselves.
* Help us better understand the adoption process. Encourage us to ask questions and share resources with us. Invite us to an adoption seminar for friends and family, or allow us to share with you in your child’s culture – at a restaurant, a church service, a traditional dance. Don’t make us (me!) dance, though.
* Share your hopes and dreams for your future child. Speak of him/her/them often, and don’t let us forget that they are already a part of your family, regardless of their present location a few states or half a world away.
It’s true that some of us can be clueless. But some of us are really trying. We want to support you during the lows of the process and rejoice with you in the highs. We don’t always know the most graceful way to do that, but our hearts are waiting with you to welcome your sweet baby home.
I have two fun opportunities to help orphans around the world this week!
First, there is another AWAA Ethiopia adoptive family with some extra luggage space for donations! I would like to fill a 50 pound suitcase with formula for them! They will be able to take the formula to Kids Care (or the orphanage that they deem the most in need) just a few days after Thanksgiving.
This is what happened the last time we collected formula and I would LOVE to do it again!
After that family delivered all of that formula, this is what they wrote to me:
"I was able to put the suitcases of formula directly into the hands of the nanny who was over-seeing the infant room. Thank you for making that possible! The nanny was thrilled. In the infant room there were only 6 little ones, but at least 3 of them were mal-nourished. One little guy in particular was swaddled in layers of blankets so that only part of his face showed. He had a feeding tube inserted through his nose, and the nanny said that he was brought to them almost starved and he had simply given up the will to try to live. They were feeding him formula in tiny amounts through the feeding tube. I was able to hold him and cuddle with him as I prayed (and cried) over him, asking him to fight and grow up to be a big, strong boy. It was SO good to know that there was plenty of the right kind of formula so that he would have a chance."
So, here is our chance to do this again. I will have to get it in the mail by Friday November 18th. Please, if you would like to donate a container (powder is best), drop it by our house or Smidgens or Lewellyn Technology. Or if you live outside of the area you can donate with our donate button on the sidebar. I have several $5 off Similac coupons so a $10 donation could purchase an entire container!
Every year Logan and I fill a shoe box for Samaritans Purse and this year we wanted to spread the word in hopes of collecting more shoe boxes to send.
To pack a shoe box, you simply find an empty shoe box and fill it with toys, gifts, school supplies and other personal items for a boy or girl ages 2 - 14. You can also add a picture of yourself and a letter if you want. Mark on the box the gender and age that you are packing for and I will attach the appropriate tag.
You also must include a check for $7 to cover the shipping costs. Checks should be made out to Samaritan's Purse.
You can read more about the shoe boxes and watch a video on packing a box here: http://www.samaritanspurse.org/index.php/OCC/index/
The national collection week is November 14 - 21. So if you would like to put together a box, please get it to me by Thursday, November 17th. I will take care of tagging it and delivering it to a drop-off point.
We are selling Ethiopia Vehicle Decals for $5.50 each (this includes shipping). They are white vinyl and measure around 5 inches in height.
For payment, use our PayPal button on the righthand side of the page
If you have any questions, please contact us: BrandyDWade(at)gmail.com. Thanks for your support!