Thursday, May 29, 2008

Empathy kills racism

I'm thinking more and more on this and asking myself why this article about this new study upset me.

1. the writing slant - why writers and/or editors always pick some slant and try to generate buzz without all the facts clearly displayed.

2. the long term goals we have as a nation to combat racism.

I am NOT AGAINST training for parents. All parents. All adoptive parents parenting kids from different cultures, too, as I KNOW we face great challenges.

But, if we are going to combat racism, we have to have EMPATHY. You can not gain empathy, true, honest empathy, when you can lump people into groups, like "the black race."

Okay, I'm going to step off this and write about my garden, which was my plan when I hit the "new post" button.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Two steps backward

I wonder what Martin Luther King, Jr would say about this AP article?

The title is, "Do Whites Need Training Before Parenting Black Children?"

Try to swallow that with an open mind, and then dig into some bigoted thought patterns revealed in the article. On first read, it sounds like a one-sided, uneducated, 20 year old, sad commentary by empathy-free people who believe they have the right to subjectively judge whether I'm "good enough" to parent a child that desperately needs a mom. Then, when I took a deep breath and went back through it, though I agree with education in general, I still oppose throwing out the "color blind" policy currently in place for US adoptions.

The word choice by adoption professionals saddens me. The idea of "race" instead of "culture" says that your color determines something deep about you.

It is like my friend saying "I have two REAL children and one ADOPTED child." I believe we choose to give up certain vocabulary to move forward. I don't tell my kids they aren't my REAL kids because they didn't come out of my body, and I don't tell them their race determines who they will become.

Their culture is a part of who they are. The color of their skin is part of the tapestry that makes up our world, but it does not define what they are inside. I'm sad to see adoption foundations use this language.

My guess is that MOST PEOPLE who don't mind having someone of another "race" in their immediate family have a smidgen of sensitivity to other cultures.

There are some good quotes in the article. Some truth, like this, "All children deserve to be raised in families that respect their cultural heritage." Yes. That is one of the enjoyable side benefits of adopting a child born in a different culture.

And, "child welfare agencies should strive to find permanent homes for black [i'd say ANY rather than black] children among their extended families before placing them in foster care." Duh. If social workers can't figure that out, then why do they think these same people can determine if I'll bring enough black culture into my daughter's life?

I'm sick of people spewing out of one side of their mouths that society needs to integrate - which I believe it is doing and has been doing and will continue to do - while at the SAME TIME setting up these scenarios where an enlightened few determine proper racial boundaries. Isn't that racism?

We need to look forward as a country. We are a melting pot of cultures and I think our kids are getting that concept, and they are seeing people as individuals who embrace the cutures they love. I respect my white friend Lee Ann, who embraces west African drumming and the culture around it. I accept that my friend Laura embraces some of India's yoga culture and has integrated it into her life. I respect the black woman who embraces hair straightening or Latin Catholicism. It's all integration. It's not necessary to divorce individual dignity from culture.

I think the main thing that burns me about this article is NOT that adoptive parents need training. All parents need training. It is that the article makes it a "black" thing. Adoptive training should - and from my experience does - include cultural awareness training on many levels, for all parents. Let's promote education across the board and get over the need to define people by groups.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Chinese Food

I should be sleeping as it is 2am. But, I actually took a nap today. I was driving home with the kids from the Chinese school end of year party at Dreher Island. Then, when I woke up, I opened all the windows and turned up the music. I don't know why I was so tired, and it was probably a one second nap, but it scared me enough that when I got home, I went to bed. And, I couldn't get up an hour later for dinner. I didn't wake up until midnight, and I laid there until now when I decided it was good blog time.

We enjoyed Dreher Island enough that we are thinking of going camping there in the near future. There are these nice villas I would like to rent, but we will probably go with the cement pad by the water instead.

We had a good bit of time to look around because we arrived at the lunch party at noon and could not find it. We drove around the state park forEVER, looking for Chinese people at all 14 pavilions. Then, we went to the visitors center and the lady told us pavilion #4 was reserved by someone named Li. We drove the road that said pavilions #3 and #4, parked, and saw that one was empty, so we walked down into the woods to the other one, where Chinese people were cooking all sorts of delicious smelling things right on the tables. We commented on the great smells and said we were sorry to be late and looked for a place to sit while Zion began grabbing whatever food she could reach.

Then, I realized there were no other kids.

And then, I realized I didn't recognize anyone.

And then I realized these people didn't look exactly Chinese.

Turns out they were Korean.

And they were very confused.

And their last name was Lee.

And our party was at 2:30 (though the food didn't show up until 3:30), over at the next pavilion, reserved by Li.

We were VERY hungry by then, as evidenced by the photo above.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Jennifer Malone's Birthday

Today I got to see our Kenya friends, Marigold and Jane. Their stories made me hold my breath a few times, so I will fill you in more later.

But, what I really want to do today (besides get the tiny thorns out of my fingers from digging up blackberry bushes we found by the off ramp of I-77 and Shop Road and then transplanted into the back yard), is shout out a very Happy Birthday to my best friend Jennifer!

Jennifer is working for T.E.A.R.S in the Dominican Republic, and you may have followed the story of her baby's birth on this blog. If not, check it out. Her dad was a bit shocked that I posted actual photos of Mia exiting Jen's stomach, but, it was SO cool, I had to share.

I wish I could have made it to your surprise party today, Jenny (so you could glare at me in person for calling you JennEE), but Luis didn't invite me! I miss you terribly and can't wait to see you. Here is a photo of baby Mia, in her oh-so-stylish IKEA play thingie. Mia on Ikea.

I love you guys. Even Luis.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008


Dr. Ruth has been telling me about the starvation rampant in her area of Ethiopia. She has been working too hard, exhausting herself, so she slept all day yesterday. I hope she can find a balance and a way to renew as she works more often with the poorest people in the country.

This photo was taken by Anita Powell. I saw it in this AP article

The video grab below it is of my friend Laura's son, Max.

I met Max soon after he was delivered to the orphanage. He was obviously malnourished. Today, he is an amazing young man, robust and so full of life and you would never connect him with this scrawny little boy above. Check out Laura's blog for updated photos. Laura has determined that my Zion and Max will marry someday, and since they constantly talk about each other, and she calls Laura "mommy" and her husband "daddy" I don't doubt the possibility.

Anyway, when I met Max, he was maybe four months old. The girl in Anita's photo is about THREE YEARS OLD, and weighs less than 10 pounds.

I'm rethinking how our family eats, and I'm looking for ways for us to give more. Please post any ideas that have worked for your families. I bet we can start a good dialogue about how we can free up more resources to help address this situation.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Working, working, and playing, too

The pace has not slowed much. Saturday, Lee Ann hired me to help her shoot a living history project in Little Mountain. Projects like that are the best, listening to people tell stories of working farms and what they did for fun and what they ate (and how they made make molasses). People talked about segregation and how things have changed since those times. It was good to record people's memories.

Yesterday I worked some on photos for the Connections Magazine article, and today I again work with Lee Ann on the Heathwood School video. I can't tell you how much I want my kids to go to High School there. It is just an amazing school. I told David we should plan to work there so we can get a tuition break. But, it is still the price of college. Here, Alden and Zion practice their computer skills (in preparation for college, of course).

Sunday we celebrated Alden's Forever Day. Each of our kids has a Forever Day. It is the anniversary of the day we met for the first time as a family. This was Alden's first, and we had a blast playing games and riding water shooting boats at Frankie's Fun Park. Lydia joined us, and we went out for Rush's fast food afterwards. I took this shot off David's phone to post.

Friday, May 16, 2008

All Done

The last two days of class were tougher, as we were all fairly drained. But, they handed in nice looking resumes, lit and shot a scene on the set they built and gave presentations using cardboard mock ups/animated drawings and sketches to our client. The presention experience was slightly more "real world" than I had anticpated, but I think that was good.

We also had a rather competitive final exam in the form of a game show, where I was accused of treating Team One like the press allegedly treats Hillary, and Team Two like the press allegedly treats Obama. Team Two had both the girls in the class, but I'm positive I didn't play favorites.


I'm going to miss these students. They are all incredibly talented, so I'm sure I'll see them again - probably while I'm watching the Oscars.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Class Adventures

Great classes this week so far. Monday we went to Columbia, to the Marionette Theater, where Lyon and Kimi enthusiastically shared puppet making and set design secrets with us. Then, we measured the studio at Media that Matters for a project we are designing for them. They just bought a RED camera, so the students drooled on that for a bit.

Dennis, of Media that Matters, took us to meet an eccentric set designer at his eclectic home. He has an amazing collection of movie stills and art, and while showing us one of his projects, he shot fire out of his finger tips. And no, I'm not making this up.

We also popped into the F-stop, my friend Aaron's new business, after eating some good food at El Burrito. Later, we took a tour of the production offices of the movie Nailed, some good advice from a set dresser and a tour of their art warehouse. We also learned about casting from Tona, and got great input from Lauren in the production office (thanks Lauren, for lining everything up at Nailed - you ROCK).

Drooling continued today with food stylist Cynthia, who showed us how to make fake ice cream. Anthony enjoyed mixing it by hand, and Taylor envied Jon's waffles with melted butter. They look toasted, but are actually just painted to look that way! This class was GREAT.

Wine in the Dishwasher

My friend Jonathan has graciously opened his home to me while I teach in Charleston. I love spending time with Jonathan, Jenny and Georgia (say those names three times fast), eating and watching bad tv to Jonathan's smart ass (and exceptionally funny) commentary.

One night last week Jenny brought home pizza, which she served with wine. When Jonathan opened the wine "cabinet" I cracked up. I honestly think they had no idea why I was laughing until I got my camera and demanded a photo.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Mathari Valley Project

The photos came in, and we managed to get them up in time for our May push to raise money for the street kid dorms, outside the Mathari Valley slums in Nairobi. The first weekend, we raised $3500 toward the project, and this past weekend looked similar. I'm looking forward to seeing our friends from Kenya in a few weeks when they come to speak. These shots are of Debbie, my travel partner to Nairobi, and David, attaching the photos to the triangle pillars that volunteers built. David rigged a tv in one of the pillars that shows a video I shot about the project. Sarah grabbed this photo of me touching up paint on one of the pillars.

Debbie works on all the overseas outreach projects at church, and has terrific ideas of how to motivate people and raise money. For this project, she is "selling" these neat little cinderblocks in exchange for any $100 donation. And, she is organizing a church cookbook. David submitted a recipe for dinner when your wife is out of town. It involves bread, crushed peanut spread and jelly, a paper plate and cup of water.

Mom's day

Alden woke me up this morning, "Mom, come quick! Close your eyes!" I tripped my way to the kitchen, holding his hands, and was greeted with a lovely breakfast of raman noodle soup and garlic bread, and MANY beautiful presents. I was a bit too tired to get the photos in focus, but you get the idea. I feel blessed.

Camille, who has been watching the kids all week while I've been out of town working, volunteered to host a spend-the-night at her house on Friday, so David and I could go on a date. We missed the kids, honestly, but it was nice to have the house to ourselves - and to sleep through the night.

I asked Camille's husband David if keeping kids overnight was a new method of birth control, and he just laughed. They are truly a wonderful couple!

Friday, May 09, 2008

Teaching again

At first I was pretty freaked out at the thought of teaching 8 hours a day for two weeks with virtually no prep time. But, this past week has been a lot of fun. The class, at Trident Technical College's film department, focuses on jobs in the art and construction department on feature films and commercials. The students are terrific - creative, energetic, funny and smart - people that I can see working with in the future (if they can learn to be on time!).

We're working today on scenic painting and aging a wood table they built earlier this week out of old pallets.

Yesterday, we met some people at the Army Wives set. Army Wives is a show for Lifetime that shoots here in Charleston. Roger, the person in charge of construction, took a lot of his time to give us a GREAT tour of the sets, and explained to the students how to get a job in set construction. Here they are on a set that is close to completion.