Saturday, January 30, 2010

The Waiting Game

We received the wonderful news that the Rwandan government has approved our application to adopt a son from Rwanda. In their letter, they ask for our patience as it takes about two months for them to select our son. When I've talked with the woman in charge in person, she has "promised" me we will have him before my mother comes to visit on April 1. So now we wait.

If I have learned anything by becoming a parent through adoption it is patience. We waited 18 months to receive Lian; 2 1/2 years to receive Anna. To know that we may receive our son within seven months of even starting the process is incredible to me. When we first did our homestudy in August and received our approval from immigration within a month of that, we were in shock at how fast things were going. My mother said to me, "There is a reason this is moving so quickly for you - this little boy can't wait."

I remember breaking down into tears every time we learned there was another delay in Lian's adoption, but when we had to wait so long for Anna, my heart was literally close to breaking. Why did it have to take this long to care for a child who needs a home? Yet, now, knowing our Anna...I know she was indeed to be our daughter and I would wait another 2 1/2 years if I knew it would take that to receive this particular little girl. This is the same for Lian. I look at the two of them individually and together and while I see their uniqueness, I also see the incredible way they are truly "our" daughters - the way Lian thinks so strategically and lists out rational arguments, along with the way she really needs her space after being surrounded by people is completely her father. And then there's Anna who has to be with people in order to feel energized, who loves to organize and use her imagination - very much her mother. Adoptive parents say that all the time - this was meant to be. But it really is true.

And I hold onto that. I hold onto the fact that these children were destined for us as we were for them. Because sometimes it is difficult. Sometimes the root fear of abandonment digs its ugly claws into your child's heart; sometimes the fact that they were never held or touched for the first year of their life escalates their emotions in ways that can harm them and others; sometimes when you leave for an hour meeting, your child makes you sing to her the song "This momma comes back, she always comes back, she always comes back to get you. This momma comes back, she always comes back, she never will forget you."

So we wait for our new with any biological child, we have no idea what to expect. But I trust that in the divine ordination of events that has brought us thus far, we will receive a little boy who is perfect for our family and our family for him. He may have wounds that are deep. He may not. But what we can promise him is that he will be loved and treasured. We can promise him he has a future and a hope.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Our Basic Human Pleasures: Food, Sex and Giving

Op-Ed Columnist

Our Basic Human Pleasures: Food, Sex and Giving

Published: January 16, 2010

Want to be happier in 2010? Then try this simple experiment, inspired by recent scholarship in psychology and neurology. Which person would you rather be:

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Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times

Nicholas D. Kristof

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Times Topics: Philanthropy

Richard is an ambitious 36-year-old white commodities trader in Florida. He’s healthy and drop-dead handsome, lives alone in a house with a pool, and has worked his way through a series of gorgeous women. Richard’s job is stressful, but he spent Christmas in Tahiti. Unencumbered, he also has time to indulge such passions as reading (right now he’s finishing a book called “Half the Sky”), marathon running and writing poetry. In the last few days, he has been composing an elegy about the Haiti earthquake.

Lorna is a 64-year-old black woman in Boston. She’s overweight and unattractive, even after a recent nose job. Lorna is on regular dialysis, but that doesn’t impede her active social life or babysitting her grandchildren. A retired school assistant, she is close to her 67-year-old husband and is much respected in her church for directing the music committee and the semiannual blood drive. Lorna believes in tithing (giving 10 percent of her income to charity or the church) and in the last few days has organized a church drive to raise $10,000 for earthquake relief in Haiti.

I adapted those examples from ones that Jonathan Haidt, a psychology professor at the University of Virginia, develops in his fascinating book, “The Happiness Hypothesis.” His point is that while most of us might prefer to trade places with Richard, Lorna is probably happier.

Men are no happier than women, and people in sunny areas no happier than people in chillier climates. The evidence on health is complex, but even chronic health problems (like those requiring dialysis) may have surprisingly little long-term effect on happiness, because we adjust to them. Beautiful people aren’t happier than ugly people, although cosmetic surgery does seem to leave patients feeling brighter. Whites are happier than blacks, but only very slightly. And young people are actually a bit less happy than older folks, at least up to age 65.

Lorna has a few advantages over Richard. She has less stress and is respected by her peers — factors that make us feel good. Happiness is tied to volunteering and to giving blood, and people with religious faith tend to be happier than those without. A solid marriage is linked to happiness, as is participation in social networks. And one study found that people who focus on achieving wealth and career advancement are less happy than those who focus on good works, religion or spirituality, or friends and family.

“Human beings are in some ways like bees,” Professor Haidt said. “We evolved to live in intensely social groups, and we don’t do as well when freed from hives.”

Happiness is, of course, a complex concept and difficult to measure, and John Stuart Mill had a point when he suggested: “It is better to be a human being dissatisfied than a pig satisfied; better to be Socrates dissatisfied than a fool satisfied.”

But in any case, nobility can lead to happiness. Professor Haidt notes that one thing that can make a lasting difference to your contentment is to work with others on a cause larger than yourself.

I see that all the time. I interview people who were busy but reluctantly undertook some good cause because (sigh!) it was the right thing to do. Then they found that this “sacrifice” became a huge source of fulfillment and satisfaction.

Brain scans by neuroscientists confirm that altruism carries its own rewards. A team including Dr. Jorge Moll of the National Institutes of Health found that when a research subject was encouraged to think of giving money to a charity, parts of the brain lit up that are normally associated with selfish pleasures like eating or sex.

The implication is that we are hard-wired to be altruistic. To put it another way, it’s difficult for humans to be truly selfless, for generosity feels so good.

“The most selfish thing you can do is to help other people,” says Brian Mullaney, co-founder of Smile Train, which helps tens of thousands of children each year who are born with cleft lips and cleft palates. Mr. Mullaney was a successful advertising executive, driving a Porsche and taking dates to the Four Seasons, when he felt something was missing and began volunteering for good causes. He ended up leaving the business world to help kids smile again — and all that makes him smile, too.

So at a time of vast needs, from Haiti to our own cities, here’s a nice opportunity for symbiosis: so many afflicted people, and so much benefit to us if we try to help them. Let’s remember that while charity has a mixed record helping others, it has an almost perfect record of helping ourselves. Helping others may be as primal a human pleasure as food or sex.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Great Valentine's Gift

From Tom Davis of Children's Hope Chest
Hey Everyone,

Are you ready for Valentines Day?

Here's a sneak peek at our Valentines Day initiative called "Shirts for Shoes." We've partnered up with Kari Gibson's "Simply Love" project to bring real love to orphans in Ethiopia. Check out the link:

PLUS...each shirt sold will provide a new pair of shoes and a shirt to an orphan in Ethiopia enrolled in a HopeChest program.

These shirts are HopeChest-exclusive, limited edition T's made special for this Valentine's Day. The store opens tomorrow morning, so please let your networks know about this great opportunity today!

Each T-shirt makes a great Valentines Day gift for your loved ones (sizes run youth through adult, and we have fitted T's for women).

Check it out now:

We'll bring you the link to the full store tomorrow so you can order your shirt and pass along the good news.

HopeChest, Simply Love, & the Shirts for Shoes Team

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

What I Love About Living in Rwanda

It is easy to write about the difficult things we've experienced here, but this week I have found myself struck by the incredible gift it is to live in this beautiful country. So here are my top ten reasons why I love Rwanda:

1) The lush green hills and vast valleys.
2) When you ask for directions, strangers just jump in your car to show you the way, happy to have helped you and you're not afraid.
3) Children respect their elders.
4) Celebrating the New Year is being grateful for being alive rather than being sad for what the old year didn't bring.
5) You don't have to be a gardener to have things grow. You just stick something in the ground and somehow it turns into something beautiful. That is my kind of gardening.
6) I cook a lot more from scratch and somehow it is therapeutic to make homemade chicken broth every week.
7) Even when you're busy, it just doesn't carry the same stress it seemed to carry in the U.S.
8) There just isn't anything to do for kids (except Caroline's Ballet Rwanda class), so my kids have become so much more creative with limited toys and each other's best playmate and we play a lot more games as a family.
9) When the rain comes, you are grateful and refreshed.
10) People dance and sing without inhibition.

and that's my list for today...