Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Taste of Bittersweet

 My favorite chocolate, by far, is milk chocolate.  All my life I've loved sweet milk chocolate.  Semi-sweet was fine as long as it's bitterness was masked by some sugary cookie dough.  That was as bitter as I could go.

You see, I love sweet, not bitter.  Actually, I love sweet, sour and salty....but not bitter.  Bitter is just not a flavor that I have ever learned to enjoy.

My life preferences are very similar to my taste buds.

I enjoy moments of all 'flavors' except the bitter moments.  I spend a ridiculously large amount of my life avoiding interactions and events that have the potential to cause pain. Unlike many people there was no tragic event in my life that caused me to withdraw into the safe and familiar.  It seems to be one of those in-born personality traits - this hyper caution - the type of traits that you think must have been given to you by God so that you can over come them and grow into a better person.

Except that I haven't put much effort into growing beyond myself.  I like the safe and familiar.

"It's who I am."  I say.  I wear this caution like a ribbon won at a grade school field day, as if it's something to be proud of.  My sister is the brave one.  My brothers are the reckless ones (each in his own way).  That leaves 'the cautious one' for me.  If I gave it up I just wouldn't be me any more.

It's an excuse though so I don't have to leave my comfort zone.  When I wished to be taller, I never claimed that my short stature defined me.  That wasn't who I was.  When I wanted to learn Spanish (which I only managed to do partially), I didn't think I'd become a different person.  When I pray to become a kinder, more patient person, I'm not worried about losing the essence of myself.

Why then would the caution be 'who I am'?

The truth is that it's not.  But wishing to be taller, learning Spanish, trying to be kinder - those are things that can be done with relatively little risk.  Learning to be risky, to step out in faith, to do the things you feel called to do even if you don't yet know how you will do them - well, it involves a *bit* of risk.

Earlier this year, I was drawn to a pair of 9-year-old children on a Waiting Child list.  Their parents were deceased and their siblings could not afford to care for them.  So into an orphanage they went.

And they waited.

And they waited.

And they waited......

Because they were 9 years old, not 9 months old.  Because they were not both girls.  Because one of them had a scary disease.

In international adoption there are waiting lists 2+ years long of people hoping for baby girls as young and as healthy as possible.  In domestic adoption, people will wait 4+ years for a healthy infant.  Meanwhile, 'old' children - children older than two, that is - sit on waiting lists, watching babies come and go...wondering why no one wants them.

As I looked at the information available on these two kids, I felt a stirring in my heart.  Something telling me that these were my kids.  That I should be their Mom.

Now, before you go thinking that I'm a sap that falls in love with every kid I see, I have something to confess.  I have been looking at waiting child lists since 1998.  In all that time, I have 'fallen for' only 4 kids.  A boy named Brandon that I tried to convince my parents to adopt when I was a senior in high school, a girl named Jasmine that I tried to get my parents to adopt when I was freshly graduated from college and the twins.

The difference with the twins is I wasn't a young student any more.  I was a grown up.  A married adult with a home and income of her own.  This time I could be the one to adopt - I didn't have to convince anyone else...

...oh yeah, remember where I said I was a married adult.  As it turns out, when you're married, the husband gets at least a *little* say in whether or not to adopt two 11-year-olds.

And, since I'm not a mind reader, I had no way of knowing if he would be on board, so I said nothing.  It's safer that way.

But I couldn't get them out of my mind.  Day after day, for a whole month, I couldn't stop thinking about them.

So I decided to risk it.  I put together a power point about how awesome it would be and how well they would fit into our family and how easy it would be to get the money in place.  (What?  Don't you talk to your husband through such emotionally connected mediums as Power Point?)  I gave my presentation and closed with, "Let me know if you have any questions."

Two weeks later when I followed up, he told me he thought I had been joking.  Yep, I had managed to 'risk it' in such a safe way that it came across as a joke.  Did you hear the one about the girl that wanted to adopt a couple of pre-teens?  Hahaha.

So I kept bringing it up and bringing it up and bringing it up.  I wish I could say I was engaging in open discussions about what was best for our family; however, I almost always started on the defensive.  These were 'my' kids (ummm...I mean 'our' kids) and no one was going to get in my way.  Most of my attempts at 'discussion' were either offhand jokes that no one would take seriously or full on assaults that any one would run for cover from.

Needless to say, the only thing I really succeeded in doing was picking multiple fights.  One of them in Panda Express!  Who fights in Panda Express?!?  Sweet fire chicken is about love!  Broccoli beef is about peace!

So I resolved to stop bullying my husband.  Which is to say that I stopped arguing and started praying for the perfect things to say that would help him change his mind.

At the same time, I also stopped praying that we would be able to adopt the twins and started praying that their family would come for them soon.  Now, if we're honest, I'd always quickly add, "and if it's your will, I'm perfectly happy for that family to be us", but I did mean what I said.  They had been in an orphanage for about 17 months at this point.  They needed a family that was ready to come for them.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago.  I logged on to the waiting child list and saw the worst...

Their picture was gone.

The taste was bitter.

But it was also the best...

Their picture was gone!

The taste was sweet.

My prayers had been answered.  A family had committed to them.  If my information is correct, these two amazing kids will be coming to their new home in January.  My hope was that they would find a home before the start of the second year in the orphanage and they will.  They are going home with a family (orphans no more!) two months before the two year mark.

And it's great.  And it sucks.  And I cried.  But I also smiled because, like I said, it's great.

So, I put myself out there and I took a risk.  And it would be easy to say that I failed because I don't get to have these two children as part of my family.  However, I did learn quite a bit about myself.  Some of it was not so flattering, such as the fact that when I have an emotional investment in a discussion I default to comedienne or bully.  I need to find the middle ground where I can actually have an honest discussion, rather than just advocating for my position regardless of any concerns raised by the other party.  Especially when that other party is my husband!  Some of it was useful, such as my spreadsheet analysis of 29 (29!) individual insurance policies for a family of 4 taking into account necessary medical checkups, labs and monthly medicines.  I kind of rocked that data.  And, no, I won't do the same for you unless you're paying me $100/hour because flipping through insurance contracts to read all the small print so you make sure you aren't missing any details is hell on earth.

Like I said, I stepped outside of my comfort zone.  I took a risk.  I got hurt.  But I also had the chance to pray two beautiful kids home.

It was definitely bitter.  But also sweet.

I still prefer the milk chocolate (in food and life), but bittersweet's not so bad.


  1. This was heartbreaking to read, even though I already knew the ending. I doubt you bully, defensiveness and bullying are two different things. Communication is a two way street and I double dog doubt you are the only one with communication issues, if you prepared a power point presentation and your husband thought you were joking. I hope the lessons learned are not lost to time. Love you!

  2. P.S. For some weird reason, I love the taste of bitter... also you are just as brave as me, just in different things and you work harder.

  3. Ah, Jessica...loved this! And, I *love* bitter as the last person that commented! So, now I have to wonder what that means about me! LOL! I'm wondering who your child or children will be....there is definitely someone waiting for *you*....lucky them! :-)

  4. Oh my gosh, I am SO proud of you!!! I love it when people step outside the box and actually take adoption seriously and consider doing it. I know that if you were here, Alisha would probably kiss you for what you attempted to do.

  5. I don't know you, but found your blog via "adreamadoption.blogspot.com". You are a great writer and a strong woman! Keep on praying and learning, I'm sure you'll be a beautiful mommy!
    PS I love bittersweet chocolate, but I hope I learn as well as you do in the bittersweet of life!