Thursday, November 20, 2008

Utah Mom Sir, Utah Mom Am I, Ki Yi

You might have heard of me, I live across the green? My gang it is the jolliest that you have ever seen? You know the one, catchy tune, loud staccato Ki Yi-ing at the end of the chorus? sure, you do. (And for those of you not familiar with the University of Utah fight song, make sure you really project on the Ki Yis!!! Because that’s how we do.) Well, I hadn’t heard of a Utah mom either until just the other day and I’m so glad I heard about it with a time delay, because I might have embarrassed myself a little bit in public if I hadn’t had a minute or two to digest my new label, Utah mom.

My YuYu, my dear one, my heart, prepared a power point autobiography at school. Many weeks ago, YuYu and I sat down at our computer and picked out pictures for her life story. We copied a couple dozen photos that her teacher scanned in for her in the computer lab (if I had known that it was for a computer presentation, I would have copied them to a disky thing, I’m pretty sure I can do that). She used the photos to prepare her Life of YuYu autobiography and I’m sure it was lovely, but I haven’t seen it yet, but I will, it’s saved, we can see it any time . . . I’m not screaming into the parking lot at 6:00 pm to pick them up from aftercare, the last nuts on the tree and they’re locking the doors behinds us.

So the kids in YuYu’s class invited the parents to attend the autobiography presentation on election day. I had back to back hearings at exactly the same time way across town from our school and there’s just the one of me. The one whose clients pay her to remember to show up at the hearings and not commit malpractice, so I just couldn’t be there for YuYu this time. And I get so resentful when that happens. I can’t volunteer in their classrooms for two reasons, really: I work like a mad woman during the hours they are at school and, a classroom full of randomly churning kids? it makes me nuts. There’s a reason I never considered education as a career, ever, I would be a tragically inept teacher. But I do what I have to do to my schedule to make sure that I drive or chaperone on at least two field trips for each of them (that’s eight field trips, so I’m in there pitching), and I make it a priority to attend any special productions their classes put together for parents. But I couldn’t make it to YuYu’s autobiography, so I asked her to tell me about it at dinner that night.

She told me how Ms. L taught them to start with the most important picture: her foster mom.

And then the next one: her foster mom and dad.

And the next one: her whole foster family:

And then, finally, she slipped in photo of her sisters and her Utah mom.

And I have to tell you, her order importance for the photos?, referring to me as the Utah mom?? it got to me a little. I was a little rattled. There we were, looking for all the world like a normal family (well, if normal families only had one parent and the parents and the kids don't match) all sitting around the dinner table, and I’m doing my level best not to act like an jealous pre-teen because I just found out that to YuYu, I'm distinct from her foster mom not by permanence, but by location. You know, really mature stuff. My precious love nugget thinks I’m just a Utah mom. Not a forever mom, not her real mom, just her Utah mom. And then I thought, oh thank gawd I wasn’t in a room full of other parents with YuYu narrating her story and labeling me as the Utah mom. They would not have understood, and I wouldn’t have been able to explain and I would have just died sitting there thinking that they thought I wasn’t a “real” parent. That I was just a space filler and YuYu's "real" parents were pining away for her, the victims in a sordid kidnapping scenario, which they kind of were, they wanted to adopt her but just couldn't afford the fees.

Do not get me wrong. It was only a twinge of hurt and jealousy. I am so grateful to and thankful for YuYu’s foster family. Sharing this beautiful girl with her wonderful foster family and being her Utah mom is Ay Oh Kay with me. But I wonder what the other parents were thinking, or did they even hear/care/note the difference.

I still have huge guilt for taking YuYu from her foster family after they watched her grow and grew to love her for four years. I am so happy for YuYu that she had such a strong start in less than ideal circumstances. She had a wonderful warm mother, a truly doting father and a very proud and protective big brother who adored her, still adore her, who wouldn’t? YuYu is adorable. I get misty, still, when I think of the pain YuYu’s adoption caused these good people. Wanting the best future for their treasure, wishing that future could have been with them. I know that YuYu thinks of them often and with great fondness, no grieving, just acceptance that she is here with a family she loves and the other family she loves is in China, loving her back. YuYu is so well-adjusted, so in love with her other parents, so content and in love with me, but always her foster parents are in her thoughts and I am the Utah mom. Not the only mom, not the forever mom, the Utah mom. And I can live with that.

We just celebrated our fourth year together. If YuYu went into foster care when she was probably nine months old, I’m quickly rounding up on the day when I will have had YuYu with me longer than her foster parents had her with them. But it is apparent that all of the changes in her family life haven’t quite settled out in YuYu’s mind. She knows that this is now her home and her life, but she has such wonderful memories of her life and family in China. Being reminded that I am a Utah mom was a good thing for me. I need to be more aware of what YuYu lost and make sure she knows that I know and that I remember and that I love her even more for what she had to give up to be my daughter.

And it was especially good to be reminded of YuYu’s connection to her foster family since I am already flipping out about taking time from my practice (and I really mean my business and livelihood, practice is a word that doesn’t adequately convey the cash flow aspects of a legal career, it’s not all parsing statutes and writing briefs) next summer to travel back to China to attend her foster brother’s college graduation. Not to mention how much this is going to cost for all of us to travel, makes me cringe to think of the $$$ it will take to just buy the plane tickets. But YuYu will see and feel her beloved foster family and they will see and feel her and even if I end up piling more $$$ on the big mountain of debt, I can’t think of any better reason to do it. YuYu talks and thinks about the upcoming trip all the time. She is ready to fly there tomorrow. I can’t even imagine how exited her parents are for her arrival, can’t even imagine. This is one very special child who has the potential to become an incredible adult and the honor of being her Utah mom, considering how deep YuYu’s love runs for each family, is plenty enough for me. I am a Utah mom sir, Ki Yi!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

My Little Buddy

So last summer, another adoptive family with a daughter from the Guilin SWI who shared time in the institution with my Nora although my Nora has a memory like a colander so remembers NOTHING of her first 4.5 years in China, good and bad I guess, but anyway, this great family was going to stop by on their way back out to the toolies so our kids could hang. Being the excellent hostess of renown that I am, I wanted to have the take and bake pizza at least took before they arrived, but the Honda was dead like the doornails. When Jane arrived at my door, I had to make her do the pizza run. Lord knows what she was thinking of me at that point, how conniving, how cheap, all true, but not my purpose that day.

But I was not without hope because the Honda is always dead like the doornails because pokey little children can't keep their pokey little fingers off the dome lights and the big brains at Honda didn't anticipate that eventuality and the damn car dies a slow death over night in hotel parking lots in Las Vegas, or, you know, wherever or whenever it would be most inconvenient. To that end, last Christmas, I asked for and received from my father (he will not shop or initiate gift giving, but if you relay through mom that you need something that Dad feels comfortable picking up for you at the auto parts store or Lowe's, he is okay with that, as long as it does not exceed approximately $75, more than that and he'll piss and moan until you think you've asked him for his PIN), a portable battery charger. What I also should have asked for was a short training session because Jane and I got that sucker all hooked up to the Honda and turned it on and it made a satisfying noise for several hours, but did not give the Honda back it's mojo in the slightest. So I'm thinking, Dad bought me the cheapest POS charger he could find and if I even knew where to recycle all the AA batteries we go through (where do you recycle used batteries?) that sucker would have been in the recycle bin too.

That day I borrowed a plug into the wall charger from my across the street neighbor George (an able-bodied early retired airline mechanic who would no more offer to help me as he watches me struggle with huge bags or topsoil or mountains of leaves or porch light fixtures or mountains of snow, or squat, he doesn't have to, sure, but hell, bad neighbor) and got the car recharged. For the next several months, I would cast disdain laden glances at the POS battery charger on its shelf in the garage, wondering what to do with it, not sure how to dispose of it, but sure that I needed to dispose of it and soon because it's very presence was an aggravation to me: POS charger.

So the weekend before Halloween, the little girls had their last soccer game and if they don't arrive on time, the team forfeits because the team roster drops below six if my kids don't play since they represent more than one-third of the team membership. I tell the kids to go load up in the car as I top off my mug o'joe and while I'm pouring my low-style flavored non-dairy creamer (I'm sorry, I like this stuff, shoot me), the little ones come back in through the garage and tell me that the van is acting funny. Oh shoot. It's dead. I can tell that George isn't home, wouldn't matter, the plug in the wall charger takes overnight to recharge. I call Stewart, no answer (what good is a best friend when he won't answer his cell at 7:40 am on a Saturday morning?). I spy Ron two houses up raking leaves, trot up to ask if we could get a jump, sure thing he says, I trot back down, realize that the Honda is so dead that I can't get the gear lever out of park and, therefore, can't back the car out of the garage to get access to the battery for a jump. I run back up the street to tell Ron, thanks, but no thanks, and he says: "We've got lots of cars, take one or ours." I'm am stunned by his generosity, really, we've spoken on maybe four occasions in three years. I don't go to church in the ward, so I don't know my neighbors as well as my neighbors know each other. I overcome my innate reluctance to ask for or accept help. I accept graciously, get the kids, three soccer balls, my camp chair and blanket loaded and off we go in Ron's sedan. I rack my brain for a way to thank him for his generosity and after too long really, this idea should have been immediate, it was so obvious, it hits me, fill up the tank stupid. So I put $30 of gas in Ron's car and return it to him only 20 miles worse for wear.

I call my dad and let him know that the POS Honda is dead, it COULDN'T be related to dome lights because I had been the last to close up the car when I put Hannah Montana in the back the night before, so would he please buy a new battery for me on the way into town and could he also install it for me and I won't be tormented by the disloyal battery anymore.

Dad and Mom arrive, without a new battery, but with his portable charger. He asks if I had tried to use my charger. I admit to him that the charger he gave me is a POS and that all it does is make a lot of noise and then eventually it dies without ever lifting the spirits of the target dead car battery. He hooks up his portable charger and I watch in disbelief as he turns it on and it makes no noise. I think, wow, his charger is really good, silent and all, no big noises like mine. Then he sits in the driver's seat and turns the key! What are you doing? I ask. I'm starting the car, he says. But don't you have to wait for the battery to recharge? He looks at me through the windshield with such a quizzical expression. But the car will not turn over all the way anyway. He says; let's hook it up to your charger. I say, okay, but it won't work beacause my charger is a POS. He hooks it up to the POS, he turns it on and THERE I see my critical error. I laugh, ha ha. In my previous attempts to use what I had assumed was a POS charger, I had turned something on, for sure, but I had turned on the COMPRESSOR, not the battery charger, hence the satisfying but mis-directing noise. He hooked up my new Little Buddy, no noise, and the Honda came back from the grave with one tell tale dome light left on over Mimi's seat where she had been pouring over her haul of cheap prizes and candy on the way home from the school carnival the night before. Kids, can't trust them.

So all's well that ends well: I rented the neighbor's car for $30, found out that its my Dad who actually owns the POS portable charger because mine worked when his wouldn't and my new Little Buddy is a life-saver, works like a champ and I'll never be parted from it or disparage it to friends and neighbors ever again. And the moral of my story is: get yourself a Little Buddy (make your Dad get you one for Christmas, it will make him feel useful), keep it close to your heart and turn on the right ON switch when the need for its services arises and you will feel safe and happy forever, but don't let your friends know that you have one and they will still have to pick up and buy the pizzas. The End.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

two more cents

So I'm up late, working, I’m tired sleepy and tired mentally, but I've been trying to jump back into the blog, but the longer I go between posts, the lazier I get. I'm picturing myself, watching the rope go around between the two twirlers on either end, both of my hands up and down, up and down, timing my jump, but every time I've tried to jump the past few weeks, I been sucked back into the real world where filing deadlines nip at my ass every time I try to sit down to blog and end up losing the rhythm and just put my head back into the job, but hell, I could really use the diversion and sustenance writing provides, especially when I feel like I'm stretched so thinly.

So I’m corralling my thoughts about the election and how it feels to finally, finally be represented by a leader who reflects my values, and the best way I can describe it?: it feels like a party in my patriot’s heart. And I AM a patriot, I AM a real American even though I AM a big D Democrat and I didn’t realize how very hopeless eight years of
GWBush and a lifetime of being a big D Democrat in the reddest of the red states had left me feeling. I am proud of my country, I am proud that Utah did not have the highest percentage of support for the Republican candidate like it usually does in presidential election years, Idaho and Wyoming beat us out of that distinction this year. I am proud that more of my fellow Westerners figured out that voting Republican is truly voting against their own self interest. But most of all, I am happy that at least 37% of the voting citizens in this state don’t think that I am in league with the devil because I voted for the Democrat because they did too and we can’t all be in league with the devil. I don’t think it works that way, too public, doesn’t the evil one work on a more discreet scale?

I am a life long Democrat and a life long resident in the reddest of the red states. Where, not only as a non-Mormon, but a non-Republican, and a single parent, I have certainly experienced what it feels like to be suspected of being in league with the devil because of the choices I make on my ballot. We pretty much have a one-party political system in local and state government, and seriously, it hasn’t been working all that great for us. You have to go back to the Great Depression when most Mormons were Roosevelt Democrats because the depression walloped our state so badly and like they’re aren’t any atheists in a fox hole, there aren’t many Republicans in a depression, but since World War II, the trend has been decisively red. Well, not so red anymore, you can see streaks of purple and my zip code; forget about it, blue, blue, blue, blue.

But one positive thing of learning to get along as a Democrat in a Republican stronghold, you learn to adapt strategies that keep you from screaming obscenities at the neighbors. I like to think that it has made me a better person, or maybe just caused me to retreat from a fight, but either way, no bloody noses over politics is a good outcome. So when my ancient neighbor Cuma (I really need to ask her the origin of her name one of these days) came down the street the day after Halloween to chat while the girls and I were out front raking leaves, she launched on how many other good causes for which the money Obama (although she said "that man") spent on his infomercial could have been used and that she was just livid about the waste. I was pretty gentle, I told her there were restrictions on campaign funds, he couldn't just spend the money on anything he wanted to, although I’m sure he agrees that hungry people should be fed, because the people who donated to him did so to help him get elected, not to feed the hungry, but she shook her head and said, "well, there's a reason those Democrats are known for their spending." Then she asked if the girls were still collecting for UNICEF and put a $5.00 bill in each of their boxes and marched them up to another ancient neighbor's house so she could donate too. I've lived my whole life trying to gently disagree with my neighbors without offending them because I know that (a) I can't change their minds and pretty much, they can’t change mine, and (b) they are good people who would give $20 to a “radical” cause (US out of the UN is a permanent metal sculpture at a house near my folks' home) because it made my kids feel special.

Living in the reddest of the red states makes me understand that, red or blue, most folks just want what they see as best for the country, and we all see “what’s best” through the prism of our own political biases. Although, each year when the Utah state legislature convenes, I do the mental equivalent of plugging my ears and singing Dixie at the top of my voice for 45 days so I don’t know what those yahoos are doing to the laws of my state to further disadvantage the weak, poor, vulnerable, voiceless and disenfranchised citizens of our state.

So can I just tell you, the relief I felt to wake up on November 5 to a country lead by a man who reflects my values? It felt wonderful, like a party I get to go to where I'll know lots of people and I won't have to feel like I'm a second class member of society because I'm a Democrat. And I do not over-exaggerate; so many people in this state think you are not a real American if you don't vote for Republicans. But there is no more sappily patriotic American than me and I have the trophies to prove it (grade school patriotic speech champion, two consecutive years, I was on fire). Now I have a leader who reminds me of the pride I felt and expressed out loud to a “multi-purpose room” full of fourth, fifth and sixth graders when I was just a girl and still full of hope. See, was I wrong?, sappy sappy sappy.