Friday, August 31, 2012

Certain Things

Well, according to our blog counter, we have been waiting for two months.  We have been on our agency's wait list for two months.  It has been possible for birthparents to find us for two months.  And what I have learned in two months is that I must find things in my life to take comfort in.  I find myself enveloped in uncertainty.  I have no way of knowing when our child will arrive.  I have no way of knowing what heartbreaks and what happinesses lie ahead.  I have no way of knowing how our lives will change in the future.  And as I have mentioned before, I don't do that well with uncertainty.

It seems that because of all of this major uncertainty, the small daily uncertainties suddenly seem unmanageable.  We have a new schedule at school.   This suddenly seems like a really big deal, like a huge obstacle.  Our district began using a new math program. This, also, suddenly seems like a huge deal.  Any small thing that I encounter that I don't feel completely sure of, stresses me out.  To be honest, these things would stress me out no matter what, but I do wonder if my somewhat dramatic reactions to all of this has more to do with the uncertainties of adoption that I realize.

These past two weeks have been pretty tough. All the not knowing has been getting to me.  And so I have had to force myself to find comfort in things (besides just in ice cream) because I know we have a long way to go still and I can't imagine that living like this for all that time is going to be very successful or enjoyable (for me or for those around me).

So the realization that I have come to is that I must start to take comfort in the things that ARE certain in my life.  I must take comfort in the things I know for sure.  For example, I am certain that everyday that I come home from work there are going to be three furry animals there to greet me at the door.  I am certain that I have an incredible family who will always support me and be there for me.  I am certain that I have friends and coworkers and coworkers who are friends that are there to make me laugh and to listen to me vent.  I am certain that I have people who have known me long enough to know that they shouldn't ask how the adoption stuff is going because they know that when I am ready, I will share.  I am certain that I have a job that fulfills me in incredible ways.  I am certain that every day that I go to work, I will be greeted by the eager faces of twenty one children who are so ready to learn and to be inspired by the world around them.  And I am certain that through all of this, through all the uncertainty, I have a wife who constantly amazes me.  I have a partner that I am so proud of and who makes my life so full.

Those are the things in my life that I am certain of.  That I know without a doubt.  Those are the things that will not change no matter what happens with our adoption process.  I cannot let myself forget about all of that just because I am overwhelmed by the stuff that is less certain.  I cannot let myself stop enjoying what I have while I wait.  So as of today, I promise myself, and anyone who happens to be reading this, that I will take comfort in the certain things.  I will remember how lucky I am in this life and I will let that keep me company through the rest of this adoption journey.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Our Profile on It's Conceivable

A few months ago, the website It's Conceivable, which I sometimes write blog posts for and has been an incredible resource for us, asked me if I would be willing to share a portion of our adoption profile for other couples to use as an example.  While I was a bit hesitant at first, I then remembered how lucky we were to have a wonderful friend allow us to use her adoption profile as a guide to writing our own.  It was incredibly helpful for us to have this profile as a sample and if I could provide that same help to just one other person, then it was worth it.

So I happily sent them the link for our photo book and hope that someone out there might be able to use it in some helpful way.  I was so touched by the words that the editor of the website wrote and though I know I have posted the profile here before, I thought I would provide the link for the post on It's Conceivable.

Feel free to take a look :

In other news, I survived the first day of school. Barely.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Back To School

Before I begin typing let me begin by saying that I am in no way complaining about having a summer vacation.  To me, it is one of the BEST parts of being a teacher.  In fact, it makes me wonder why not everyone wants to be a teacher.  I love summer vacation so much that it is mind boggling to me that most people don't have one.

That being said, I absolutely hate the transition back to school.  While I love summer break, I really do love teaching children just as much.  What I don't love so much are things like getting up when it's still dark outside, boring meetings that usually end up frustrating me, and packing my lunch every morning.

Tomorrow, starts the school year.  The students officially come on Tuesday, but I will get to meet them all tomorrow.  I actually love that feeling of finally getting to see the new group of kids come into the classroom.  Each year, my classroom is filled with the most interesting, fascinating, inspiring group of children and I truly am thankful to have the chance to get to know them.  But, it is always a bit rough getting used to the routine again.

But this year things feel a bit different.  As I was complaining to Carla (who pretty much turns into a saintly saint this time of year) about going back to school, she reminded me that this year, going back to school is a good thing.  On summer break, all I have is time.  Time to sit and think about when we will be chosen by a birthparent.  Time to sit and look online at other people who have been waiting to adopt to see how long they had to wait.  Time to sit and read the stories of other people who have run into unexpected problems along the adoption journey.  Time to get stuck in my own head and wonder how we will ever be chosen amongst all of the wonderful families who are waiting to adopt.  As you might be able to tell, and as Carla has seen first hand, sometimes having all this time is not exactly a good thing.  So as I head back to school, I am thankful that I will soon have other things to occupy my mind. Things that I love to think about.  Things like how to make my students care about the world around them or how to get them to be proud of who they are.  These are things that motivate me to do my best as a teacher and right about now those things seem like really appealing things to fill my mind with.

The other piece that is different this year is that I can't help but wonder, "Is this going to be the group of kids that I will be teaching when we are contacted by a birthparent?"  "Are these going to be the parents that I will have to tell that I will be leaving for a while to take care of a child?"  I truly don't believe that anything is going to happen this school year, but I can't help but wonder.  I can't help but think about what will happen when it is time.  These are thoughts that I couldn't even have imagined having at this time last year, and now I am somewhat consumed by them.

So as I start this school year, there is a wide range of emotions brewing inside.  But I know that whatever happens and whatever emotions are going on, when I walk into that classroom on Tuesday, there are going to be 21 eager faces who will need my attention and I am so thankful to have a job that lets me step outside of myself for eight hours a day and worry about their needs instead of my own!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

An Uncomfortable Breakfast

In my last blog post, I recounted our recent and amazing trip to California.  The trip was filled with these incredible moments and I am and will continue to be thankful for all of them.  As with most things in life however, there was one less than wonderful moment that has really stuck with me and I felt the need to get some of those thoughts out.  So here we go.

Our last night in California was spent in this incredible bed and breakfast in Half Moon Bay, about forty minutes outside of San Francisco.  The bed and breakfast itself was absolutely adorable and the owner met us at the door and was incredibly gracious and kind.  We had a great stay there and I can't say enough about the bed and breakfast itself.  But, one of the things about a bed and breakfast is that you have more interaction with the other guests than in a regular hotel.  Sometimes, that can be a great thing, but other times it's just uncomfortable.

On Wednesday morning, we went downstairs for breakfast.  There we were met by another couple, probably in the their late forties or early fifties.  They began making small talk and asked where we were from.  The first comment that the man made to me was, "Oh, so you and your son are traveling together?"  There was so much wrong with this statement.  Carla and I just looked at each other, speechless.  We let the comment just pass by and when the woman then said, "So you two are just friends traveling together," I responded, "Yes."  In the moment, I just wanted the conversation to be over.  I felt uncomfortable.  I knew that anybody who would look at us and assume that we were mother and son, was clearly not someone who was used to seeing any same-sex couples.  I was uncomfortable with the situation and I just spit out the word, "Yes."  Luckily, another couple soon joined us.  They were much friendlier and seemed to not think twice about the fact that we were together.

Soon, the food was served and I immediately started to eat.  The woman from the uncomfortable couple looked at me and said to the whole table, "Should we all pray first?"  Again, I stayed silent.  I continued to put jelly on my bread and again ignored the question.  Soon, everyone at the table besides Carla and me had their heads down and eyes closed.  I had absolutely no problem with them praying, what I took offense to was that she simply assumed that we would all want to pray and that, even more offensive, we would all want to pray to Jesus.  Once that was over, we continued with breakfast and were able to have some great conversation with the other couple that was at breakfast.

Soon, the not so lovely couple shared that they wrote and illustrated children's books.  The woman went to get the books and brought them back to the table.  She passed them around and it became immediately obvious what these books were.  Each book had a list of morals in the back and every single moral had to do with Jesus.  We politely looked through the books and made sure to smile and say how great they looked.  We then handed the books back.  Breakfast eventually ended.  We checked out of the B&B and headed out to finish up our trip.

Now nothing horrific happened during this interaction.  We were not confronted with any direct hate.  Nobody said anything out of malice.  But, the feelings I had during breakfast didn't sit well with me and I haven't been able to get them out of my head.  As I sit with the story, I can break down what was so upsetting in a couple of ways.

First of all, I hate that I didn't tell these people that Carla and I were married.  I hate that I didn't respond to their questions by simply saying, "This is my wife."  I live in a really safe and comfortable corner of the world.  My family is unbelievably supportive and accepting and they always have been.  When I first came out, I never had to worry for a second that my family wouldn't accept me.  In fact, my wonderful sister ended up having to convince me that I was gay when I wasn't even comfortable accepting it myself.  My friends have also always been incredibly supportive and accepting.  Beyond all of that, I have been able to come out at work, which is not always easy for an elementary school teacher.  My colleagues are amazing, the administration of my school has only ever looked out for my well being and comfort. The parents of my students have been vocally supportive and the kids themselves have been amazing.  I am really lucky.  In my day to day life, I am so accepted.  I am so loved for exactly who I am.  And that makes it really easy to be out.  I hate that when I was confronted with people who I didn't think were as accepting, that I instantly crawled right back into that closet.  It was safe there.  It was easy.  And I hate that I made that choice.  These are exactly the kind of people who need to be presented with positive images of gay and lesbian couples.  These are exactly the kind of people who need to see a loving, lesbian couple and see that there is nothing wrong with who we are.  But I didn't give them that chance.  Instead, I hid who we were from them and I am so mad at myself for doing it.  It was the thing that most made me feel sad about the situation.  It was the thing I most wish I could have changed.

Beyond that, I think that I was also just so sad that there are people in this world who are truly so ignorant, that they had to try and fit Carla and me into the narrow little boxes that exist in their world.  I don't see them as being hateful, they just were so ignorant.  They assumed, over and over again, that we had to be just like them.  We had to be in the same relationships that they were in.  We had to pray in the same way they prayed.  We had to live in the same way they live.  And they do that because it is all that they know.  And that is what makes it easy for people to judge and hate.  When they don't know anyone who is gay, it is so easy to think that people who are gay must be strange and unnatural.  That ignorance scares me and when I am confronted with its existence, it saddens me.

The last thing about this situation that was disheartening was the way I judged this couple for their devout religious beliefs.  I hate that I equate religious people with narrow minded people.  I hate that I assume that someone who prays at the breakfast table must also dislike people who are gay.  It shouldn't be that way.  I should assume that someone who is religious is also someone who would treat all people kindly and equally.  Isn't that what religion is supposed to teach us? To be better people? Shouldn't I assume that someone who is religious would be MORE tolerant than someone who isn't? But I don't.  It's just the opposite.  Now I know that there are many religious people who also support same-sex marriage and equal rights for everyone and who are perfectly comfortable with people who are gay.  But they are not the ones I see on the news. They are not the ones I see outside of Pride each year holding signs quoting the bible.  And so when I meet new people who are obviously religious, they are not the ones that come to mind.  My immediate assumption is that these people don't like me.  And I hate that.  I wish it wasn't that way, but until things change in this country, I think that will continue.  Until religious leaders are able to stand up and publicly change the message, I think my assumptions will remain.

So that is it.  It wasn't an awful experience, it didn't ruin our day, it didn't even ruin our breakfast, but the thoughts that it left me with were upsetting.  As Carla and I talked about the whole situation, we realized that all of this will change when we have a child.  We will have no choice but to be out.  We must come out so that our child doesn't have to worry about explaining our family to anyone.  We will no longer have the choice to crawl back into the closet.  We will be a family.  With two moms and I am so proud of that.  So, I will start to prepare myself now.  The next time I am in an uncomfortable situation, I will know who I am and I will not be afraid to share that with anyone else.  I am prepared now and I will make different choices.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

A Break From Reality

These are the faces of two happy, relaxed, well-rested people.  Carla and I just returned from the most incredible vacation.  We spent the past week driving up the coast of California and enjoying every single moment of it.

The vacation was part honeymoon (which we never took after getting married in October) and part celebration of being done with the home study phase of the adoption process.  It was a week of just enjoying being a family of two.  A week of not worrying about what was happening on the adoption front.  And a week of remembering that we cannot stop living our lives just because we are on the waiting list.  It can be so tempting to just sit still and worry about what is going to happen with the adoption.  It is so easy to sit on dwell on all the things that could possibly happen, but the truth is we have absolutely no control over it.  This vacation gave us the opportunity to remember that we have so much to be thankful for and we have so much to celebrate and we cannot waste moments worrying about how everything is going to work out.  Instead, we must choose to live our lives to the fullest and enjoy the time that we have together and trust that things are going to happen when they are supposed to happen.  And that is exactly what we did this past week.

I will not bore everyone with all of the details of our trip, but I will happily point out some of the highlights.  The first highlight, truly was being able to spend seven uninterrupted days with my wife.  Life gets so busy and it was so incredible to have so much time together to just enjoy an amazing week filled with adventures.  We both put work aside, we both put cell phones aside, and we both put all of life's stress aside and just took time to be together and on vacation.  That was better than anything else.

Other than that, there were some incredible moments.  Last week we flew into San Diego, rented a car, and then spent the week driving up the coast of California before we flew out of San Francisco yesterday afternoon.  California is an amazing place and we were in awe of the beauty and wildlife that we found there.

The first highlight was our overnight stay at the San Diego Wild Animal Park.  The Wild Animal Park itself is an amazing place, but being able to have the opportunity to stay there overnight in a tent overlooking the Africa exhibit was simply incredible.  In the morning we even had an opportunity to feed a giraffe.  It was amazing.

Carla and I in front of the elephant exhibit

Our tent for the evening

Carla and I in front of the Africa exhibit right outside of the campsite

Our view from the campsite

Feeding a very friendly giraffe

We then started our drive up the coast.  After some initial traffic around Los Angeles and Malibu, the road opened up and gave us some of the most spectacular views that I have ever seen.  It was amazing to pull right off the road and be able to see a large group of elephant seals resting on the beach.  We stayed in Ojai and then spent a wonderful morning in the beautiful city of Santa Barbara.  

The next stop was one of our favorite stops because we had the chance to stay in the wonderful kitchy and tacky Madonna Inn.  The Madonna Inn is a hotel where every room is decorated in a different theme.  The rooms are completely over the top and absolutely fantastic.  Because I told the hotel that this was our honeymoon, we were met with a wonderful bottle of champagne, with a card attached that congratulated Mr. and Mrs. Lifshitz.  We appreciated the thought! 

This was room which was a circular shaped room

Our congratulatory bottle of champagne

We then began the most breathtaking part of the drive which took us through Big Sur.  I was extremely impressed by Carla's driving skills as some of those turns are rather dicey.  We stopped to do some hiking through the redwood trees and look at the beautiful water falls hidden throughout the woods.

In Big Sur
Our final city before we flew out of San Francisco was Monterey.  We absolutely loved Monterey.  We spent hours in the Monterey Bay Aquarium and even got a behind the scenes tour of the place where we had the chance to see them feeding the sharks.  We woke up early to go on a whale watching trip where we saw a huge herd of dolphins and a family of Orca whales.  It was incredible.  We also rented kayaks and spent an hour kayaking around Monterey Bay.  Our kayak was greeted along the way by sea otters, sea lions, and harbor seals.  They were so close to us!

We spent our last night at a beautiful Bed and Breakfast in Half Moon Bay and then made a quick stop our final morning to explore the tide pools there.  We then flew out of San Francisco yesterday afternoon.  

Overall, it was truly the vacation of a lifetime.  We had so much fun exploring California together and allowing ourselves a while to just be and to not worry about what is ahead.  After all of the stress that the first phase of the adoption process entailed, it was so important for us to just take time to be together and relax.  I am incredibly thankful for our trip and now feel much better equipped to deal with the waiting that we will be doing.