Monday, September 24, 2012

Not As Deep As You Might Think

The #1 conversation starter in the past two weeks has been, "how's it feel to be thrown in the deep end?"  And I can understand why people would assume that's the way it would feel.  When we first got the call and were told that "there is a thirteen year-old girl who needs a home tonight," I was undoubtedly daunted.  But then she arrived and now people either don't believe me or don't know how to respond when I say, "not that bad," and by "not that bad," I mean "this feels like the shallow end, not the deep end."

London sleeps through the night.  We don't even have to make her go to bed.  She heads to bed as soon as she can't keep her eyes open -- or when we bore her with a third Daily Show in a row.  Even better, if we ignore her, she'll sleep right in.  If and when she wakes up before us, she pulls out a book or quietly opens Netflix.

Which is in stark contrast to what our friends went through when their little ones came home from the hospital -- which is really what makes it feel like got the easy end of the deal.  She dresses herself.  She's potty-trained.  She has a full vocabulary and knows how to express her ideas and her needs.  Any problem we have can be addressed with a rational conversation.  We can have legitimately deep and meaningful conversations.  We're going to dance class.  We can share and enjoy the same TV shows, movies, music, and books.  And, maybe most importantly of all, she makes a mean pitcher of sweet tea.

There is a trade-off, of course.  We still don't know what it's like to hear our little one's first word.  We haven't been able to film her first steps.  We weren't able to ease into or mentally prepare for interest in the opposite sex (or, more accurately, the opposite sex's interest).  Every day, I can't help but worry -- even just a little bit -- about all the boys peacocking around at her school.  She's come home three times already talking about fights.

And there's still the not-knowing.  Parental rights for London have not been terminated.  We don't actually know if they will be.  We'll find out in a couple of months.  I have faith they will be, as London's mother has a history of . . . well, being a customer of Walter White.  But there's no security yet.  No matter what we do or what plans we make, there's still a certain sense that our foundation is fairly thin ice.

But, and this is the part where people stop believing me again, it honestly doesn't feel like the deep end.  We're in the pool, to be sure.  But it only feels like we're waist-deep in the water that could potentially drown us.  It's not that there's not danger or things to worry about -- people have drowned in less and if we have to remind her one more time to put sunscreen on . . . -- but it's fine.  More than fine, it's fun.


Saturday, September 8, 2012

I See London, I See Disney

It's so strange the way life plays out.  "Strange" is the best word for it, really, but I don't mean that in a negative way at all.  I mean strange as in "unexpected" or "unpredictable" or "exciting" or "funny" or "not at all in the way I would have ever imagined it."  You know, strange.

Tuesday night we got a call.  It was about 9:30.  We had just come back from dinner with the Norths.  Kelly was sitting down to do her homework and I was sitting down to get more writing done.  The phone rang.  It was Omni.  "We have a thirteen year-old girl and she needs a home tonight."

Omni had called us before, telling us about ten and eleven year olds who needed foster care.  Our response was always the same:  "I'm sorry, but we're not prepared for that.  We're looking for a child who is five years old or younger."  Writing that sentence feels awful.  We always felt awful turning children away, but we've never had children before.  We wanted to have the closest thing to a natural experience as we could.  We have spent the past couple of years preparing for a baby.  But there was something different about this call.

Kelly hung up the phone and we discussed it.  At first I was wondering why we were discussing it.  Thirteen is well out of our "five or under" range.  But as Kelly started sharing London's story, there was a tickling in the back of my brain.  Call it the still-small voice or call it my spider sense, but there was something about this story and this child I couldn't ignore either.  We called Omni back.  We had a few more questions.  Listening to more of London's story, Kelly looked over at me with a silent, "what do you think?"  I nodded back, "let's do this."

London showed up thirty minutes later.  She was with two Omni coordinators and a trash bag full of her clothes.  While that was the first time we met her, we didn't really get to meet her till the next day.  The people from Omni talked for so long, London was asleep in her bed before we got to say two words to her.

Since then, we've gotten to play and talk and get to know each other.  London is one of the sweetest girls I've ever met.  The glimpses into her past infuriate me.  Knowing she's been in foster care for two years saddens me, as I would have loved to have brought her into this home two years ago, and give her two more years of love and stability than she's had.

We've only had her for four full days, but we're already making plans for the future.  She wants to take dance lessons.  She wants to be a veterinarian.  We're saving every five and ten dollar bill we find for a trip to Disney.  She's never been and really, really wants to go.  She also wants to go to New York, but for that "we'll have to save every ten and twenty we find, that's a whole lot more expensive!"

And Kelly and I already know we're going to do everything to make her dreams come true.  Today's her 14th birthday.  We have a pool party planned.  Tonight we'll introduce her to Doctor Who, tomorrow we'll finish preparing her for school and Monday she goes back to 8th grade.

No-one ever imagines the strange.  Everyone imagines the traditional.  Go back in time to any point in my life and ask me about the family I would eventually have, and I never would have plotted something like this.  But now that I'm here, I wouldn't change a dot of it.

Here's to all the strange, strange years to come!


Sunday, September 2, 2012

We Are Not Alone (the Perks of a Rabid Fandom)

Kelly and I are, among other things, Whovians.  You probably have a Whovian in your life.  You'll know them by their insistence that "bow ties are cool," their use of words like "timey-wimey," "allons-y," or "fantastic."  They may own a mile-long scarf.  They may have a bumper sticker alleging "my other ride is a TARDIS."  If you are looking for a fun fandom to be a part of, look no further than the fandom of Doctor Who.

Fandoms can be a tricky thing.  I was a fan of Star Wars, for example, before it was cool (and then subsequently uncool again).  Star Wars fans have a complicated, love-hate relationship with that which they obsess over.  As much as they love everything George Lucas gave them, they hate everything he continues to give them (this is a broad stroke statement that doesn't describe every fan, but the fandom as a whole).  It can be a very frustrating fandom to be a part of.

Enter The Doctor.  If you know nothing about Doctor Who, it's a show that is celebrating it's 50th anniversary in 2013.  It's a fantastic British sci-fi show about an enigmatic time-traveller called The Doctor who uses his ability to travel all of time and space to leave things better than he found them.  As you can imagine, it's a show that can be daunting to get into -- it's been on for fifty years (more or less).

Enter The Whovians.  Doctor Who fans know how intimidating getting into the show can be.  But they know how rewarding it is being a Whovian that each and every one of them has their own recommended way of getting into the show.  They're a patient lot, who are more than willing to hold your hand and answer all your questions until you're addicted and running off on your own adventures with The Doctor.  That's not to say they don't bicker.  Every fandom has its arguments.  But in the case of Doctor Who, most of the arguments come down to being a clash of preferences.  Most of the time, everyone walks away still happy, still friends, and still hoping the TARDIS shows up in the back yard.  I believe this is because of the intelligence lying beneath most episodes of Doctor Who.

Doctor Who is a show about something.  It's easy to dismiss it as a silly sci-fi with lots of unnecessary running about, silly monsters, and implausible story lines.  At first glance, that's all it really is.  But then you notice the Daleks are a thinly veiled critique of fascism, and the Cybermen are a condemnation of mindless conformity and . . . oh my goodness . . . these are all metaphors!  Well, not all of them.  Some are just men in silly suits.  But even those Freak of the Week episodes are still filled with characters grounded in a relate-able reality that will often leave you with a few questions for you to ponder about your own life.  If you find yourself on a Doctor Who message board or swapping favorite stories with a fellow Whovian, it's not at all uncommon for someone to bring up how a particular episode, or a particular character, helped them through a particularly tough time.

Take Amy and Rory -- the Eleventh Doctor's current companions -- for example.  They've had a rocky relationship since we first met them.  But they've also had an endearing and enduring relationship.  Collectively, as a fandom, we're rooting for them just as much as we're rooting for The Doctor.  This most recent episode, well . . .

Amy drops the very large bomb in Rory's lap (as well as the audience's lap) that she's incapable of having children.  I was not expecting that.  I don't expect other people, especially people who have been in the TARDIS, to have any idea of what it's like to be me.  Yet here are these two fictitious characters crying and fighting and using words that have been used by me and people I know who have also fought and cried over the exact same thing.  It hit me right in the back of the throat.  The room started to blur and I was suddenly very glad I was watching the episode by myself.  The moment passed and I loved the show all the more.

Enter The Whovians.  I was not alone with all of these feelings.  Megan Lavey-Heaton, co-author of the webcomic Namesake, shared a glimpse into her and her husband's struggle with infertility.  You can read the whole blog post here (which also serves as a review of the Doctor Who episode, "Asylum of the Daleks").  But I had to share a couple of exceprts here because the post was so refreshingly honest that my heart broke as I was being encouraged and reminded that, indeed, we are not alone.

Infertility is a horrible, horrible beast. There are days that you’re perfectly fine, that you can go “I’m OK with this. I’ve got a wonderful career and a husband who loves me and medical science that can do a lot. I’m under 35, I can do this.”
Then there are other days when you hate yourself. When you feel that your husband, who moved across an ocean for you, could do much better. You want kids, and he wants kids. But what you’re trying isn’t working. You go to the doctor. The drugs aren’t working. There’s more drugs you can take. Expensive procedures, but where do you draw the line? And even though you can and do live an fantastic life, surrounded by love, opportunities to travel and a fulfilling career, you feel like a failure — especially when you’re surrounded by a culture and social media that rubs it in your face. It is so hard to go on places like Facebook and see hundreds of photos of your peer’s newborn babies.
You’re also in mourning, dealing with this. You have to go through the grieving process, even if you never planned on having kids. 
Different people react in different ways.
Amy is so much a mirror of the Doctor emotionally. No wonder they get along so well. Amy handled the infertility issue in a way that was in-character for her and that mirroring of the Doctor. They both run away so much until forced to confront themselves by a catalyst: River for the Doctor and Rory for Amy. Then they act and grow. When you look at Amy now and the Amy we met in “The Eleventh Hour,” it’s such a brilliant story of growth. Amy then acted in such a selfish manner in running away. Now, she’s grown to where she loves Rory so damn much that she is willing to sacrifice everything for him to be happy. And that is gorgeous — and all Moffat.
The "Moffat" she refers to in that last sentence is the show's incorrigible show-runner, Steven Moffat.  He delights in our pain and torture and we love him for it.

The fact that Steven Moffat was willing to approach this topic in a show that could just be about its special effects and its quippy, banter-filled scripts meant so much to me.  It gave courage to people.  For some, it was a "if Amy and Rory can figure this out, so can I" moment.  For others, it provided catharsis.  For others yet, it provided a time and place to talk about something they might not have -- and I think that's important.

It's important to know we are not alone.