Monday, February 26, 2007

A Beautiful Disaster



This morning when I left my house to head to work I was struck by beauty. Iowa was beautiful today. And if you know me well - you know that this is not something I say very often. I grew up in central Minnesota...land of 10,000 lakes...lots of snow....starry skies...LOTS of trees. When I moved to Iowa, I knew I was leaving a lot of that behind. Of course, when I moved here, I never really expected to stay. But I've found really beautiful places in Iowa, too. I have to admit that I had to look a little harder than I did when I lived in Minnesota, but I have found really truly beautiful places here. And I do love it. Not because of the land or the place, but because of the people that I have come to love here. Now, I will always tease Z about Iowa...and I will always say that Minnesota is better (but that's just my nature). The truth is, I am choosing to live here...and I live here because there really is more here that I like than there is that I dislike.



Over the weekend we had a whopper winter storm. It was fantastic! It rained for a day which provided this thick coating of ice on everything. When the wind got stronger you could hear the ice crackling on the tree branches. Then it started snowing and we got about 8 inches of snow on top of the rain and ice. We live in one of the 60 counties in Iowa that was declared a disaster by the governor. The weight of the ice and the snow on the trees caused branches to break, trees to fall, power lines to come down. There are still thousands of people in Iowa without power. We were lucky. We didn't lose power for any longer than just a few seconds on Sunday. The roads are terrible. Trying to find a parking spot in the commuter lot at the university was nearly impossible (people just can't seem to know how to park their cars when they can't see the lines in the parking lot - even if they've been parking there every day). Wandering around campus I noticed that there were an incredible number of broken limbs and tree branches. The limbs that aren't broken are weighed down by the weight of the snow and ice. Students often had to duck to go under weighed down tree branches when walking the campus sidewalks.

Treacherous perhaps...but oh so beautiful. A truly beautiful disaster.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

One More Blast??


During this past week, I spotted some of my favorite indicators of Spring - American Robins! Early in the week I saw just one bird, but then a couple days later I saw a whole flock of them. I'm not sure if they have been around for a while and I just haven't noticed them, or if they really are just beginning to return from their southern migration.


When I was growing up in central Minnesota, my parents would always say that when we saw the first Robin that we should expect one more big winter storm and then Spring would arrive. It seemed as though those little birds were always just a little bit too optimistic, returning to Minnesota just a bit too early.


I wonder if the same trend will hold in Iowa? Will there be just one more winter storm before Spring, now that I've seen Robins? I hope so! This winter has been relatively mild, I must admit. We haven't had to deal with really long stretches of extreme cold...we haven't had to deal with too much snow. But, the transition into Spring is always an exciting time. Plants wake up and start to send their new tender shoots to the surface. The buds on trees open and flowers and leaves emerge. The days get a little longer. The temperatures get a little warmer. There is hope of a new vibrant season.


This weekend we are getting another big winter storm. Last night the rain, hail, and sleet began to fall. Lightning and thunder woke us from our sleep. Now everything is covered in a thick layer of ice. It is still raining, but they are expecting it to turn to sleet, then snow by tonight. In fact, we could get 5 to 8 inches of snow tonight - on top of all of the rain and sleet.


Those poor robins - they are just a bit too early! But, perhaps this will be our last winter storm before Spring!

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Still 20-Something....


Today is my 29th Birthday! Normally birthdays are relatively exciting days, but this year, not so much. Not because my birthday isn't exciting, but because the actual day of my birthday (today) is just too darn busy to do anything birthday-related. So, maybe Z and I will have to have a birthday dinner or celebration sometime during this upcoming weekend.


As far as today goes - its just a normal Tuesday for me. I'm running gels in the lab, so that means I am in the lab by 7:30am and will get out of here around 6:00pm. Z works tonight, so I think I am going to get some Chinese food on my way home and spend the evening doing a little relaxing. Maybe I'll catch up on reading some blogs I've been following...maybe I'll design a quilt or two (I'm nesting and have TONS of fabric I need to use, so designing a quilt would be productive. Although I probably won't have time to actually make a quilt for a while.) Or maybe I'll watch a little TV (or some combination of all of the above). I know...I'm terribly exciting!


I would consider calling a friend to go out, but I'm just kind of tired and want to go home. Z has been sick the last couple of days and as a result we're both just tired (I think he might be sharing his virus a bit - yuck!) So, a night in with Chinese food sounds pretty good right now! Besides, over time I have come to really appreciate those few hours I get to spend at the house all by myself. Its kind of nice to get some "alone time" once in a while (even if it is on my birthday).


Saturday, February 17, 2007

Comments

If you've tried to post comments before and you are not a Blogger, I apologize. I have fixed the problem, so comment away!

Friday, February 16, 2007

Adoption Updates

We have officially begun our homestudy! This was the part of the process that I was the most nervous about. I think that it is pretty "normal" to be nervous about the homestudy. After all, someone else is coming into your house to evaluate how good you'll be at parenting. And, since we don't have any experience with parenting, it is pretty daunting. But, our social worker is really great - she makes us feel totally comfortable and we are looking forward to continuing to work with her.

We had our first homestudy visit last Friday. The first visit was really mostly a paperwork visit. We had lots of forms to sign so that she could start doing the background checks on us, and she outlined the whole process with us so that we know what all the steps are and how to complete them.

We had our second homestudy visit today. This visit was much more "interview-like". She asked us a lot of questions about parenting philosophy, how we'll handle discipline, how we were raised, etc. She also asked us a lot of questions about what we know about adoption, so that she could get a feel for how much we've educated ourselves about adoption issues and attachment. We also discussed things like how we plan to incorporate Ethiopian culture into our home and help our kids retain their Ethiopian heritage.

The next time we meet, we will talk about finances, what special needs we feel we are capable of handling, and then we'll have the home "walk-through" where she'll walk through our home to make sure that it will be a safe environment for a child. We don't have to have our home totally "kid-ready" but we do have to have a plan about how we'll make it kid ready. Of course - I'm totally nervous about this walk-through for some insane reason, and I will probably spend a TON of time cleaning to get ready. And...she probably won't even notice all the cleaning (or care). But, I still HAVE to do it! Plus, it will make me feel better....and with 3 cats and 2 dogs, its not like cleaning is a bad thing around here!

In other adoption related news, AAI sent us the dossier packet!!! So, now we can officially get started on putting together our paperwork for the Ethiopian government. We have a TON of paperwork to do, so we'll be busy for the next couple of weeks getting all of that together. But, when Z looked at it he said "this will be a piece of cake". Apparently, the Army has overloaded him on paperwork enough that this amount of paperwork will be easy. Whew! If I put him in charge of paperwork then it won't be so bad for either of us! So, now we need to make doctor's appointments (so we can get doctor-approved) and start collecting all of our paperwork.

The great paper-chase begins!

Monday, February 12, 2007

*FEAR*

Over the course of my life (especially in the past few years) I have learned that fear is a very powerful, raw, and overwhelming feeling. Fear makes you do things you wouldn't normally do; it makes you say things you wouldn't normally say; it makes you lash out at the ones you love; it makes you feel incredibly lonely; it is absolutely paralyzing.

When Z was in Iraq for a year I experienced true fear for the very first time. There was not a day that went by during the entire year of 2004 that I wasn't fearful. I had fear every day that this was the day uniformed officers would knock on my door to give me the bad news. I had fear every time I talked to Z online that this was going to be the last time we would be able to say "I love you". I had fear that something would happen to Z. That he would be killed, that he would be injured and become disabled. I had fear that he would come back to me a changed man. I had fear that after spending a year apart that we would have grown apart from each other and wouldn't feel the same love we felt for each other before he left. I was fearful of leaving town for the weekend (what if I miss a phonecall or an email from him?); I was fearful of having fun (why should I have fun when the person I love most in this world is in a war zone?). In short - during that year, I was fearful of EVERYTHING. The fear was so intense, so paralyzing. I was even afraid of my fear.

I am ashamed to say that during that year, I let my fear totally overtake my life. I made decisions (or didn't make decisions) based on my fear. I put my life on hold during this time - hoping that if I did that, then I wouldn't be different when Z got back. But, of course, the fear changed me instead. Because of this intense fear, I now look at the world differently than I did before. I view God and my spirituality differently than I did before. I view our political leaders differently than I did before.

I now know that fear CANNOT rule my life. It cannot be a determining factor in how I make decisions. I now know what I am passionate about and am not afraid to express it. I know what issues (and what people) are important to me. And I am no longer afraid to "go against the grain" a little bit.

Fear can be an incredible motivator at times. It is all about how we choose to express our fears and whether or not we choose to admit our fears. I learned that I wasn't really afraid of specific things - if I knew what was going to happen I could deal with it. I was afraid of the UNKNOWN. How do you prepare for something if you don't know what you're up against?

So, the best way to fight fear is with education. I learned I had to admit my fears; spell them out. What EXACTLY am I afraid of? When I know what those fears are - then I can deal with them. If I know exactly what I'm afraid of, I can do research; look it up, educate myself, and find other people who have had to deal with those same things. I learned that I could no longer live in fear, or in blissful ignorance.

I challenge anyone else who is fearful of anything to vocalize your fears - spell them out. Know exactly what it is that you're afraid of. Then - educate yourself about your fears. Maybe you'll find out there is nothing to be fearful of afterall...

Monday, February 5, 2007

Coffee Controversy


For the past several weeks, I have been gathering as much information as I can about Ethiopia and life in Ethiopia. This in the desperate attempt to learn a little something about my future children. Their history will be so different than mine - but it will soon be intertwined with mine - and it is important to me that I learn as much as I can.

For those of you who do not know, Ethiopia is the country of origin for coffee. And Ethiopian farmers continue to grow and sell coffee as one of their major exports. For the past several years (ever since my trip to Tanzania in January 2000) I have purchased ONLY fair trade coffee. Yes, its more expensive. But, to me it tastes better and I can buy it knowing that the farmers who grew it are benefitting from my purchase. Of course, I occassionally would buy a Starbucks coffee, but it wasn't a regular occurrence. After doing some additional research online, I realized that I can no longer support Starbucks in good conscience. So, now when I want a cup of specialty coffee, I drive all the way across town to a coffee shop that I know serves Fair Trade coffee. Its an inconvenience since there's a Starbucks just a couple of blocks from my house, but to me, its worth it. Of course, it wastes a bit of gas, but that's an entirely different issue.

Below is the transcript of the letter I just sent to the CEO of Starbucks, Jim Donald. You can learn more about the unfair trade practices effecting the people of Ethiopia and what you can do to help by visiting Oxfam North America at the following address:
http://www.oxfamamerica.org/whatyoucando/act_now/campaign_action/coffee

If you are so inclined you can send the same letter.
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As a Starbucks customer, I'm concerned about your opposition to Ethiopia's right to own its coffee names. I am asking Starbucks to honor its commitment to farmers by signing an agreement with Ethiopia that recognizes the country's rights to the names of its coffees. If Starbucks and other companies sign such agreements, estimates suggest that Ethiopian's could see up to $88 million of extra income a year.Ethiopia ranks among the poorest countries in the world; more than 25 percent of its population lives on less than $1 per day. About 15 million people in Ethiopia depend on coffee to make a living, the majority of them growing their crop on small plots of about two and a half acres. Meanwhile, coffee lovers pay up to $26 per pound for fine Ethiopian coffees because they're willing to pay for high quality and great taste. Ethiopian farmers, however, often earn just 5-10 percent of the retail value.With this disparity in mind, the Ethiopian government launched a project to get legal ownership of its fine coffee names - Sidamo, Yirgacheffe, and Harar. By owning the names, Ethiopia will be able to occupy a stronger negotiating position with foreign buyers, capture a larger share of the market value associated with those names, and protect the reputations of its brand names. In a country with a per capita income of around $100 per year, that amount of money could have a profound impact on the lives of millions of Ethiopians.As you know, Ethiopia approached Starbucks more than a year ago asking the company to lead by example and to discuss an agreement that would acknowledge Ethiopia's ownership of these names. So far, Starbucks has refused to sign the agreement, or even talk seriously about it with the Ethiopian government. I want to see Starbucks do the right thing by the poor farmers who grow its coffee. I urge you to sign the licensing agreement and recognize Ethiopia's rightful ownership of its coffee names.

Thursday, February 1, 2007

Uncertainty...

Those of you who know Z and I well, know that Z is currently in the process of applying and interviewing for a new job. He and I have both been students for our entire lives, and it is finally time to move on up into the "real" world. We are planning to make some MAJOR adjustments in this new year. New jobs, hopefully new house, and new members of our family (through international adoption). We realize that this is a lot of change at once, but it certainly isn't as though we haven't thought it through. Adoption is something that we have wanted to do for a long time (and something I have personally wanted to do for years). We are both very excited about creating our family in this way, and we are certainly looking forward to all of the changes that we are expecting this year. It will be an exciting year for us!

Believe it or not, I have been holding back on my excitement as much as I can. You see, because Z does not have his full-time (with benefits) job yet, we are totally taking this adoption journey on a leap of faith. We have faith that Z will get a good job with good benefits. We have faith that the homestudy process will go through without a hitch and that we won't be penalized for taking this leap of faith without having ALL of the details worked out entirely just yet. We have faith that we are doing the RIGHT thing for us right now. Yes - to the logical, we should have waited to start this process until all of these details were in place and everything was ready. But, we know the process of international adoption is a long process. And we know we want to start our family. We could have decided to hold off on the adoption process and instead try to have a biological child - but that just isn't where our hearts are. Our hearts are with the children in Ethiopia. Our hearts are with two little siblings in an orphanage in Addis Ababa. We don't yet know who they are, but we already love them, pray for them, and look forward to them joining our family.

In a lot of ways, this doesn't make any sense. If you know me well, you know that I don't tend to make really emotional decisions. I'm a scientist after all. Yes - I'm a girl and I do have emotions that occassionally get the best of me - but I usually tend to overthink things. To over-analyze. To not take a risk unless I know (or at least have a VERY good idea) what the outcome will be. So, for me, this leap of faith is very scary. I like to plan. I love to know where I am going to be, what I am going to be doing, how it is all going to happen. I don't know it this time. But I feel in my heart that we are doing the right thing - that we are on the right path. And that is what I am holding on to.

I haven't told a lot of people who know us (friends, co-workers, acquaintances here in Ames) that we are planning to adopt. I don't know why for sure. I guess maybe its because in my mind there are still a lot of things that could go wrong and then we won't be able to continue on this path. Like maybe our social worker will decide that we aren't fit to be parents and then won't approve our homestudy. I can't imagine this ACTUALLY happening, but it is one of those fears that I have. So, I've decided that I'm not going to tell our friends and co-workers until after our homestudy is completed (unless, of course, they are friends we asked to be references for us).

Z and I are totally ready for this. We want to be parents, we feel we are ready to be parents. Our kids will always know we chose to be their parents. We WANTED them.

Right now I'm feeling a lot of uncertainty; a lot of worry. I worry about Z getting a job soon, so that we have those details worked out. I worry about us finding a house in time for our new kids to join us there instead of having to move into our apartment temporarily. I worry about the homestudy and how the social worker will view us. I worry about whether or not my house will be clean enough for the social worker when she comes to visit with us (perhaps as early as NEXT WEEK)!! I worry about whether or not I will be a good mom. I worry about our kids....and the BIG change that they will have when they join our family. Will they feel safe with us? Will they feel loved? Will they love us back?

I know that all of these worries are probaby (hopefully) normal for adoptive moms. And I know that most of them will not be worked out for some time. But, the one that I am currently MOST worried about is Z's job. Right this minute he is taking a polygraph test for a law enforcement position. He has made it through the round of written and physical tests, interviews, background checks. Now he has to take a polygraph (and if he passes, then he takes a medical exam and psychological exam). I have no worries that he will fail the polygraph test. Z is pretty much an open book and has nothing to hide - so I have complete faith that he will make it to the next round of the interview process. But, will he get the job? I don't know...He's also in the interview process for two other departments in our state. So, even if he doesn't get this job, there are other possibilities still. I KNOW he will get a job. I have faith that he will get the job he is supposed to have. I have faith that he is pursuing the right career path. But this waiting is really tough. Especially when its coupled with the adoption process.

For those of you who are the praying type, we could really use the extra prayers in this area. Pray that Z will get a good job - one that he will love doing - one that he can be happy going to every day. Pray that the "details" will get worked out so we can go at the adoption process with complete peace and excitement. Pray that I will have patience - that I won't push too hard - that I will continue to have faith that things will all work out in the end.