Monday, February 16, 2015

Adoption Journey - Ground Zero

“I want our adopted child to know my Papa, and Nana & Grandy.” Ash said in the car as we drove through the wintery flatlands of Nebraska. The statement was profound and we both acknowledged it with a brief silence as we passed through the frozen countryside. We were on our way back from Christmas with her family in South Dakota and it was 10 degrees outside. The wind was creating mesmerizing swirls on the road as it forced the resistant snow flakes from their comfy place in the fields and pushed them into beautiful waves, skimming over the pavement.

Ash and I have been married for 5 ½ incredible years. Even as we got engaged back in 2008 we knew neither of us were convinced we wanted to have kids – definitely not anytime soon, and perhaps never. Equally as strong was the non-desire for our own biological children.  Even if we someday decided we wanted kids, we reasoned, we wanted to adopt a child who faced the prospect of a long and difficult life without the support of parents who loved them unconditionally. So I got a vasectomy. I was 22.

That’s how we make decisions together, especially big ones. We recognize and trust we’re on the same page about something, and, if it makes sense, we act. No need to second-guess or get lost in endless ‘what-ifs’ that could dead-end in indecision or missed opportunities. This is how we turned in our application for Peace Corps three weeks after we got married. Or how decided to buy a house. It just made sense.

But kids, we thought, were different. For the first five years of our marriage, we were extremely unsure we’d ever want to be parents. We felt we weren’t mature enough, weren’t ready, were too selfish, etc. Yet, in the last few months, slowly, we’ve started to drop comments to each other that perhaps adopting wouldn’t mean the end of our lives. That perhaps kids, five years off of course, could be a part of our lives. So this slow acceptance of realizing that we perhaps did indeed want to adopt someday, combined with Ash’s statement yesterday in Nebraska, set off our minds and hearts.

And so it begins. True to our style, in the last 24 hours we’ve decided that we indeed would start looking into adoption, signed up for two informational sessions at two different adoption agencies, created a Google Spreadsheet to gather research in, and have narrowed our search to either a domestic Foster-to-Adopt program, or an international adoption from a Latin American country. We’ve known for a long time that we’d want to find a child who is probably older than 2 years old, and that we didn’t have a strong gender or race preference.

So the journey has started. I’ll do my best to chronicle our progress, our thoughts, our desires, our fears, our successes and challenges. We want to journey through this with our family, with our friends. So please join us.

(Taken from Joseph's blog: Paradigms)

Friday, February 24, 2012

The line between beginning and end: a new chapter

So as many of you know, we have come back Stateside a bit earlier than planned. The decision was multi-faceted and extremely hard. But here we are. Below is a snippet of each of Ash and I's thoughts about the whole journey that we'd love to share...


And we’re home… and it’s good.  We’ve had a ridiculous amount of validation in our decision to come home, so many blessings unforeseen and so much support from everyone around us. 

I’m sitting in a coffee shop, studying for a test that will determine whether or not I’m admitted to a program for a teaching license that I didn’t know I even wanted before my experience in PC Moldova.  Sitting here is all at once completely surreal and perfectly normal in relation to my life story. I can’t count the number of hours I have spent studying in coffee shops throughout my years of study and yet there is a part of me that can’t quite wrap my head around the fact that just 2 weeks ago I was sitting in a room surrounded by Moldovans and their American partners trying to figure out just how to write a grant proposal in Romanian. 

I do know that is was the right decision for us on a variety of levels.  We have been welcomed back with open arms by our closest friends and family.  Blessings that we cannot count have come our way and the only questioning from others is “Do you feel you made the right choice for your health and happiness?”  There is no tone of judgment or lack of understanding and for that we could not be more blessed or reassured.

We talk about the fact that there are times in which it seems as though we never left – those incredible once in a lifetime friendships that allow you to pick up where you left off regardless of time gone by, the love of a certain Java cat who didn’t forget us, the majestic beauty of the mountains, the fullness of life that greeted us here the moment we stepped off the plane.  And yet when we think about it it’s more and more obvious that there are subtle (and not so subtle) things that have changed – those same lifetime friends buying homes, friends starting families of their own, the changing of seasons, opening of boxes that we haven’t seen for 18 months, growth of two spectacular younger sisters (both physically and emotionally), the weightiness of a certain Java cat (that can only be explained by the comparison of the cats we’ve become accustomed to during our time away), and nuances of 18 months having come and gone that we were not a part of blended with the realization that although we are the same people there are things that are different about us as well.  There are stories that we have experienced that we can’t fully put into words, languages learned (both literally and figuratively), people we have met that will forever be a part of our life story, journeys that we have been a part of that have helped shape new and exciting passions in our lives.    

There are times in which I find it all slightly overwhelming and borderline unbelievable, as though I’ve just woken from a dream, but then I remember…

I remember the African sunset that commanded attention.

I remember the exchange of cfa on the roadside for some breakfast millet cakes.

I remember the infectious laugh of our host mom as she yelled out “Mariama!”

I remember the heat of the afternoon as we studied Hausa under the shade of a tree.

I remember the inevitable and much anticipated outbreak of song and dance that came with every CHARM birthday.

I remember the friendships and the unfathomable bond of CHARM.

I remember the two young boys who helped us and claimed us as their own territory in the market during our first week in Fadama.

I remember our kitty, Charlie.

I remember working to plant moringa trees in yard and as many veggies as we could manage in our “garden” looking forward to seeing them grow.

I remember the men from Fadama surrounding us in prayer seconds before we were looking at them in the rearview mirror and wondering what was going to happen next.

I remember eating ice cream (more times than I can count) at “bar Teresa” as the “Budestians” drank a cold beer after a long day of language classes.

I remember Budesti (and Colinita) and a group of people who have blessed me in ways that cannot be put into words.

I remember T and her abundant joy that is so evident that you can’t help but smile and laugh in her presence.

I remember Katie and her heart of hearts and how happy I am to know her and have her in my life.

I remember Erin and the way she kept us all together and strong as a group.

I remember Cristen and the unbelievable way she cares for people without even thinking about it.

I remember Martin and his little-big brother ways that make me smile.

I remember Craig and his amazing ability to be laidback in any situation.

I remember Sarah and our long nights of talking that I will forever be thankful for.

I remember Stu and his quiet peacefulness that drew people to want to know him more.

I remember amazing afternoons spent with Jos – cooking, laughing, and enjoying our time together.

I remember the smiles and laughter of the 4th graders as we taught about transmissible diseases and my Moldovan partner teacher sprayed them with a water bottle as a demonstration.

I remember the flowers given to me by shy 4th and 5th graders at First Bell.

I remember Galina and our ability to speak to one another on a level that didn’t make much sense considering my lack of Romanian.

I remember playing Uno with our 10 year old host sister and her silly competitiveness.

I remember laughing and making traditional Moldovan foods with Anastasia.

I remember picking grapes in anticipation of another year of delicious wine.

I remember the moment I fell in love with teaching.

There is so much good that I remember and that is what I will hold onto, that is what our PC story will be.


The journey we started together two and a half years ago by pressing send on the Peace Corps application website from our Capitol Hill studio apartment is coming to a close. The question of would we have changed anything had we known the form it would take is simultaneously ridiculous and extremely crucial in this moment we’re facing. Obviously we had no clue the journey would start before we left the US. With 15 months of application processes, medical appointments and bills, interviews, and aspiration statements. Even more than the actual application steps, it was the sense of waiting. Not knowing when we would know, then once we knew, waiting for it to come while still trying to fulfill commitments and work on passions which were in front of us.

Then, departure to an unknown land – fear, excitement, nervousness, purpose. All riding in the economy class seats with us as we descended toward the vast brown simmering land named Niger. The shock of the heat stepping off the plane, the beauty of our host family, the depth of Islamic culture and belief. To cover those three months with broad strokes only creates an abstract image, leaving the outward impressions up to the viewer. Yet in many ways, that is the painting of our memories: imparting more impressions and emotions than steadfast images or facts. When details do jump out at us, they are often without context, perhaps a dot or patch of clarity which deepens the abstractness of the overall piece.

The time in between. Suddenly we were back, having rushed to Morocco, then home, we were thrown back into limbo as we awaited the next overseas assignment. Generous friends. Supporting family. Meaningful encounters over beer or in a garden. The time was brief, packed, beautiful. I was burrowed into work with Revision International, yet unable to fully settle knowing we were still pursuing Peace Corps service. Where can I make the most difference, here, or overseas? Or perhaps more accurately, where am I supposed to make a difference at all? The answers to these questions were frustratingly beyond our grasps, as if their colors hadn’t yet been selected. We still had to try. Without pursuing service overseas, we could never know for sure (or think we know for sure) that serving here is where we’re meant to be.

So the airplane took off in the United States and set down in Eastern Europe. In Moldova. A country neither of us knew about, nor frankly that either of us had thought we wanted to know about in this way. Yet there we were. The heat stepping off the plane slightly less severe. The rolling countryside a palette of greens instead of browns. The paint strokes seem fresher now. Homemade wine. Friends and relatives simply stopping by for visits unannounced and the Moldovans stopping everything to make sure their guests had something (either white or red) to drink and eat. Another tongue. Another culture. The colors comprising each just as deep yet profoundly different than that of Niger.

And now, we’re leaving. We’re choosing to cut our service with the Peace Corps short instead of it being cut short for us. We’re choosing to leave this country after seven and a half months of investment and electing to change the shades of paint into which our brushes are dipped. Part of the reason we’ve chosen this transformation is that we’ve noticed the vibrancy of the colors we’re leaving behind have been growing duller and duller lately. Our hearts have slowly grown less passionate, less engaged, less alive here. And at the same time, the direction our paths are leading us toward in the future has become more detailed, more clear, and more sure than when the planes wheels left the tarmac more than 15 months ago. More certain than when we clicked “Submit” online two and a half years ago.

What is even more reassuring now is that instead of this journey ending with its road narrowing into a dead end, it feels – when we pause long enough to see through all the doubts, frustrations, and feelings of failure – as though its widening into new possibilities. The speed bumps, potholes, and detours are all still a part of the road ahead. But in spite of this, in spite of knowing the hardships are not something to try to avoid, but simply a part of the journey, we’re hopeful. The fresh paint and new colors about to be added to the canvas are exciting. The direction of the strokes and the patterns or shapes that result are yet to be understood, as is the impression this masterpiece will leave on those who see it. Yet this is the ultimate freedom: to choose how to paint with colors and brushes you’ve been given.

Thank you Father for this gift, let us "Listen closely[, for] the gift is music. Return it abundantly [because] the gift is love. Touch it gently [as] the gift is fragile. Protect it fiercely [since] the gift is vulnerable. Laugh aloud [recognizing] the gift is joyous. Share it[, acknowledging] the gift is truth. Use it bravely [knowing] the gift is freedom. When [there] is money, give it away. Above all, [let us] not pretend to understand why [we] have been chosen to receive these gifts. This is the mystery of life." 
- Moore & Nelson, Moral Ground: Ethical Action for a Planet in Peril

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Our Baker's Dozen Days of Christmas!

Here’s a rundown of our Christmas travels 2011!! :)

Day 1 – Ash had celebrations at school that lasted until about 2:30 at which point we were on a bus to Chisinau to exchange monies, have lunch/dinner and catch our overnight bus to Brasov, Romania leaving at 7:30pm.  All went well with only a minor hiccup when we realized we somehow exchanged our Moldovan lei for British pounds instead of Turkish Lira… happy we caught it before arriving in Brasov!  Outside of the border crossing in which we had to get off the bus and show our luggage/passports both in Moldova and (an hour later) again on in Romania, the ride to Brasov went rather well. 

Day 2 – We arrived in Brasov around 5:30am were we met the woman renting out the apartment we would be staying in for 3 nights… so nice!!  We found it on … where you can find apartments or rooms for rent all over the world that are usually less expensive than staying in a hotel.  Anyway, we then slept for a few hours before setting out in search for some brunch, we found a great place where we enjoyed croissants, coffee, a veggie omelet, and poached eggs for an incredible price… a great start to our vacation!!  We walked around for a bit and attended a Christmas Eve church service in the historic and beautiful Black Church both the singing and message were in German, which made it all the more majestic (even if we couldn’t understand anything that was happening).

Day 3 – Merry Christmas!!  We made ourselves mimosas (orange juice and champagne), which is a Christmas morning tradition for Ash’s family.  After a long walk around Brasov, where it was lightly snowing (perfect for Christmas), we read for awhile in a local coffee shop and returned to our apartment to watch holiday movies before going out for a nice Christmas dinner.  We made our way back to the center of the town where we took pictures in front of the Christmas tree and bought ourselves some vin fiert (malt wine) – yumminess!

Day 4 – We woke semi-early (actually setting an alarm on vacation – wow) and took a bus up into the mountains to Poiana, a ski resort, just for the pleasure of being “in” the mountains and seeing the trees covered in snow.  We walked around for awhile and then took the bus back down into Brasov where we decided to check out the gondola just outside the old city walls.  We took the gondola up, up, up and then after enjoying the view and taking a ridiculous amount of pictures we made our way down, down, down on foot…. Perfect!  After a coffee break, absolutely necessary of course, we made fools of ourselves ice skating but had a blast in the process.

Day 5 – Said goodbye to Brasov and hello to Istanbul via train from Brasov to Bucharest and flight from Bucharest to Istanbul. The flight was delayed, but we finally arrived in Istanbul around 7pm and quickly got lost after taking a cab and ferry to the neighborhood of our next apartment… after speaking with many cab drivers one gracious gentleman actually called the woman we were renting our apartment from and she ended up meeting us just a couple of blocks from the apartment without issue.  And then sleeps…

Day 6 – Walked around the Asian side of the city and found a great local café were we enjoyed our first cup of Turkish coffee… we were instantly hooked.  A short ferry ride later we were on the European side and found ourselves looking at the marvels that are the New Mosque, Blue Mosque, Hagia Sofia, the Grand Bazaar, Spice Market, and every side street that leads to new and exciting areas of the city.  Slightly exhausted we headed back to our apartment, found dinner on the way and ended the evening watching a movie.

Day 7 – Up bright and early and on the ferry for our amazing Turkish bath experience at Suleymani Hamami (the only Turkish bath for couples in Istanbul that we know of).  Basically we sat on hot marble for half an hour while sweating more than we ever have in our lives (sounds appealing doesn’t it? It gets better I promise), after which we were scrubbed, bubbled (bubbles!!), and massaged for another 30 minutes.  Lovely and relaxing… the best way to complete said experience was to find a orange juice stand and enjoy two large glasses of fresh-squeezed orange juice as soon as possible afterwards.  :)  Life is good :) For lunch we shared a ridiculously large sandwich from a street vendor and walked around the Galata Tower and Taksim neighborhoods for hours before grabbing a couple of beers and Turkish pizza and heading back to the apartment.

Day 8 – Our last day in Istanbul… sad face.  Wondered around the Asian side some more and ate what we dubbed a breakfast tocaniţa – basically, pure yumminess in the form of scrambled eggs and veggies all mixed together! Finally we made our way to the airport via the metro and arrived in Capadochia (central Turkey – look it up!!) around 9:30pm.

Day 9 – Happy New Years Eve!! Enjoyed breakfast and tea at our hostel before heading out for a long walk/hike around Capadoccia – gorgeous and unlike anything we’ve ever seen before.  We found a local café and shared some spectacular lentil soup and fresh baked bread with Turkish coffee.  We are now hooked on both Turkish coffee and lentil soup – we’ll be giving both a try in the kitchen at some point in the near future. :)  For New Years night we found a great local restaurant where we enjoyed some great food and live Turkish music… the music was done by a father and son with the father playing a drum and singing and then son playing a Turkish guitar, absolutely beautiful.  Another unexpected find…

Day 10 – Hello 2012!! Went on our first “official” tour ever after finding out there wasn’t any way via public transportation to reach a couple of different sites that we really wanted to see before leaving Capadochia… decided it was definitely worth it in the end (it’s called the Green tour throughout the region so if you ever find yourself in Capadochia check it out!).  It started with a panoramic view, beautifully breathtaking, but ridiculously windy.  Then a short ride to see an underground city, the largest in the region, where people used to live in order to find safety from attacks.  On to the Ihlara Valley with a short, but very worthwhile hike along the river at the bottom of a stunning canyon ending at our lunch spot.  After lunch we had a bit of a longer ride to see one of the many cave monasteries in the region – imagine a labyrinth of rooms built into the side of a mountain… incredible.  Last stop was a local artisan center, aka an obvious ploy to get us to buy jewelry (although it was beautiful) and finally back to the center of Goreme (the name of the town where we stayed, Capadochia is the region name).  We finished our day with a bowl of lentil soup, homemade hummas, fries (which one of these is not like the other? Haha) and some delicious tea.  Perfect!

Day 11 – Ridiculously early morning alarm at 4:00am to be on the shuttle to the airport by 4:30.  Easy flight back to Istanbul where we spent the day wandering, finished with going to see Mission Impossible 4 (don’t judge :) to pass the time and rest our tired legs.  We drank Turkish coffee for the last time and found some beautiful traditionally painted mugs to remind us of the city.  On to the train at 10pm … yay to first class sleeper cars!! Boo to border crossings at 3:30am!!

Day 12 – Day on the train!!  Note to self (and others :) – there are not restaurant cars on every train regardless of the length of the trip, so pack snacks!!  Yay for reading, enjoying the country side of Turkey, Bulgaria, and Romania, listening to music, talking, playing games, drinking French press coffee, and generally enjoying the trip back to Moldova!!  Next stop Bucharest…  We had only 25 minutes between one train and the next, but managed to get food and find our train without any problems.  The train from Bucharest to Chisinau only got better … We didn’t even have to get out at the border crossing between Romania and Moldova – so spoiled!!

Day 13 – Arrived in Chisinau safe and sound around 9am and there you have it!!

We hope that everyone else was able to have as blessed of a holiday as we were.  We definitely missed our family and friends back home and look forward to when we can spend our holidays together again.   Love and light to you all and Happy New Year!!