Hollywood is an Idiot

I’m really quite angry with Hollywood right now.  There are lots of reasons I could be mad, from the plethora of poorly made movies with weak plots to the regurgitation of concepts (just how many CSI shows do we need?)   No, I’m getting sick of the inappropriate image Hollywood has of adoption.

It’s no secret that I am an adoptive parent.  Both of my children and full blooded siblings and adopted.  I’m incredibly frustrated by the data kept on adoption and the way that it gets jumbled together.  It makes getting a solid look at what adoption means in this country difficult.  So perhaps I’m being a little hard on Hollywood, since it is hard to understand the public perception of adoption seems so hard to grasp.

With that said, Hollywood has absolutely glamorized the concept of adoptive children reuniting with their birth parents.  I can’t help but think this is somehow not positive for adoptive families.  I’m all for adult adoptees finding their birth families, if that is what they want.  What I don’t appreciate is Hollywood glamorizing teens and pre-teens going out on their own searching for their birth parents.

This is a dangerous concept to adoptive families.  Raising a teenager is difficult enough without giving teenagers the idea that life is better if they leave the family that raised them for the unknown.  The Hollywood happy ending is not the only outcome.  I know of an adoptive family that nearly ripped apart because their teenage daughter desperate to meet her birth mother.  The adoptive family knew the story, tried to explain that the birth mother was not someone she wanted to meet, but the daughter wouldn’t listen.  She glamorized her birth mother, just knew living with her birth mother had to be better than living with her adoptive mother.  In the end, the adoptive mother traveled to Texas to visit the birth mother with her daughter.  On death row.  But that daughter just knew finding her birth mother would end like it does in the movies.  A happy reunion and a new and better life.

I look at my two sweet children and wonder what teenage years are going to be like.  Will I survive the first time one of them tell me I’m not their “real” dad?  Will I cry or scream?  Or both?  I already have heard “I don’t love you” and that breaks my heart.  What will I do when they “disown” me.

Hopefully I’ll remember that I said similar things to my parents.  That teenagers have no concept of other people’s feelings, and they say things they don’t mean.  That teenagers are God’s curse for everything you did wrong in your life.  I just don’t appreciate Hollywood adding to the aggravation.

5 Years Ago Today

Five years ago today, I was getting ready for work.  I needed to drop my son off at daycare yet, and hadn’t made it out the door, when the phone rang.  It was Mimi, and the news was that the baby was on the way.  This caused little excitement, because the baby had been on the way once a week for the past month.

So I asked how sure Mimi was, and this time the water broke.  That’s a pretty sure sign that the baby REALLY was coming (or so I’m told) so we kicked it into high gear.

The son got dropped off at Nana’s, we headed to the hospital.  On the way, employers were called.  Arrangement had been in place, and as we rushed to the hospital, we activated them.

Once at the hospital, we rushed to the proper floor… asked about the birth mother…  and she WAS NOT THERE!

In a panic, we called Mimi.  Where was she?  Did she need a ride?  Did we need to go get her?  I had a vision of the birth mother stuck at her apartment giving birth RIGHT NOW and no one was there.  Mimi made some calls and assured us that wasn’t the case.  She was on her way.

Hours later, days from the way it felt, the birth mother arrived, and all sorts of things went haywire.  We gave the hospital our paperwork, showing we were the legal guardians of the baby as soon as it arrived.  The social worker refused to take the paperwork, saying she didn’t need it.  We were angry, but as long as we could be there for the birth, we didn’t want to rock the boat.

But it quickly became annoying.  Nurses would ask the birth mother what she was naming the baby.  She’s politely point to my wife and say “Ask the mother.”  Nurses openly scoffed at us, ignored us, and refused to accept us as in any way legitimately part of this baby’s family.

We tried to give the social worker the paperwork.  Again.  The court order, telling the hospital to treat us like the parents.  They refused to even read it.

Babies come the way babies do.  We were given the baby and a room next door to the delivery to meet with family.  I wasn’t in the room for the delivery, which trust me I’m fine with, and didn’t know at the time but the birth mother had problems.  She was bleeding and they couldn’t stop it.  Because the birth mother gave us the baby, and we took it next door, the nurses were reluctant but fine with it.  Not because the baby was ours, but because the birth mother approved.

For the next hour, while they worked on the birth mother, we thought things were better.  We got to hold our baby, we got to show our baby off to people who came by to check on us.  It ended abruptly.

We were taken upstairs to the maternity ward, but we were not given the nifty armbands that let us get the baby.  We weren’t given the room we had arranged for.  We weren’t given access at all, the baby was taken and slipped behind the glass, and we were banned from its life.

Again the birth mother came to our rescue, instructing the nurses to give my wife an armband, and let my wife do the first bath.  All our access to the child that was legally ours was granted us only at the insistence of the birth mother, who the hospital continually pushed to not allow us access.

When the birth mother, who didn’t understand what was going on, told them emphatically no.  That we were the parents, and our medical wishes were the ones that mattered, the hospital took it upon themselves to act.  Ignoring our paperwork again, the head nurse of the hospital maternity ward called us into a private meeting.  The purpose, to throw us out.  To educate us on the “law” and how we had no right to be there.  None.

Now one of the reasons we took the legal tactic we did was because my wife wanted to attempt to breast feed.  She’d been on hormones and using a pump and was ready.  Now the hospital was kicking us out, ruining that chance and that experience for my wife.  I was NOT happy.

Prior to the meeting, I called my lawyer, who went into high gear.  I went into the meeting angry, but fully expecting to be kicked out of the hospital.  Once that had happened I was going to go to my lawyer and demand we file suit and sue the hospital into the stone age for denying my wife access to our child.  I sat in the meeting as the head nurse lectured us about how it was going to be, and how we had to leave, and not come back until the day the baby could go home.  And then ONLY if the birth mother wanted us to.

I glared.  I stammered.  I did deep breaths to hold in my temper.

And the phone rang.

The head nurse took the call, and the social worker picked up with the lecture about how it was GOING to be.  The nurse tried to stop her as she stammered “Yes sir” over and over again on the phone.  She almost frantically tried to silence the social worker who ignorantly and arrogantly prattled on about how she new the law, that our order wasn’t valid, and the courts clearly hadn’t written it.  That there was NO WAY we had any legal right to our child.

The head nurse finally managed to shut the social worker up and handed her the phone.  The head nurse sat silently, all but glaring at us as the social worker went through a similar “Yes sir” session on the phone.  We stared back at them.  No one talked.

The social worker hung up the phone and looked at the head nurse.  She shrugged, and looked at the table.  The head nurse took a deep sigh.  She informed us that they had no rooms currently available but that we would get the next one.  We could see our child at any time, simply ask the floor nurse.  We were welcome to stay in the room we were in now, and could have guests and the baby in that room until a regular room was available.  She then got up and walked out.

What happened to bring about the change is unclear.  Our lawyer faxed the order over to the lawyer for the hospital.  That lawyer read the order and wasn’t happy with the advice he’d earlier given the social worker.  He was pretty upset, as I understand it, that the social worker didn’t immediately fax the court order to him.

In the end, we got the baby and the room.  And we walked out of the hospital not owing them a dime.  Neither us, nor the insurance, got billed for that birth.  Nor did the birth mother or her medicad.  The entire bill just… vanished.  The social worker came by later to apologize.  We never say the head nurse again.  We did get called later by the hospital to join a committee to review their adoptive parent procedures.  We declined, we were far to angry still.

So that’s the exciting story in the middle of the happiest day of my life.  I’m still bitter at the hospital about that, but later learned that the law had changed and we were the first Huntsville couple and one of the first in Alabama to adopt under the new law that allowed us to have custody the second the baby was born.  Huntsville Hospital was completely caught off guard by us.

But in the end, we had a healthy baby girl.  The drama was forgotten and the joy of that new life was ours.

Happy Birthday, my little groundhog…

5 Years Ago Today

Man, I’m brain dead today. I haven’t been able to think straight cause I’ve got a bit of a stuffy nose and the meds make me feel all loopy and stuff. But I’ve also been kinda just not thinking. Immersed in a book, as it were. And I gotta tell you, it feels good NOT to think.

Sometimes I think we all think to much. Not enough smelling of the roses. Not enough quiet contemplation. I’d forgotten how nice it is to sit in a comfortable chair and lose yourself in someone else’s story. Or to just actively not think about stuff.

I suppose if you’re new age, that’s called meditation. Or maybe it’s old age, but I really think I need to try to get to that point daily. Cause, while all my problems didn’t go away, they don’t seem as insurmountable anymore. And I get to look at them fresh. Or at least, fresher.

So yea… I’m brain dead today. And yes, I’m loving it.

A few of my favorite things

Looking at pictures on my iPhone today.  Realized that I had a picture of two of my favorite birthday presents on there.  So although I’ve already shown them to you once, I’ve decided to show them again.  Because, well… today IS my birthday.

So, here it is, two of my favorite all time presents:

Two birthday presents for the price of one.

Two birthday presents for the price of one.

There they are.  And yes, I’m including the boy as one of my all time favorite birthday presents.

Surprised?  Well here is the story.  Five years ago today, in the offices of the Madison County Probate Judge’s office, the judge banged down a gavel and the boy in that picture, much much younger at the time, became mine.  Sean’s adoption was finalized on June 23rd, 2004.  I turned 34 the same day.

I’m now 39, and in seven more days, Sean will turn 6.  He was just shy of turning one when we got him.  Of course, he had been living with us for a while by then, but five years ago today it became official and I became a dad in the eyes of the law, even though I’d been the kid’s father for several months by then.

Since then my family, and my boats, have grown.  But it all started with that little boy.

Sean shortly after adoption

Sean shortly after adoption

Lots of things have changed, but little about the last five years would I give up.  We missed the first 7 months of this little buggers life, but I hope we’ve made up for that in the last 5 years.

Next week we take him to a special place for his 6th birthday.  But I’ll keep those plans under wraps till we get back.

Happy Birthday to me, but more importantly – Happy Adoption Day Sean!

The Politics of Theology

A friend of mine recently told me that she homechurches.  It was a tongue and cheek response to a complaint I twittered during the latest church business meeting I attended. She also pointed out that being a homechurcher makes her statistically holier than thou. Also we can wear lingerie to mass.

That aside, she brings up an important point.  People experience both Church and God in different way.  It’s very hard to say that someones actions aren’t “Christian” or aren’t “holy” when what you’re really saying is “your view of theology differs from mine.”

Ultimately “Church” is an attempt to convince people that theology you practice is the “right” one.  Clearly we’ve been unsuccessful at it since we haven’t been able to create one “true” church.  So instead we find a church that suits our theology or is persuasive enough to overcome our disagreements.

Finding such a church proved increasingly difficult for my family at the turn of the century.  I didn’t feel a connection to the church I grew up in.  At the same time, I learned I didn’t make a good Methodist, and left the church I’d found a comfortable theology with after the Bishop moved the pastor that attracted us to the church. I intellectually understand the concept of changing the pastors to prevent a cult of personality, but ultimately it is the personality of a church that makes me want to attend.

Ultimately one woman showed my family where we connected the most, and that connection came about because of our similar theology and life situations.  While I no longer attended my home church, I did attend a special Christmas service every year.  It was at one of those services that a new pastor at the church grabbed me and my wife and basically talked us into giving the church another chance.  She managed to do this by connecting with us in a way that no pastor had since my childhood.

That woman is Jana Williams.  She understood the basic anger my wife and I had with God over our inability to conceive a child.  Jana had gone through the same issues and ended up adopting a wonderful girl prior to her arrival at the church.  She’s currently well along in adopting another child.  In that time my wife and I have adopted two children of our own, and so we have much in common personally and thankfully theologically with Jana.

Since I gave up on my childhood church the entire staff had changed.  None of the pastors of my youth still lead the church.  In fact, one of my youth group members is now on staff at the church as a minister.  So I’m happy to find that with the change of staff my old home has become my new church home.

I’ve gone into this detail for a reason.  It’s important to realize that I did search for a home.  While I may be in my childhood home, it isn’t out of habit or comfort.  Many of the same disconnect issues are there, but I ignore them because the theology and the people mean more to me.  And Jana and her husband, who is also a minister at the church, mean more to me.

As a rule, I don’t like politics.  I used to think politics was everything, but now I loath it.  Personally I think all politicians are crooked and worthless and I don’t care if they are elephants or asses.  This dislike extends all the way to church politics, a topic I’ve ignored for years.  Until recently.

I’d heard rumblings of dislike surrounding the politics of my church for a couple of years.  I didn’t pay much attention because I didn’t want to know.  I don’t know or care what cliques are present in the church.  I attend for the theology and the opportunity for my children to be exposed to what I think is a good and healthy view of church and Christ. But now I’m thinking I’m going to have to rethink my self imposed ignorance.

One of the ways I serve my church is to participate in duties as one of the sound techs for the services.  It’s a skill I have, so using it for the good of the church is easy.  This past week was my week for duty, and normally that is no problem.  Except that this Wednesday night was a business meeting.  Church business.  Which is really just another way of saying Church Politics.

Since I was not up to speed on the political maneuvers of the church, I wasn’t really prepared for the onslaught of new “policies” from the “personnel committee.”  I’m still unclear as to what prompted the four proposals for policy changes that were introduced.  At least one of them seemed to be specifically aimed at hurting the people who mean so much to me at the church.  The Williams.

I’m not going to pretend to understand exactly how the decisions of the personnel committee came to be.  What disturbs me is that they don’t seem to match what I view the church’s theology and tradition to be.

Jana had a brilliant and exciting study idea, and requested a study leave to pursue it.  I was to help her with it and had gotten quite excited about it and bombarded her with emails and suggestions on how to go about studying it.  Then she stopped asking me questions and stopped talking about it.  I just thought I’d come on to strong so I didn’t ask any questions, but it turned out the Personnel committee had denied her study leave.

They did, however, approve her husband’s leave.  Seems some on the committee didn’t like the idea that two pastors would take study leave at the same time.  Never mind that they are married.  Never mind that NOT taking the leave together increased the burden and difficulty of the leave and never mind that the study plan of one of them would really impact the church.  No, they just couldn’t possibly take leave at the same time, even though they planned the leave for the time when it would impact the church the least.

Whatever the reasoning behind this, I can not believe it is coincidental that the committee chose to propose a change to the leave policy of the church immediately following their denial of Jana’s study leave.  In the past the policy was at the discretion of the senior pastor.  But now, the personnel committee wanted to be involved in any decision regarding leave that would make two ministers have overlapping leave of more than a week.

This would mean any time Jana and her husband decided to take a vacation of more than a week they would have to justify and explain their plans to the approval of the personnel committee.  A cruise, to visit family, to go drink margaritas on the beach had to have the explicit approval of this committee.  (I’m not suggesting that Jana drinks.  She is a baptist preacher after all)

And I’m supposed to believe that they didn’t attempt to institute this policy immediatly following the denial of Jana’s request to take two months leave with her husband?

Now how fair would it be to you if you had to justify your leave request with your HR department every single time you wanted to leave?  Your supervisor would no longer be allowed to approve accrued leave that you had already earned, but instead had to pass on your request to the HR department.  Most of us would be quite upset with that kind of arrangement, but that is exactly what happened here.

Personally I found it a slap in the face to the senior pastor and an unfair burden to our only married staff members.  It was almost a vote of no confidence by the committee in our senior pastors ability to manage his staff.  Either that, or a slap in the face of the only married staffers.  Either way, it isn’t a nice way to run your business.  Your church business.

Thankfully the policy as written didn’t pass.  Instead, the policy was amended at the meeting to allow the senior pastor the authority to approve leave for up to three weeks of overlapping leave.  I’d rather have had the entire policy done away with, but at least it was significantly weakened prior to passing.

So now I’m at a crossroads.  I can no longer be blind to the politics at the church, nor can I assume that they aren’t intended to hurt someone.  Or at least, if not intended to hurt, then not enough thought went into them about how they would really effect real people.  And something in MY theology says that’s not right.  So now I’m left to decide if this church and my theology really do mesh.

I was happier when I was ignorant.  Isn’t there a saying about that?

Life Changing Technology

Technology can be lifechanging. In medicine new tech could be a matter of life or death. But forget all that heady stuff, here is my list of the most personal life changing tech of the past twenty some-odd years.

Everything from Apple:
Okay, this is a big topic. Apple computer has certainly changed my life over the past couple of decades. From there revolutionary computers (which Is why we all have mice in our hands) to the iPhone I’m using to write this blog, Apple impacts my life more than any other technology on the planet.

Before I am labeled a MacEvangelist, although I am, let me say this: I use PCs to and even like them. This isn’t about which is the better computer but which impacts my life the greatest. I use Final Cut Pro daily. I love my iPhone. My home has 20 Macs, with most of them working including a Mac 128, with the signatures in the case. (for the uninitiated, that’s a really old mac) Apple permiates my life in a way no other company does. If I was richer, it would be even more in my life. I want a big screen tv with an apple tv box.

Microsoft Office:
Love it our hate it, Office dominates much of what we do on a computer. Word has all but eliminated the idea of a secretary while powerpoint has addicted more executives than meth. I don’t think I go through a day without dealing with some sort of office document.

The digital video recorder has become the main way I watch television today. I would never have kept up with Michael and Fiona (Burn Notice, I love that show) without it. I watch very few shows with any regularity. All of them are watched through the DVR rather than “live.”

Cellular Telephones:
I know I’ve recently become enamored with my iPhone lately, but I’m talking cell phones in general. For nearly two years I have been a part of a growing number of Americans who have given up landlines in favor of going compleatly wireless. My first phone was a massive contraption in a bag back in 1988. Today it Is this tiny iPhone that can do things that bag phone couldn’t dream of. But it has the same phone number. That’s right. Twenty years this christmas.

Fingerprint scanners
Okay, I don’t really know if that technology I’d new or not. And frankly I hope I never need it again. I adopted both my kids and in Alabama you need a background check. Usually one goes to the local sheriff and gets one the old fashion ink and paper way. That gets sent off and scanned and a few weeks later you get a report. Only it didn’t work that way for us.

With a court date looming and my wife’s fingerprints rejected we needed drastic measures. So my wife drove to Montgomery and had her fingerprints scanned directly into the system. The result was a report on the judges desk in minutes. And a new baby in or home.

Now that is truly life changing.