Thursday, February 26, 2009

Subtle Shifts

Subtle shifts. Like tiny green sprouts pushing through the almost-thawed soil. This growth seems to happen overnight. One moment I'm insecure and worried about abandonment and fitting in, another I have a calm awareness of stability, of belonging and safety. One moment I'm lazy on the couch, and the next I am intensely aware of my body's need for movement, for long longed-for yoga. Maybe I'm slowly letting go of perfectionism, because I slipped away into our room and did a simple yoga routine for my aching back, without feeling the need to do a 45 minute intensive workout. I have tentatively come out of my introverted/introspective shell and formed relationships with peers that I was hesitant to form. My heart broke open and forgiveness I had been holding back because of hurt and fear suddenly came pouring out of me, making me feel lighter and more free. And I've shifted the focus of my energy onto intentionally giving to others, in many different ways. It feels springy and hopeful to me. Though I know that I'm seeing little green sprouts, I have to believe that the seeds were working long before I noticed anything happening. Right now I definitely feel joyful about this inner spring happening inside me!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

29 Days of Giving

For awhile now I have been mulling over joining the 29 Day Giving Challenge ( ). I heard about the challenge from Courtney's Healing Nest and thought that it would be an awesome way to get outside of myself. I notice, that as an introvert, I have the tendency to focus inwardly on my own self-care, and forget that there are many others around me who could surely benefit from a little TLC.

But perfectionism reared its ugly head and made me initially hesitate at joining this great cause. I could surely think of a few things I could do for people, but couldn't resonate with giving away "a smile," as being a valid gift. Sounds a lot like legalism, ya know, "if I'm gonna do it right I'm gonna go all the way", thinking. Where to stop, though, is the question. Would I feel justified enough if I gave away my car, all my $$ or all the food items in my cupboard?

I seemed to be missing the whole point of the challenge. And so today I signed up. But I signed up in my heart two days ago, venturing tentatively into this exciting adventure ahead. Already I'm excited about it. I keep thinking about tomorrow, and what I can do for someone else to make their day just a little brighter.

I encourage you to join in the fun. And while you're at it, stop by my page

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Beech Street

Beech Street is not an appropriate name, as it is lined with maple trees, whose branches extend over the road making a canopy of red and yellow and orange in the autumn. I’ve often wondered if it was a joke by city planners, to plant maples on Beech Street and leave Maple Street, only seven blocks north, bare except a few patches of marigolds. Or was it an honest mistake by the young men, who were hired to help expand the growing town. Maybe they could not tell the difference between beech and maple saplings and only after it was too late did the town realize the mistake.

I used to wonder these things as I walked home from school. I’ve lived on Beech Street, in the third house, on the right, for my entire life. It is the kind of street they feature in movies, where you could see a young girl riding a pink bike with a wicker basket on the front. From the outside, my house looks the same as most of the others on the street. It’s older, well loved, with faded white paint, and a small porch holding the potted plants I’ve neglected since August. Most of the others on the street are families: Suburban driving soccer moms with 2.5 kids each and of course a dog that is small enough to fit in their purses. I feel their stares as they see me drive by in my 1979 baby blue Volkswagon Beatle that my parents helped me buy when I turned 16. I’ve lived here my whole life, but I don’t fit in, not with the townies at least.

There is an exception to the soccer moms, and that is my next-door neighbor Mr. Pritchard. His first name is Richard and I can only imagine how long he waited for the day where he could go by Mister, instead of Richard Pritchard. I cannot imagine what his parents were thinking, but they are long gone now, and I haven’t had the audacity to ask him the story of his name. Until this last summer he was simply my neighbor, the old man who lived next door, who shuffled to the mailbox in his maroon bathrobe and old slippers. If there ever was a Mrs. Pritchard I never knew her. Since I’ve been here he’s lived alone, with the exception of the stray neighborhood cat who bunks with him during the winter months. He lives alone. I live alone. This is what makes us unique.

Since school has started the social networking sites have been chock full of surveys calling for me to fill out random facts about myself. I’m not sure I entirely trust my peers, but not wanting to be the only one not participating, I recently posted this to my account.

10 Random Facts

1. My favorite season is autumn, when the leaves on my street change color and begin to fall.
2. I am afraid of heights.
3. My full name is Annabelle Naomi, but everybody calls me Naomi.
4. I own four pairs of Birkenstocks.
5. I am an orphan.
6. I enjoy mailing nice letters to random strangers.
7. I plan on becoming professor, like my mother was.
8. I have travelled to six different countries: Canada, France, England, India, Peru, Greece and Israel.
9. I hate wearing socks.
10. My favorite author is Thoreau.

Mr. Pritchard only knows #5, as he was there the day I learned the news. The police officers pulled up to my front door as I was walking up the driveway, home from school for the day. In usual fashion, Mr. Pritchard was standing by his mailbox, his wispy white hair blowing gently in the breeze. Unlike other days, when he’d flash his old-man grin at me, and wave, today he stood motionless as the police officers stepped out of the vehicle. My keys were in my hand, ready to unlock the front door, but I don’t remember much else about the moment. It was slow motion, like they show in movies, with the officers walking up the drive. All I could focus on was the maroon bathrobe standing by the mailbox. I wonder went through his mind, what did he see as I learned the news of my parent’s death? Did he wonder if I had been caught smoking dope behind the gymnasium, or if my father, the banker, was involved in white collar crime? Did he think there had been a mistake and they were at the wrong house?

After identifying themselves, and making sure I was really Dr. & Mr. Sorrel’s daughter, they asked if they could come inside as they had some bad news. Of course I knew what they would say, but it didn’t hit until the words, “your parent’s were killed in an accident,” came out of their mouth. It was like being body slammed after Thanksgiving dinner. My breath felt knocked out of my body and I wanted to vomit all over their shiny black shoes. An accident? My parents? How could this have happened?

Once the officers left, I heard a faint knock on the door. Mr. Pritchard was standing tentatively on my front porch. For the first time ever I was seeing him in something other than his bathrobe. He had put on a pair of faded jeans and a plaid shirt, which strangely made him seem both older and younger. Close up his head appeared more skull-like than head-like, as the skin seemed sunken and dimply, with age spots all over. The smile I had grown accustomed to, had changed into a look of concern as he asked if I was okay.
That was months ago, and it’s been the two of us ever since. My only nearby relative, “Uncle Joey,” was only a few years older than me, and in no place to take care of an orphaned 17 year old. Because I was almost legal age, and my parents had willed everything to me, I was allowed to stay living in my home and attending my school, with the provision that a guardian would check in on me to make sure I was okay. Mr. Pritchard was the logical choice, and he graciously accepted the responsibility.

I didn’t fit in at school long before I lost my parents, but that certainly didn’t help things. For the first few weeks there were uncomfortable glances and even more uncomfortable remarks of sympathy from people who formerly shunned my existence. After awhile people stopped trying to make small talk, and avoided the “girl with dead parents,” but I didn’t mind any more than my 8th grade year when the popular girls spread rumors about my hygiene and sexual orientation. I couldn’t give anything to those relationships anyway. I was lost, and alone, except for the kindness of my next-door neighbor. How does one learn to survive without their parents?

I don't know if I'm done with this story. It woke me up in the middle of the night a few weeks ago and hasn't let go of me. I don't know where they come from, but I do know that I feel bloated and gross until I at least try to begin telling their stories.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Transracial Adoption

"I'm black but I'm not. It's been a trip to figure out my racial identity. My adoptive parents are white. My birth mother was white and my birth father was black. I grew up in a mostly white neighborhood but tried to find some other kids to hang out with. Sometimes it was hard to be seen with my white parents because then I'd have to explain everything." -Adoptee Wisdom

When I came across the image of the little blonde asian doll dressed in fishnets it immediately made me think about all the research I've been doing on transracial (both domestic and international) adoption. With all my own adoption issues rearing their ugly head I think of my tra friends (and by friends I really mean online acquantences, because I don't know any tra's in real life) who have been raised with an extra set of problems. I can't see Angelina's brood without cringing, sorry if this pops the "omg they're saving orphans from all over the world! how cute!" bubble that most of America seems to be living in. As a white girl I know it was hard being raised by white parents that lacked blood ties, so I cannot imagine being raised by a family of a different ethnic identity. How can one establish a sense of identity, or ethnic identity, when they are stripped of their heritage?