The Partially Color-Blind Librarian

29 03 2011

Our normal routine includes a Tuesday morning visit to the library.  I have posted about that experience before here and here. I really love the library, but I have to be on my game to keep my kids in the building and on the same floor as me, never mind stopping them from pulling books off the shelves.   I do make a valiant effort to stop the book de-shelving.  And, most importantly, I scold them extra loud if the grumpy re-shelving volunteer is around, so she knows I respect her work.

Today I thought about skipping this weekly excursion.  I am not feeling well, and the kids have both been on crack high-strung lately.  I just wasn’t sure we could make it a positive experience.  Then I talked to my friend A.  She said they were definitely going to be there.  I knew it would be great to hoist PJ off on see her.  So I decided to hope for the best but take the Ergo and stroller in case I had to strap anybody down.

It is spring break here so the library was particularly crowded and story time was canceled.  But, for the most part, we were doing okay.  We hung out by the Children’s Librarian’s desk for awhile and played with the magnet board.  Of course, Little Dude kept running over to push the elevator button, but in general things were fine.

A arrived and I got to spend some one-on-one time with Little Dude, while PJ used the computer with A and her daughter E.  Eventually I was overwhelmed by responsible for both of my own kids, when Little Dude said, “Water” and ran off towards the fountain.  I kept an eye on PJ while I slowly followed Little Dude.  Yes, it is a big place.  A big, public place, but I knew exactly where he was headed.

When I got there a couple moments later, he was nowhere to be found.  I tried not to panic, but I didn’t see him as I started to glance around.  One of the librarians saw the look in my eyes and realized what was happening.  She quickly started to help me search, while enlisting other librarians’ for help.  As she asked for their assistance she kept describing Little Dude, “He is about this tall, with a red shirt on.”  A tiny part of my brain registered that I was impressed that she remembered the color of his shirt since we hadn’t been anywhere near her in at least 30 minutes, but the other part of me was like… that isn’t enough information.

We were both moving swiftly in different directions, she would say to another librarian, “He is this tall, wearing a red shirt.”  And I would yell out, “And he’s black.  With a birthmark.”  Like in all panic situations, my brain did the slow-down thing.  I had time to think, “Should I call him brown?  Should I call him Black?  Should I describe his hair?”

“Why isn’t she really describing him?”

A couple of minutes later I found him.  He had managed to open the restroom door and was filling the toilet bowl with paper.  In the past he could not open the doors himself, although I have seen him try.  The restroom is right next to the drinking fountain and if I had not panicked when I didn’t see him initially, I probably would have opened the door.

All was well, but then again, all was strange.  Our library seems to fairly represent our community – diverse for a Midwestern/southern town of 100,000 people.  We are never the “only” transracial family there.  Still, if I saw a panicked pink mama looking for her son, I probably would not immediately recognize the small Ethiopian as being the “missing” child.  Especially since there was NO chance he was upset or acting lost.

It was interesting that this librarian was so hesitant to describe his color, or even his hair.  If he hadn’t turned up quickly we would have had a sea of people searching for a toddler in a red shirt.  How many blond kids would have been stopped?

I guess she is color-blind.  The kind of color blind that can see shirt color but not skin color.  So many of us have been taught to be color-blind.  So many of us are so afraid; afraid to offend, afraid to look racist, afraid to reveal our naivety, afraid to reveal the fact that we actually do notice color.

Today I was afraid.  Afraid I lost my son.  My brown son.  My black son.  You know, the one with a birthmark.  Sometimes he wears a red shirt.


Small Talk – Fun Size

27 03 2011

A collection of things I thought about this week, brought to you in “fun size” packages (because my thoughts are not profound enough for full size or king size posts.)

Enjoying the Weather?

I have lived in five states and one Canadian province.  Everywhere I have ever lived (and most of the places I have ever traveled) I have heard the same exact weather joke…

“Don’t like the weather in XYZ?  Wait five minutes, it will change.”  Ha, ha, ha.

However, I have never seen weather quite like we have been experiencing here in Missouri.

During the last three weeks we have had three separate snowstorms – including one that dumped more than eight inches.  In between snowstorms, we have had playground weather.  Many, many days with temperatures above 65, a few about 70 and we even made it into the 80’s one day.

Alas, there is snow on the ground again today.  Good thing I haven’t removed the Cat-Pee-Solstice-Tree-Yardstick-Of-Meteorology from the yard.

Last Sunday


Buried under that snow are my flip-flops that I left out last week when playing in the yard with the kids.


Hello, Selam

In January, I blogged about stalking Ethiopians at the Kansas City airport.  In February, I took it one step further, knocking on the car window of a man in our library parking lot (alas, he was Kenyan).  I am also trying really hard to start a friendship with Joesph.  He is a Rwandan who stands at least 6’5″ and sometimes shows up at our Friday play place.  I will admit I thought there was a slight chance the Kenyan was Ethiopian.  Joesph, well, I knew he wasn’t, but I was sure he was African.

However, I am narrowing in on my targets.  Yesterday at Sam’s Club I threw a “Selam” out at a man whose name tag read “Gerbere.”  Did you guess Eritrean?  You were right.  Of course I did NOT have Little Dude with me.  But you can bet I will find a few extra reasons to be frequenting Sam’s Club and I will be taking my son.


How Are You?

To tell you the truth, things kind of suck around here.  Both kids have been suffering from a stomach bug.  I will spare you the details, but please know that they are sick, sick, sick of Bananas, Rice, Apples and Toast.  Still, that is what they are eating 90% of the time.

I have been trying to plan a get-away but don’t want to do it all alone.  I thought I would be traveling with my BFF whose father died a few weeks ago, but I guess I am not her current priority.  Why can’t everything be about me?

And, a woman I went on a group vacation with a couple years ago just died a tragic, unexpected death.  I will spare you the details of this as well, but please, all you outdoorsy types, make sure someone knows exactly where you are going in the woods and exactly when to expect you to be back.  Independence is fabulous, not making it home is tragic.


Read Any Good Books Lately?

As per usual, I have been reading lots.  Coffee Will Make You Black by April Sinclair is a coming of age story of an African American girl in the late 60’s.  I have a desire to read more books that aren’t necessarily trying to “educate” me, but do anyway because my life experience is narrow in the scope of things.  This book was perfect for that.  And, I liked the protagonist!

I am also reading How To Raise Your Spirited Child by Mary Sheedy Kurchinka.  This was highly recommended by a friend who is one of the best mothers I know.  Three unexpected things are coming out of my reading of this book.  First, in some ways the information seems applicable to most adopted children whether they are spirited or not.  Second, I am seeing myself in the book.  I am reluctantly recognizing my inability to deal with things in an appropriate manner especially when I am run-down and tired.  Finally, the section on introverts versus extroverts was eye-opening to me (a frustrated extrovert married to a classic introvert).  This could be the book that strengthens my marriage, makes me grow up and helps my children.  But, hey, no pressure.

A Year Ago Today – Courtaversary

24 03 2011

A year ago today, in a court room in Addis Ababa, my husband and I were declared Little Dude’s legal parents.

We didn’t know our court date was scheduled, let alone that we passed, until March 29th.  And the way we found out, well, it colored our relationship with our agency.  There were multiple phone calls, bold-faced deception and a whole lot of yuck.  And silly, silly me, I would not put all the pieces together until months later.  Despite seeing and recognizing the obvious, I refused to internalize it.  I just kept believing that the agency and our family were partners.  That we had the same goals.  That our relationship was one of mutual trust.  Silly, silly me.

To this day, I still believe our agency is acting ethically on the ground in Ethiopia.  But as I lay in bed with Little Dude tonight, waiting for his body to relax into sleep, thinking about what an important date this is in our family’s history, I also spent lots of energy rehashing how our agency treated us.  I pondered what is and isn’t okay to talk about when it comes to agencies.  And lay wondering, “Why do I hesitate to talk about what happened?”  But I realized that is all for another post (maybe on the 29th – the anniversary of us finding out about our court date.)  And trust me, it isn’t nearly as exciting as I made it out to be – I’m just not good at letting go of stuff.

What DO I want to spend the rest of my night thinking about?  How lucky I am.  How strange and amazing the world is.  How our planet is so very, very small.  How our capacity to love is so very, very large.

How adoption may be born out of tragedy, or great need, or less than ideal circumstances, but it also represents the best that humans can be.  No, not me – the “saintly adopter”, but all the government employees, all the nannies, all the hard-working, go-betweens who picked up on different threads of Little Dude’s life and held them strong.  All the ethical individuals who faced down the Compassion Fatigue that comes from working in a difficult field and held Little Dude tight, until the threads of our lives and the threads of his life could be woven together.

We are so grateful.

Triple Your Donation – This Week Only

23 03 2011

Yesterday was World Water Day.  As per usual, I am late to the party.  But at least I was invited.  And so are you.

This week ONLY there are donors standing by to triple your donation to Friends of Orphans and Vulnerable Children – FOVC.

FOVC is not religiously affiliated.  It was started by an Ethiopian (from what I can tell this is crucial because Ethiopia has some screwed up interesting laws governing which not-for-profits are able to help Ethiopians.)

Little Dudes’ Birthday is two weeks from today.

Although he is not from Wolayta, he is from an area very near this spot.

Helping the people of Wolayta is easier this week than ever.  In honor of my son’s birthday, I am going to help.  How about you?

Wordless Wednesday

23 03 2011

Pepsi delivery vehicle


Ethiopia On Her Mind

21 03 2011

PJ likes to walk around starting imaginary conversations.  Most of them begin with, “Hi, I’m PJ.  What’s your name?”  Usually she will then give the inanimate object she is talking to a name that identifies it, but might also be somewhat silly.  This is the way she cracks herself up.

This past weekend she kept shaking my hand and saying, “Hi, what’s your name?”  I would answer, “Mrs. Piggly Wiggly,” or  “Mama-Too-Tired-To-Play,” or “Mrs. HappyMcSchmappy,” followed by “What’s yours?”

Her consistent response was, “Prox”  dragging out the R sound (possibly an attempt at rolling it, although I doubt she has ever heard a rolled R in our white-bread home.)

About the third time we went through this ritual I said, “Prox, that’s a pretty name.”  And she replied, “Yes, that is my Ethiopian name.”

Then yesterday when we were playing outside I could hear a train in the distance.

Me, “PJ, Can you hear the train?”

PJ, “Yes, where did it go?”

Me, “I think it is pretty far away, like maybe down by the river.”

PJ, “I think it is in Ethiopia”

Me, “I don’t think it is THAT far away.”

PJ, “Yes, Ethiopia, where you went to get my brother.”

For whatever reason she really has Ethiopia on her mind.  Maybe it is because she and her Dad and brother watch this video every night, usually about five times in a row.

Sunday Snapshot

20 03 2011

Trying to break into the hallowed halls of higher education. That kid is an overachiever.