Did we hear that small, still voice wrong? Our type-A selves thought we had it all planned out. We thought we’d be getting our referral by now, and instead we’re waiting on a wait list number.
And then I get home from Spring Break and start cleaning out the fridge and we’ve got some cantaloupe that’s going bad so I tear off the lid to dump it down the sink, and I notice, on the lid, that it came from Honduras.
Random, or confirmation? That little word makes my heart leap. This isn’t the first time that out of the blue, Honduras comes into our life, like a little beacon that says, “Keep going, I have something for you, just be patient.”
Something sweet is waiting for us, and we are waiting for her. Until we get that picture and see her little face, I’ll take these small tokens. I keep a list of them in the middle of my Bible, and I pull it out when I begin to doubt, and I remember. There is a reason we stepped on this path. There are many of them.
The other day, Benji and his friend decided to make monsters out of all our furniture. They used every pillow in the house, wadded up shorts for eyes, used blankets for tongues, an old laundry hamper for lips, and scurried around for over an hour before the unveiling. May I present to you . . .
The Couch Monster
Couch monster consuming boys.
The Chair Monster
Check out the squinting evil eyes.
This one also eats little boys.
The Bean Bag Chair Monster
Ginormous fly eyes and wicked eyebrows make this a particularly ominous monster.
The boys had much more interesting names for their monsters, but I can’t remember them.
Life goes on in the Davis household, and we’re thankful for it. It keeps us distracted from the fact that as of today, we still don’t have a waiting list number in Honduras. The gears had started turning, though, and referrals and numbers are being given. While we wait, I finish the second draft of a new novel, Clay writes an app, the boys play lacrosse, and Alayna twirls around the house. And we make couch monsters. Life is still good.
My cousin's daughter, decorating Christmas cookies.
Unlike my cousin’s daughter, I hardly touched the cake served to me when I turned a year old. What, no fork? Too messy. I like neat and orderly. Maybe that’s why I like puzzles so much. I love the feel of the right piece clicking into place. Of watching the unsolved part get smaller and smaller until I slip the last piece in and stand back to admire the nice, tidy picture.
Over Christmas I went to my parent’s house and we started a 3,000 piece puzzle. After more than twenty combined manhours, we were barely a quarter of the way through it. We had to leave before it was finished, and it went against every fiber of my being to break up all that hard work without seeing the finished product, neat and tidy and done.
3,000 takes a lot of space!
As a writer, things have been messy lately. See how hard I try to be organized?
I had a complete picture of my story with my first draft, but I knew it wasn’t good enough. To fix things, I had to break the story apart, move things around, and hit the delete button an awful lot. As I crawl into my story’s space and tinker around with dialogue, or cut and move large chunks, it gets very messy. It’s the domino effect. If I move a scene from Chapter 42 to Chapter 10, then the character’s motivations are all wonky and I’ve got to keep going back and smoothing out the ripples.
The adoption has become rather messy as well. As much as we tried to keep things neat and clean and organized in the beginning, we are now waiting and hoping and praying that things work out. That’s all we can do, everything’s on hold. There were other things that made life messy this holiday season. Loved ones died, neighbors grieved, and life no longer looked like the pretty picture I sometimes imagine is on the box. The one I imagine is promised to us.
I do not like being messy, but I can’t avoid it. Life is messy. Writing, and relationships, and cake, it’s all messy. But it can be sweet and rewarding as well. I have a memory of another time when I got messy. Really, really messy. I was in Rwanda, and there was a line of street children waiting to get their plates of food. But before they got their plate, they had to wash their hands. It was my job to hand them a piece of soap, dip a plastic cup into a large bucket of clean water, and rinse them clean.
The water splashed into the red dirt as the kids ran through the line, and by the end of the afternoon my feet looked like this.
When I took off my sandals, you could still see the lines of them, outlined with red, Rwandan dirt.
My apologies to all those with feet aversions, but I would not trade that messy moment for all the completed puzzles in the world, even the 3,000 piece ones. I do not like being messy, but I do love life.
John 10:10- “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.
We’ve come across a lot of funny warning signs in our travels.
Glad they warned me, or I might have slipped recklessly . . .
Everybody pretty much ignored this warning sign at the Cliffs of Moher in Ireland.
I wasn't sure what I was supposed to do, but I was worried . . .
We came across this pamphlet lying around after a recent remodel.
PART-Protect Against Range Tipping
I never realized ranges were so dangerous they required an acronym and a pamphlet to protect people from possible tipping. It got me to thinking about warnings in general, and singing that Garth Brooks song The Dance in the shower. “I could have missed the pain, but I’d of had to miss the dance.”
What if life came with warning signs? Warning: you can have three children, but your hips will never be the same. Warning: you can go to New York with your husband but you’ll get really sick on the plane ride back. I would not have missed the dance in either of these instances. I’ve loved having three children (though not my hippy hips so much) and I’ll never forget that trip to New York.
I haven’t read The Connected Child by Karyn Purvis, a book many people say is a “must read” for adoptive parents. I’m drawn more to the memoirs. The stories. I think it has a little to do with warnings, and how they kill the joy sometimes. The Connected Child is a great and important book, but it’s got a lot of scary stuff in it, things we’ll be struggling with when we adopt. Warnings make me worry, and I don’t feel like worrying quite yet. Worrying if she’ll attach. Worrying how I’ll handle tantrums and food aversions and parasites. I know they’re there, waiting on the fringes, but I’d rather focus on the girl right now. The worrying will come when it’s time.
But I couldn’t ignore Clay’s, “Oh no,” this morning when he got into his inbox and read a recent Honduran article. Warning: You can go ahead and decide to adopt if you want, go ahead and make plans for a baby to arrive sometime Spring of 2012 if all goes well, but some morning in late November 2011, you’ll read a Honduran article that mentions Honduras “going Hague.” If that happens, it may be years, it may be never, before you bring home a little Honduran girl. But go ahead. Try to adopt.
I clipped this from About.com:
The Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption is an international agreement between participating countries on best adoption procedures. These procedures have basically two goals in mind:
The best interest of children are considered with each intercountry adoption.
The prevention of abduction, exploitation, sale, or trafficking of children.
So that’s good. But becoming a Hague country takes a long time, especially for a country who can take three weeks just to walk a document across the street. So it isn’t good for us, if “good” means adopting a daughter soon. It’s times like these I hang on to these words of truth:
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28.
I’ve heard the illustration that going through life is like holding a flashlight in the darkness. You only step into those small circles of light, you only see what’s just in front of you. We keep taking steps, until the light turns off. But while we wait for more news on the adoption front, I step into a day of Christmas shopping, reading the completed rough draft of a manuscript I just finished, and filling a crockpot with something that will smell good and warm our bodies for dinner tonight. That, even in the face of the scary article, is a step I’m willing to take.
I’ve said two hard goodbyes recently. Last week, we put Benji’s guinea pig to sleep. And as much as I complained about his smell and the way his hay tended to drift out of his cage all the time, I’m going to miss that little Mo. He was my companion when I was clacking away on a story, he wheeted to us every morning (because he wanted carrots) and he would “kiss” me when I puckered up (smelling my breath, really). When Mo stopped eating, we knew something was wrong. When the vet said it would cost over a thousand dollars to keep poor Mo healthy, we knew it was time to put him to sleep. Benji was very sad, and I was, too.
Benji and Mohawk, Christmas 2009
A week ago, I said my last goodbye’s to “the farm.” My cousins and I went to the farm all the time when we were growing up. We rode go-carts and horses, made forts in bushes and fished in the tanks, hunted Easter egg (even in cow patties, thanks to Papa) and picked blackberries so my grandma could make pies. It was nobody’s home, and everybody’s escape. The time has come to sell the farm, but before it’s gone, we had one last shindig. All the cousins came, and their kids. There were scavenger hunts and football games, good barbecue, swinging from trees and pictures on the front porch, running up and down those old wooden stairs, skeet shooting and “poor man’s” skeet shooting with dried cow patties, and lots of good stories.
Family and the Farm
It’s so hard to say goodbye, but I think in the act of letting go we take the time to remember the stories attached to the stuff in our lives. And I know that sounds silly when I’m talking about a guinea pig. He was a rodent for goodness sake. But he was part of this family. He altered how we lived our lives, and his presence is imprinted on us, from the Christmas morning when Benji got him and Clay teased that we’d eat guinea pig for lunch the next year, to the way he ate a carrot like a typewriter. Mo and the farm will be woven into the fabric of the stories we tell each other, and future generations.
There’s an old glider rocking chair in Benji’s room that’s been there since he was a baby. He rested his little curly head on the arm while he took a bottle, and squeezed in beside me to read stories together. He can still squeeze if we try hard. A few years ago, I half-heartedly started trying to move the chair out of his room, but he refused. Neither of us was really ready to say goodbye for the sake of a bit more floor space. That chair will be moved to the baby’s room when she arrives. And she will squeeze beside me, or Clay, or one of the kids. And we will tell her stories. And she will become part of our stories.
We received another update about the adoption. Our completed and approved paperwork has been sitting on a desk for almost two months now, waiting to be assigned a number. We found out Honduras now wants more lab work done on all three kids. So back to the doctor we go, and the notary, and FedEx. No number yet, no place in line.
As much as I’m ready to say goodbye to this waiting period in our lives, I’m trying not to look too far forward and miss what’s happening right under my nose. Though we anticipate having a new baby girl, it means saying goodbye to the way our family is right now. We will trade some freedom and spontaneity and sleep for another go at thirty minute walks to the mailbox, learning to blow bubbles instead of eat them, and the wonder of boxes and wrapping paper at Christmas. Each new season in our lives means saying goodbye to the old, and it is hard and sometimes sad, but it is good to stop and remember the stories. We never have to say goodbye to them.
250,000,000 in insured losses, the costliest in Texas history
1 bunny that didn’t burn.
1 angel head that survived.
Nate and I were able to volunteer with the Austin Disaster Relief Network this past weekend (ADRN), joining a team to help clean the sites of two homes destroyed in the fire. One was 1,500 square feet, the other 4,500 , but after fire ripped through them both, square footage didn’t mean much.
I’d heard about these horrible fires, prayed for the families, but not until I strapped on a mask and felt my feet sink into the thick layer of ash did it all seem terribly real. We drug bits of metal, some giant sheets and other smaller pieces of picture frames or the middle of ceiling fans, into a pile to be picked up by crews later on. There were piles for appliances, toxic items like paint cans and electronics, and metal. The metal piles were huge.
Metal springs from mattresses. The guts of a grand piano with metal strings that tangled around our ankles as we hauled it out. Garage doors. Folding chairs. Elfa pantry shelves.
But in the midst of all the mess and ash were treasures.
Most of them were bits of china, already fired and used to the heat. We put aside the things we thought the owners might like to have, some broken and some intact. To me, these small tokens were pictures of hope and survival. Maybe to another they would be reminders of all that was lost. The writer in me saw them as concrete details. Things you could hang on to. Things that made it all seem real. They were the sorts of things I’d put in a story, if I wrote one about a fire.
We have some of these concrete details for our future daughter.
We’ve read warnings about buying things for your adopted child too soon. These things, hanging out in a closet for months or even years, can breed discontent or despair if you’re still waiting for your child to come home. But to me, they remind me that this whole adoption journey is real, with a very real child on the other end of all this waiting.
200,000+ is the estimated number of orphans in Honduras
100 children for every “nanny” in the government-run orphanage
10 children were adopted from Honduras in 2010
I’ve heard the statistics, but right now they’re just numbers banging around in my head, like details from the Bastrop fires. They could be pretty depressing. The yellow dress and board books are my “angel head” and “bunny,” tokens of hope and survival despite the numbers. We’re still waiting for things to settle in Honduras after the shake up in IHNFA, still waiting to be assigned the number we thought we’d get two weeks ago, still hopeful that things are moving forward.
I’m a big fan of haikus. Maybe because they’re short. Maybe because when you have to write short, you take shortcuts to meaning in interesting ways. Maybe because when I was pregnant I got a big kick out of Haiku Mama by Kari Anne Roy, who made me laugh and cry with just 17 syllables. Still one of the best new mom gifts ever.
Why the haiku talk? I have come across a new love: haikubes. Okay, a totally dorky writerly thing, but they are FUN. You roll all these cubes with random words on them, and then you make a haiku.
Three lines. Five syllables, seven syllables, five syllables. Then to make things really exciting, you roll the two cubes with red lettering on them and they give you a theme to write on.
The other night I had to fight Clay off my cubes. I was working on a good one, but had to leave the kitchen. I came back later to find this.
Okay, so he cheated and the second line has 8 syllables. Did that keep me from being weepy? No, my friends. For those who can’t read it from the picture, it says:
Wild heart watching waste
Desperate love through many places
My baby girl home.
Just a day after posting my last blog entry, we heard that Honduras had fired the two top dogs in INFHA, the government organization that handles international adoption in the country. We know this means delays. Reorganization. A certain amount of chaos. It could mean lots of things. Our hope and prayer is that it means things will eventually get better. That it will get easier to take a child out of an orphanage and give them a home.
For now, we wait. We wait for our number, still. We wait for our baby girl. What does Clay want? I want? All of us want? “My baby girl home.” Five syllables says it all. I couldn’t resist adding my commentary on Clay’s haiku:
No, I’m not talking about Alayna, though she is our “big girl,” taking on her sophomore year with gusto. She’s running cross country, a new sport for her. For a girl who isn’t fond of waking up before 5AM, she’s had a great attitude and a good season so far.
This past Saturday they had their second meet, and I was intrigued by a girl I saw. She was from another school and running in the JV race, Alayna’s race, and she was dead last. Way last. She was a big girl, tugging at her shorts every few strides to keep them from riding up. She was so far behind the others, at least half a lap, and yet she kept plugging away.
A mother standing behind me called someone on her cell phone, presumably someone further down the course, and said, “There’s a big girl comin’ your way . . .”. Really. I couldn’t believe how catty and insensitive this woman was, but I also couldn’t understand why this girl was running. She was an easy target for snide remarks. She was definitely going to come in last, and she must have known that before she ever stepped on the track. Before she ever put on her uniform and stood behind her slender teammates for a picture.
First place, last place, somewhere in the middle. Racers are generally obsessed by numbers. How did they place? Did they beat their PR? By how many seconds? Would this girl look at the numbers? My hope for her is that her “story in the street” includes an encourager. Somebody who told her that this race was not about everyone around her. It was about finishing. About proving she could do it. About setting a personal record, and trying to beat it next time.
As she rounded the first of two laps, the next heat of boy runners clapped and cheered, and then began lining up on the line for their race. They’d have to wait for her to finish, though. Even more eyes trained on her large figure, laboring around the course.
She reminded me about how we’ve been thinking about numbers a lot lately in our family. More specifically, about our number. Our place in line. We got word that our dossier was approved last week. This week, we’ll get our official number, which will give us an idea of where we are “in line” to receive a child. In a way, I guess it’s our daughter’s number, too. How long will she have to wait to have a family?
I worry that nobody is cheering for her, or that she’s seen as unimportant by those around her. I worry that she labors, passed up by those with loving homes, good nutrition, arms that hold and rock. My hope and prayer is that there is someone cheering so she can hear. Someone whispering in her ear that there’s a finish line, with a loving family waiting to welcome her home. Run, baby, run . . . we’re waiting for you, and the finish line is in sight.
A lot of people have been asking about the adoption lately. The thing is, not a whole heck of a lot is going to happen between now and when we get a picture of the child that is referred to us, at least nothing we see. We did get notice that our dossier has been translated and is now in the hands of IHNFA (government organization). We’ve been told that after it gets approved, which can take 1-2 months, we’ll be put on the waiting list to get a child.
You might start hearing the phrase “we’ve been told” an awful lot in the coming months. Because that’s how it works. You are told what to expect, but you’re also told to expect things to change. For reasons beyond our control, their control, who knows whose control. Even after getting this far, there is much that is mysterious about the entire process. It certainly doesn’t look the way I originally expected.
Which leads me to Benji’s cheese toast.
Benji looks at this world in a different way, and he approaches a sandwich in a very different way. Some of you may look at this picture and see a sandwich eaten from the middle, with crust and a bit of cheese remaining. Some of you, if you look even closer, might see a bunny rabbit. You know how you can find picture in the clouds if you stare long enough? Well, Benji pointed out you can see a bunny in his toast. He ate his hole in the shape of a bunny. Though I’m not sure that was his intent, it was his whimsical result.
A few months ago, when someone asked about the girl we were adopting from Honduras, I could give them a nicely mapped out plan. She would most likely be under a year old. We could specify on our application age 6 months to 2 years, and we were told we’d wait about 2-3 months from referral to the final visit to bring our baby home. That meant we could potentially get a referral for a girl who is 6 months old, and she’d be 9 months old when we brought her home. But I read the following sentence on a blog today, written by a woman who just adopted a girl from Honduras: “The youngest children are about two when the adoption is finalized.” But what about the little baby I’ve been imagining? Possibly buying cute little outfits for? Three words: Benji’s cheese toast.
I would have said we’d probably be matched in the Spring of 2012, according to the times we’ve been given. If all went according to the Meredith Davis schedule, we might rent an apartment in Honduras so we wouldn’t have to leave our baby behind for 3 months in foster care between the first and second visit. That same blog revealed that it took 4 months between this woman’s first and second visit, and on her second visit she stayed 4 weeks before bringing her daughter home. What happened to my tidy Davis Honduran Vacation/Bring Home a Baby Plan? Three words: Benji’s cheese toast.
So things may not look the way I thought they would. We set out to adopt, just like Benji set out to eat a piece of cheese toast. He started eating from the middle, an unlikely place to start. We started our adoption last spring, when our kids were ages 15, 12 and 9. An unlikely place to start. When he was done, Benji’s cheese toast did not look like you’d expect a consumed piece of cheese toast to look. When we’re done with this adoption, it may not look the way I thought. But Benji ended up with something pretty cool. Picture-worthy, whimsical, surprising. I have no doubt our daughter will be the same.
She’s probably been born by now. Will I be twisting her dark hair into pig tails come spring 2012? I hope so, but there’s only one thing I can say with all certainty. Something “we’ve been told” that I cannot, will not doubt. We’re to pursue a little girl in Honduras that doesn’t have a family. I’ll keep staring ahead, waiting for the picture to emerge, trusting the one who called us here.
As we were driving home from church the other day, Clay said, “Look, there’s a man running with a colander.” I turned to look out my window, and sure enough, there was a man wearing black running shorts and a sweaty t-shirt running hard down the street with a colander tucked up under his arm.
Is there a new colander diet I am unaware of? Was he in a hurry to make spaghetti? He was definitely another story in the street, though we didn’t take the time to stop and ask him what mission he was on.
We recently made a trip to the Honduran Consulate in Houston to get the last piece of paperwork we’d need to complete our dossier. We went on my 40th birthday, getting up early to beat the traffic. Driving to Houston and back may not sound like a wonderful way to crest that formidable 40-hill, but it wasn’t so bad. Every time we embark on a trip, even a short one, I get a whisper of the feeling I had when we left on our big trip around the world. Anything can happen, and we’re going to experience something new and different if we just keep our eyes open. Who knows when we may see a man running with a colander?
On the way, we stopped for gas and I saw this sign.
At least if you don’t win the lottery, you can get a hot dog! This was just the sort of sign that should appear in a story. Our story, on the road to Houston. It is the sort of detail that makes life interesting and real. We laughed, and I made Clay circle around twice so I could get a good picture of it. He worried we’d make the owner of the gas station suspicious with all our circling, which reminded me of the Israelites circling around Jericho seven times. Stories beget stories, and they’re sometimes connected in the strangest ways.
We had decided to dress nicely for our trip to the consulate, assuming an adoptive couple should look respectable. I brought a sweater, thinking we’d be spending time in a downtown building, cold and sterile. We were nowhere near downtown when we passed this sign.
We were surprised when we finally arrived.
Look closer . . . see the Honduran Consulate sign?
It wasn’t anything like I expected. We were a little unsure and circled the “Biz Center”, trying to figure out where to enter. My stomach clenched a little. I don’t know why entering a cold and sterile government building would be any easier than entering this old building. Maybe it would have clenched either way. Were we in the right place? This was our last piece of paperwork, and what if something went wrong? What if we had forgotten something important? My nerves settled when we swung open the glass door and saw a little Honduran girl, maybe two years old, in a pretty little sundress at the base of the stairs. She was like a little brown-eyed angel, and we followed her up the steps and through the door of the Honduran Consulate.
A long line stretched from glass windows, and the room was full of Hondurans. We were the only white couple in there, and I’m sure they wondered about our stories just as much as we wondered about theirs. We stuck out like a man running with a colander under his arm. Most seemed to be there for residency matters, updating visas or getting paperwork. Paintings of Honduras were framed on the wall, and every conversation in the small room was in Spanish. Again, I felt like we were on the trip, surrounded by people I couldn’t understand and accepting it as a sort of background to my own thoughts. Clay and I made it to a window, where we spoke to several helpful people who weren’t quite sure what we needed. We eventually figured it all out, and an important-looking man in a spiffy suit took our paperwork to the back to work on our letter.
Clay and I sat in plastic chairs and waited for almost two hours. It was not cold and sterile. It was warm and filled with the chatter of families and children, smiling and laughing and patiently waiting their turns. There were lots of young kids running around, a few with suckers in their mouths. A universal way to keep a child busy. The children came closer to us as they waited, not really paying us much attention and sometimes leaning into us as they wrestled with each other or stumbled around. I felt a small connection to Honduras and its people. Just a taste of what the country must be like.
I watched the little girls playing around the room, and tried to comprehend that a child like this would be ours. We’re having another baby. Back home, I go to the grocery store, pick up dry cleaning, and shuttle the kids around town. All the while, I feel like the man with the colander under his arm. Like people should be looking at me, pointing and wondering where I’m going and what I’m doing. Because what we’re doing feels a little strange and unusual. And when we’re running around town with a Honduran daughter, we might look just a little conspicuous. I hope someone will stop and ask, so I can tell them a little bit of our story. And I hope they’ll stick around so I can ask them about their story. Because we all have stories to tell.
We’re at the next step in our journey. Unless Honduras tells us otherwise, all our paperwork is done, and we’re in a holding pattern. Our dossier will be translated, then approved by the government, and then we’ll get our number. If we’re lucky, next spring we’ll be meeting our daughter. Traveling to Honduras. So many stories still to tell.
I love stories, and that’s what this blog is all about. My stories. Other people’s stories. Writing stories for children. This blog’s title, Stories in the Street, is a spin off of Faces in the Street, my blog about our family’s nine and half month trip around the world. We chose a G. K. Chesterton quote to represent our goal for that trip: “Do not look at the faces in the illustrated papers. Look at the faces in the street.” To us, it meant that we were going to step out into the world and really experience it. We are surrounded by so many faces and stories in the street, whether those streets are in Morocco or Austin, Texas. As Mary Oliver says, “Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it.” Thank you, Ms. Oliver. I will.