PK and the Gang

Bringing Eastern Europe to Eastern North Carolina

Archive for the category “Poland”

Our Polish Life

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Jasna Gora – the home to the Black Madonna of Czestochowa

Since the visit from our facilitator, adoption center official and psychologist, and PK’s court-appointed guardian, life has been fairly quiet. A relatively lazy day usually accompanied by an outing somewhere. Yesterday, walking home from a visit to Jasna Gora, the monastery that is home to the Black Madonna of Czestochowa, Becky and I were talking about how strange it is to only have the two of us to really share the day with. Except for Skyping with family and a random talk or two with our agency and facilitator, Becky is the only other English-speaking person in my world, and, I, hers. This makes conversation interesting. We can’t share what’s happened during the day because the other person is, at most, a room away and so we already know what’s gone on.

Today, we said that our next update should focus on sharing some of those things that we would share with each other if we were experiencing this adventure alone. Submitted for your enjoyment…aspects of our daily life in Poland.

Animal sounds: PK loves to look at books and her favorites are flap books. We remembered this from our last trip and brought two over with us: Dear Zoo and Where’s Spot? Multiple times a day, we go through the books. She lifts a flap, we name the animal, make the sound, and do the ASL sign for it. She’s picking it all up though she’s annoyed giraffe’s don’t have a sound and lions sound more like they say, “LOLZ!”

Bathing: Our flat has the amazing bathroom that I mentioned in a previous post. Bathing has been interesting though on a few fronts. Before we left on this trip, our social worker warned us that Polish kids tend to hate baths and when PK first started living with us, man, was that the truth. She’s gotten to where she loves them and has her hair washed like a trooper. God help you, though, if you can’t get the shivering little thing dried off and dressed fast enough. She will make sure that you know she is displeased. For the adults, the difficulty comes when we have somewhere to be in the morning. There is a shower head but no curtain so, unless you are either very skilled or very thin, water is going to get EVERYWHERE if you try to take a shower. On a day with nothing to do you can draw yourself a bath. I’ve learned to enjoy a bath again, even if the tub is a bit narrow. A morning where you have to get out of the house, however, doesn’t allow for this luxury. The method we have resorted to is drawing a shallow layer of water in the bottom of the tub so you don’t freeze to death, grabbing the shower head (it’s on a hose) and trying to wash yourself as thoroughly and quickly as possible. Becky is naturally better at this than I am. I am still scarred by a certain tub experience in the UK where I attempted this and everything except me got throughly wet. My family enjoys the show Everybody Loves Raymond and there is an episode that seems especially poignant during one of the Barone family trips to Italy. Ray finds himself in the same situation as I have and ends up getting help from a distant relative. I believe I may have paid money during my first Polish shower-bath experience to have the help he did. To see the clip, click here.

Crossing the Street: Poland takes their jaywalking laws seriously. Thankfully, it is clearly marked where you walk and when you walk. If the crosswalk light is red, you don’t cross (and people actually follow this). When the light is green, hoof it to the other side. Simple enough in theory. The trick is when you factor in traffic. Not every crosswalk has a traffic light attached to it. Big intersections, like the one to Jasna Gora, do and so you feel safe heading across the street. Smaller crosswalks often lack this curtesy. You’re still expected to walk when the light is green but that doesn’t mean a car won’t start pulling through the intersection as you start to cross. I’ve had a car stop about two inches from my kneecaps. Becky and I are pros now and can now step in front of a moving bus and not think it’s that big of a deal. Note to self: Revert to my old habits back in the States where cars sometimes don’t even stop for the stop sign in front of my museum.

Other Street Etiquette: The Poles are a warm and hospitable people, at least the ones that I have come across. However, they reserve their smiles for people they are actually interacting with. My Southern habit of smiling and nodding to everyone on the street is just not something that is done here. I can understand this. I’ll give you that the Polish method is actually more genuine. This is something that is harder for me to break than walking blindly into an intersection on faith. I’m the guy who walked down the streets of Brooklyn happily smiling at people who’s looks showed they knew I was either insane or a hayseed. I’ve dialed it back a bit here, though, to blend in a bit more. Still, I get strange looks for my slight, quirk of a smile and bob of the head.

TV: For our last bit this evening, I’ll focus on the one thing that still blows my and Becky’s minds. I like to think of us as a bit cosmopolitan. We’ve travelled. Becky’s lived overseas while she got her Master’s. Still, neither of us has lived in a non-English speaking country. We know that there is no good reason for Poles to watch TV in English. We speak so little Polish that the TV is on for background sound more than anything. There is the occasional movie in English. I’ve seen a good portion of Cloud Atlas now, as well as a very bad Nicholas Cage movie called Next. The thing that we have a very hard time wrapping our head around is something called lektor. When a foreign TV show or movie is shown in Poland, 9 times out of 10, instead of getting voice actors to dub the original language or showing subtitles there is a deep-voiced man saying all the lines in a monotone.

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Our current home away from home

After doing some research, we’ve learned that it’s a holdover from the Communist Era and because it is what people are used to, it’s what they do. Besides, it’s cheaper than paying voice actors. When Friends first came to Poland, they first hired six voice actors but it was a flop. When the networks got rid of the voice actors and got a lektor in to do the show, ratings sky-rocketed. Children’s programs almost all feature voice actors. From what we were able to find, it’s a way to try to get future audiences to prefer voice actors because it is what they are used to. Time will tell what the voice of Polish programs will sound like in another 15 years. In the meantime, if you would like a glimpse at what lektor-ing is like click here for a bit of a familiar film we captured a few nights ago. You may need to turn your volume up.

I hope that this doesn’t sound like we are complaining about certain aspects of our life. Becky and I are thrilled to have this time alone with PK in her country of birth and get to know and experience some of the culture. It gives us stories and knowledge to share with her about her original home town and country and helps us open our eyes and remember that we are global citizens. One way is not better than the other; they are simply different. This is our life and the little quirks that make it interesting.

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Today in Poland

Polish Eagle CloseupToday Americans celebrate Veterans Day. We remember and pay respect to those who dedicate their lives to protect our freedoms. In other countries, such as the UK and France, will hold Armistice Day celebrations. Armistice Day celebrates the end of World War I (and our Veterans Day has the same roots) remembering those who participated in the Great War and paid the ultimate price. Poland also has a celebration today. A major celebration. November 11th is Independence Day.

Polish Independence Day also gets its start from World War I. While Poles remember their countrymen who died during the Great War, the end of the War was a time of great celebration because, after over 120 years of not existing on the map, the end of the war brought back the Polish state. Poland, once previously a great European power, had been divided up between Germany, the Austro-Hungarian Empire and Russia. Poles relished the rebirth of their country and celebrated with relish. Of course, they only had a few years to celebrate before Hitler invaded and Poland disappeared again. After the war, Poland became part of the USSR and the November 11th Independence Day was replaced with a day marking the beginning of Communist rule. Independence Day returned when the Third Polish Republic was founded in 1989 and have continued ever since.

Today, Poles celebrate with a ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, parades and the Independence Run – a massive race throughout Warsaw. The city of Poznan also celebrates the Feast of Saint Martin, the towns patron saint. This involves a parade where a man dressed as a Roman soldier who receives the key to the city. The Roman soldier represents St. Martin who was a soldier before becoming a Christian (the early church refused to allow soldiers as members) and eventually being chosen as the bishop of Tours. Also popular in Poznan is a croissant-like pastry representing the horseshoe that features in one of St. Martin’s legends.

In Warsaw, though, Independence Day often does not end happily. As the the afternoon turns into the evening, the last several years have seen more and more demonstrations from extreme right-wing groups. Poles are extremely proud of their Polish-ness and, in recent years, these groups have gone out of their way to press their ideas. These groups have had clashes with police or each other that have grown in their intensity over the last few years. Last year there were 41 criminal cases from these clashes and many people were sent to the hospital. Muslim immigrants have been spat on or attacked and last year and this year, IBM told its Polish employees that those who felt safer working from home should do so. The acceptance of Syrian refugees is not a popular topic in Poland and these feelings could serve to fan the flames. The American Embassy even put out a notice to Americans of places and times that should be avoided to keep away from the trouble. Warsaw is where all international adoptions are finalized in Poland so please keep the families there in your thoughts as much as the minorities who have come to approach what should be a day of freedom with trepidation.

A Bumpy Ride

poland-151461_1280 (1)Sometimes the trip to PK seems to take forever. In fact, a lot of the time the days seem to drag out. This past weekend, however, has been an intense rollercoaster ride of emotion.

Thursday afternoon, Becky and I got an email around 3:30pm saying that the agency had accepted the dossier and that Friday it should be on its way to Poland. Mission accomplished! The paperwork that we’d been working on for a year and a half was FINALLY finished. Now, we just had to be patient and wait for a phone call saying that Poland had a child for us to consider. We’ve been told that it takes about three months to translate the paperwork and so that would put us around mid-January staring at our phones and willing them to ring. Imagine my surprise when I get a phone call from our agency about ten minutes later saying that they had a child for us to consider.

We had been told that, on a rare occasion, a situation like this could happen. Occasionally, a family has to, for one reason or another, turn down a referral. When this happens, sometimes Poland allows the agency to look through its other waiting families and see if there is another possible fit. Since our agency had accepted our dossier, we were eligible, met the stipulations for this particular child and the fact that they had just read our dossier made them think of us. We said that we definitely would be interested in considering this child. They told us that, instead of the usual 14 days to consider, we had until Tuesday. After that, Thursday is a blur of me acting out of my head trying to process the speed at which this all happened, figure out where we could pull the needed money out of thin air, calling family, reading medical info and watching a video of this little boy who could possibly be our baby. It was hard to get to sleep and I kept telling myself that this needed to not just be a heart decision – the head had to get included as well.

Friday morning brought about strange feelings. It was all still a bit surreal. The rush had worn off some and I think the pressures of everyday life – going to work, giving a lecture, etc. – helped ground us a bit. A look back over the medical records, showed that a bit of information we had glossed over and explained away the night before really was the potential to be a big issue we just weren’t sure we could handle. To top it off, for all the praying we had done, we just didn’t feel a peace about it. Some good conversations and some tears later, we decided to wait until Saturday to really make the decision. When we woke up, both of us were on the same page – he wasn’t ours.

Those words were so hard to say, they were hard to say when we called our families, when I told our agency that we were passing on this referral and they’re hard to type. How do you, in essence, tell a child that you’re not their parents? It may sound silly but the moment we saw his picture, he’s stolen a little part of our hearts. He’s adorable. He’s got a fun personality. He’s just got another family out there, somewhere, that can meet his needs better than we can. It doesn’t make it hurt any less, though. Becky and I have been grieving the last few days for ‘what-might-have-beens’ and been feeling massively guilty. Words just really fail to convey everything that is going on inside. We went to the internet, since it apparently knows all, and searched for people who had experienced what we were going through. One page described it like a miscarriage. I don’t know. Thankfully, Becky and I have been spared the pain of that type of loss. I do know that I still feel like I’ve been punched in the gut and that someone’s tap-danced on my heart. You comfort yourself with the fact that PK is still out there, that this little boy has parents who are dreaming of him like we are PK but, honestly, the best comfort is that even though he isn’t PK, he’s always going to have me rooting for him. When I hear the song that he was rocking out to in the video, I’ll think of him and toss out a prayer. When I’m looking at the adoption Facebook groups that I’m a part of, I’ll hope that one day his face will pop up there with his forever family and thank God that they are better able to care for him than we would have been.

Where does this leave us? Where we were at 3:30pm Thursday. We’re back waiting for our dossier to get over to Poland and to be translated. For now, the roller coaster ride has smoothed out. We’re thankful for this experience, this preview of coming attractions. We’re thankful for the encouragement and the support that we’ve gotten so far. For now, we’ll keep day-dreaming, work on fundraising, and be very grateful that we have months instead of weeks to try and master Polish.

Polish Holidays and a Huge Thank You

I want to start this post with a huge thank you! Our Chrome Buffalo drive ended on Wednesday and Becky and I feel so blessed. Through your generosity, we received $330 through the drive site and with other gifts and donations during the drive we raised another $150! This money will go towards sending our dossier to Poland. Next week, we actually head to Durham to have our fingerprints taken by USCIS which will lead to the last form we need for the dossier. After that, we just have one more (very large) stack of papers to send to get apostilled!

Our Lady of Czestochowa, the Polish Black Madonna

Our Lady of Czestochowa, the Polish Black Madonna

While we are doing our own little celebration because we’ve been so blessed, today is a pretty big holiday in Poland as well. August 15 is a kind of double holiday there – the Feast of the Assumption and Polish Armed Forces Day. The feast of the Assumption celebrates the belief that Mary was taken bodily up into Heaven. The Catholic churches will have special masses today and many people will make the pilgrimage to Jasna Gora Monastery in Czestochowa where Poland’s famous Black Madonna is kept. There are several legends surrounding the icon including that it was originally painted by St. Luke on a tabletop belonging to the Holy Family (though studies point towards it actually being a Byzantine icon) that came to Poland in the 1300s. Another legend surrounds how it got its dark coloring and the scars on Mary’s face. Hussites (a protestant group predating the Reformation and very opposed to icons) stormed the Pauline monastery in 1430, plundering the sanctuary. Among the items stolen was the icon. After putting it in their wagon, the Hussites tried to get away but their horses refused to move. They threw the portrait down to the ground and one of the plunderers drew his sword upon the image and inflicted two deep strikes. When the robber tried to inflict a third strike, he fell to the ground and writhed in agony until his death. Despite past attempts to repair these scars, they had difficulty in covering up those slashes as the painting was done with tempera infused with diluted wax. Another legend states that, as the robber struck the painting twice, the face of the Virgin Mary started to bleed; in a panic, the scared Hussites retreated and left the painting. The painting is still kept as Jasna Gora and many Catholics travel to pay homage the painting.

Today is also Polish Armed Forces Day. It is in honor of the Polish military and a way to remember the victory of the Battle of Warsaw in 1920. During the battle, the largely outnumbered Polish forces held off the invading Red Army, ensuring Polish independence for a time. Many national cemeteries will have a reading of the soldiers who died in battle. Today will also hold a very ceremonious changing of the guard at the Poland’s Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

I’m loving learning more and more of the culture of PK’s home country and want to share it with you all. While we might not celebrate all the Polish holidays when we have PK here, I’m going to have to start making a note of which days I should wear red and white – the Polish colors.

Again, thank you all so much for all of your support and love! Until next time!

In which our heroes survive their home study…

It was a long week for everyone. Rex is still recovering.

It was a long week for everyone. Rex is still recovering.

This past week has been a whirlwind. After we found out we were having the home study, I think a secret signal was sent to pull out all the stops. Work was wild, my family joined us in a multi-prong approach to clean the house and prep for a yard sale, we held said yard sale, and then the day of the actual home study. Rex the Dog had a rather exciting week with people coming in and out of the house. He’s a big fan of my niece and nephew. My mind had Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive” running through my head all week. Thanks to everyone who donated things to the yard sale and to everyone who purchased things as well! The yard sale was a great success! The money raised through the sale covers the next step on the journey and the money we already have will cover the rest of the home study plus put a good dent in the money for the dossier (which is the next big milestone).

Sunday Becky and I were a bit on edge. The time leading up to our appointment seemed to drag. Thankfully, I work with a great lady who has been through the international adoption process who gave me some very important advice, “Don’t worry. The agency’s job is to make you look good. They want you to adopt.” My mind bounced around between that and more than a bit of panic. The social worker was great. She knew we were anxious and started right away to making us more comfortable. On of her first statements was that we had already applied to the agency and they had accepted us. If they had concerns they would have addressed them, this was to prepare the paperwork for the US and Polish government (which shows how common the fear has to be). Granted, always plan for a hiccup or two – ne’er did the course of adoption run smooth. The calm way she said we were accepted made a feeling of peace fall on the whole meeting.

She reviewed how the adoption process with Poland works. It was pretty much all review for us (the benefit of being a nerd who likes homework). We talked about how the referral process works and then worked on the wording for our home study papers. This will tell the various officials how old of a child we want, how many, if we have a preference of a boy or a girl, and what sort of issues we would be willing to consider.  We’re going for one child, boy or girl, up to five years of age (which basically means up to four because according to how the paperwork goes a child of 5 years and a day would be too old). Along with the usual wording about special/medical needs, ours will have a sentence about being very open to a deaf child. We also had the surprise of being called a young couple. We’re both over 30. We’ve never been called young in regards to starting our family, especially by Southern standards. When we got married I was 27, just about to turn 28 and a lot of my friends from college and high school had at least one baby under their belt and several were working on number two (or more). Still, we got called young and with as much gray hair as I’m getting, I’ll take it!

Most of the meeting we were together. There was a short bit where we spoke to the social worker separately. While there had been times I had mixed feelings about that, I completely understand how good that is. It’s a time to ask questions, or to talk about parts of your history that could be painful and, God forbid, a chance for a potential parent to come clean that they aren’t really feeling this whole parenting gig. She asked about my Tourette’s and how that affects my life (aside from the occasional hoot or flap, it doesn’t) and how my family felt about adoption (they couldn’t be more supportive. I think, if we didn’t keep a close watch on my mom, she would fly to Poland, grab a kid and drop them off at our front door just to speed up the process). I actually asked her why there is the big hush around home studies. She said part of it could be the personal nature and part could be the major differences between how international adoption agencies and DSS run things. We chatted about the need to work to make the home study less mysterious. The last thing she did was a quick tour of the house. Seriously, like three minutes. Still, both Becky and I were glad for the work that we (us and the family) did on that front.

Becky and I have some more homework to do before the next meeting for the home study. It’s mostly information gathering and mailing some things off. Sometime, near the end of April, we’ll head up to Charlotte and actually go to the agency to meet folks there, wrap up the home study portion and check another box off the list.

So, there you go. A week of edge on the edge of our seat for a few hours of calm talking. If you are out there and are on the adoption journey and are getting ready for this part, listen to me closely – Don’t. Freak. Out. You can survive this and you’ll find yourself strangely at ease afterward.

Feeling Like Sally Field

So, I certainly did not think that I would be writing again so soon. When we last left our intrepid heroes, Matt and Becky had just mailed off their application to the adoption agency. We knew we were going to have to wait to hear back from them and I had promised myself that I wasn’t going to freak out until next Tuesday. On Tuesday, the agency would have had the week to look the information over and send a medical letter to Poland.

Imagine my surprise when I got a phone call yesterday at work from home. It’s rare for Becky to call me at work and it typically means something of import. To be quite honest, I thought that something bad had gone down – someone was sick or worse. For a moment, I considered that the agency had called to tell us that Poland didn’t want to play with us and we would have to start looking for another agency and country. I answered with some trepidation, “Hello?”

“We just got an email from the agency! We’re approved! We’re approved!” Becky sounded like she was about to explode. It took me a while to process exactly what she said. After a bit of explaining, I found out that we had gotten an email from our social worker that said that they had put our formal acceptance letter in the mail along with our contract to sign. Apparently Poland and our agency want to play with us! It suddenly feels amazingly real. Becky and I talked and decided that we would tell family and some close friends but we would hold off from making a grand announcement on Facebook or here.

Sally FieldToday brought another surprise and another phone call. Becky and I had both been about half afraid that we’d get an email or a phone call saying that the agency was terribly sorry but they had sent us the wrong email and they didn’t want to play after all. I answered the call and Becky was practically bouncing again. Today, she had just gotten off the phone with the owner and the operations manager at the agency. They called, saying that they never call families this early but that they had just reread our testimonies and wanted to call us because they were excited to be working with us and that they were looking forward to helping us find the child God has chosen for us. You can’t ask for a better team than that.

I think that the two of us are both still in shock. This is real. It’s going to happen, though perhaps not as fast as we’d like. Good things are worth waiting for and I can’t think of anything else quick so worthwhile. They say about 18 months is the average time from signing the contract to completion. It’s about the average gestation period for several species of whale, which should make Becky and her maritime ancestors happy. There’s so much to do soon. So many papers and work. For now, though, Becky and I are still grinning like fools and chanting, a la Sally Field, “They like us. They really like us!”

The Dog, Dyngus Day, and Staring at Phones

It's true. My wife is hot and she is an amazing Vanna White.

You might have already seen it on Facebook, but here’s Becky mailing off the application!

The past few weeks have a bit of a blur, if I’m to be quite honest. Between preparing for holidays and having extra events at work, life would have been hopping anyway but when you add on the fact that we’ve actually mailed in the application to the agency we’ve had extra homework. Becky and I have had to make copies of pertinent documents, fill our paperwork, write up our spiritual journeys, get doctor’s notes, and get everything notarized (thanks to our dear friend, Kathy) and we managed to get it all mailed off. Thanks to everyone for the prayers and good thoughts and for those who are wondering we still haven’t heard anything. With our luck, we managed to get everything mailed off during Holy Week and it arrived on Maundy Thursday, just a bit before the end of business. I suspect, since this is a Christian agency, they were closed on Good Friday, obviously shut down for the weekend, and are probably shut down for Easter Monday. Which means the clock doesn’t start until tomorrow. We were told that typically it’s a two-day turnaround (likely the shortest wait we’ll have on this journey) but, since we have to have a doctor’s note and it may have to be sent to Poland, it could take about a week. Of course, this coming Sunday is the canonization of Pope John Paul II, so I understand Poland is a little crazy right now getting ready to celebrate their favorite son. So when will we hear? I don’t know but rest assured I’ll let you know. If they want to play with us, and they have been encouraging that there’s no real reason they shouldn’t, then we sign the contract and we’re officially working with them. Then comes more paper work, more notarizations, more waiting…par for the course as far as I understand.

Nothing suspicious at all going on. Boys getting ready for a water attack on Smigus Dyngus in Sanok, Poland.

Nothing suspicious at all going on. Boys getting ready for a water attack on Smigus Dyngus in Sanok, Poland.

It’s Easter Monday or, in Poland, Śmigus Dyngus (pronounced SHMEE-gus DIN-gus) . I’ve enjoyed learning more about Polish culture recently and Easter (and the surrounding days) is something they take seriously. Śmigus Dyngus has a long tradition in Poland. Boys traditionally tossed water on girls who they thought were attractive and in recent years girls have joined in soaking the guys. Traditionally, there were poems to be said, ransoms of decorated eggs to be received, and, in some regions, a drunk rooster pulled through town on a cart. Now, it seems to be more of a feeling of “Don’t leave the house unless you have to – the neighbor’s kids are waiting outside the door with Supersoakers.” Proof that while traditions may change the poignant beauty of them does not. In all honesty, the Polish traditions, rituals and pageantry that are part of Easter weekend are amazing and I look forward to including more of them into our family celebrations (this year included kielbasa and a lamb (in butter form) on the table for Easter lunch).

Today is also the anniversary of Rex joining the family! Well, technically it was the 9th but I can be horrible with dates. Rex was adopted on Easter Monday two years ago and so in my head Easter Monday is Rex’s Gotcha Day no matter what year it is. To celebrate, we bought him some Beggin’ Strips (we spare no expense). It’s weird to think that it’s been so short a time. Hopefully, the time till PK is here will seem just as fast.

For the First Time in Forever…

Yes, I just quoted a Frozen song and am unapologetic about it. What of it?

On 6 January, I made a post and thought that I’d hold back from posting anything until there was something to post. I never really expected it would be nearly two months. Today has been a weird day. I woke up and thought that it would be a normal day off – chill a bit, go for a walk, swing by the bank and the grocery store and go back for some vital relaxation time. Instead it included an email to the agency we want to work with and a phone call to them. It’s the first major contact we’ve made with the agency since we first found them.

We have since found out that the fees have increased since we last talked with them. Which is to be expected, to be sure. The price was a bit higher than what we had thought and so the gut-punch of not being where we thought we were is fresh. On the bright side, we shouldn’t be shocked by other prices since we have the new fee list to go off of. We spoke to a social worker who works for the agency (I promise I’ll tell you their name once they’re officially our agency) who was very nice and knowledgeable. The conversation led to what the application would entail – mental disorders, police records, health issues, etc –  and so we brought up Becky’s medical past. Thankfully, the social worker didn’t think it would be a major issue since it doesn’t affect Becky’s daily life. Unfortunately, since very few people have dermatomyositis and even fewer have heard of it, we have to get a letter from a doctor swearing that we’re fine to adopt. To make it even more fun, said letter may have to be mailed to Poland to have them pass off on it so that we don’t get a surprise down the road. It’s playing it safe and I appreciate it but the whole deal is incredibly annoying.

We’re feeling a whole smorgasbord of emotions at the moment. Disappointment since it feels like we’ve dropped the ball at the one yard line on this phase. Apprehension and fear play a part. Becky has said that she doesn’t want a major reason we are adopting to be the reason we can’t adopt and I hate that the decision is out of my hands. I’m also mad. There are certain days that I just get pissed off over the fact that most anyone with a little gumption and a bit of luck can become a parent – no questions, no tests – but all adoptive parents have a gauntlet of red tape to jump through. I’m also hopeful. We have taken a major step and spoken with an actual person who was encouraging and will help us through a big portion of our journey. It’s bureaucracy but it’s a bureaucracy with a pleasant voice attached. I’m so thankful that this agency has reminded us several times now that God’s timing isn’t ours and that it will all work out in accordance to his perfect will in his way in his perfect time.

So readers, those we know and those we don’t, please keep us in your prayers. Pray for patience and encouragement. Pray for creativity as we continue to come up with ways to fundraise. Pray that we look to our Papa in heaven as we trudge on to become Mama and Tata.

The race is on and PK is at the end.

 

Life’s Big Questions: Why Poland?

Everyone has questions about our adoption journey. Heck, we still have massive amounts of questions ourselves. After being asked why we are adopting, the second most popular question seems to be, “Where are you adopting from?” I wish I had a camera around for some of the reactions to hearing “Poland.”

First, we never really thought much about a domestic adoption. The need is great both in the US and the rest of the world. I’ve had several friends with wonderful, successful adoption stories both domestically and internationally. We’ve also heard plenty of heart-breaking stories on both sides. (Side note: when you start researching adoption or telling people you’re feeling called to adopt, be prepared for loads of stories that will make your hair stand on end) Please do not think that I’m against domestic adoption – it’s a wonderful way to give kids a home. It just isn’t what Becky and I feel called to.

I’ll be first to say that I’m aware that Poland isn’t on the top of the list of international adoptions. The most popular countries seem to be China, Ethiopia and various other African countries. Korea and Russia were high on the list until a little while ago. The fact that many international programs are closing down led us to search less likely options.

We thought about India for a bit. When we looked at the the program, however, we hadn’t (and still haven’t) been married long enough to begin the process. India’s program has been going through many changes lately. First, they didn’t want to adopt to anyone who was not of Indian descent, then they stopped adopting outside of the country. From what I understand, the predominant cultures in India are not ones that favor adoption and the state has found the numbers of orphans in its care growing exponentially. I have heard whispers that they are considering a revamp of their adoption laws but, at least for now, we know this is not the land where our child is.

This is Poland. Our kid is located somewhere in this general area.

This is Poland. Our kid is located somewhere in this general area.

Quite by accident, we found out that there were a handful of programs that worked in Poland. Becky was instantly attracted to Poland because of her family heritage. We found out that Poland looks favorably on families with a connection to the culture and that it is a solid program with little corruption. We liked the fact that there is a good amount of time that is state mandated bonding time. After a lot of prayer, we felt God was calling us to Poland as the place where we would add to our family.

At first, I have to admit, I didn’t feel a big connection with the country of Poland itself. Becky did and that was enough for me.  I quickly found myself loving Poland as well. First, you can’t beat a good Polish festival or polka music. Polish food has been a part of my life since I stumbled upon pierogi as a bachelor and marrying Becky has only increased my horizons and my passion for Polish food. I’ve loved learning about Polish history and the similarities and differences of Polish culture. While I will smile and wave at everyone on the street, like any good Southern boy, I appreciate the concept that smiles are precious and that you save them for the people you really feel connected to. That a little complaining is obligatory when asked how you are so that you don’t seem to brag about your good fortune. These are people who are fighters and have overcome adversity time and time again. This is the land that gave us Copernicus, Chopin, John Paul II, and Tadeusz Kościuszko, a Polish freedom fighter who fought on the American side of our Revolution (and he was even in North Carolina for parts of it!). Not a bad heritage at all.

 

Life’s Big Questions: Why are you adopting?

I’ve been away from the blog a bit more than I had planned. As I am sure everyone can relate, life is crazy. We’re running around getting ready for Christmas in the real world and the big holiday season (big tours during the day and a spectacular living history event for the next two Saturdays) at the historic site I work at. Becky has been baking up a storm! Between this week and the next, I believe she has nearly 90 dozen cookies to deliver. Aside from fundraising, the cookies have been a great way of raising awareness and Becky and I have been asked several questions and, since inquiring minds want to know, I thought that we’d take the next few entries to answer a few of these big questions. The first up – Why are you adopting?

For me, I’ve known for a while that I wanted to adopt at least one child. When I was younger (I don’t remember exactly when – middle school perhaps?), I found out that my parents had looked into adopting a child before I was born. He was a foster kid who lived in their neighborhood. I know that Ma and Da had contacted Social Services and were ready to start the process but came to a halt when the social workers found out how close they lived to his foster parents. Ironically, it wouldn’t have been an issue since my parents moved a few months after I was born.

Since I found out about my “phantom big brother”, I’ve found myself wondering about him and what his life is like now and how it would have been different if he had become an Arthur. I wonder if he still is in New Bern,  if he’s married and has kids. I also reflect on the care and concern that my parents still show in their eyes on the rare times they talk about him. Growing up, that proved to me that parental love isn’t something that comes with DNA. It’s something you choose to do and I’ve wanted to do that myself for some child.

Becky came upon adoption a bit differently. She was sick when she was younger and while she has won that battle, it reduced the chances of her being able to get pregnant and getting pregnant could trigger her body to do things that would endanger both her and the baby. Not wanting to risk either of those, Becky told me when we started talking marriage that adoption was likely the way we would have to go in order to have children. It’s strange that even though we both knew that upfront we both have had to do a bit of grieving for children we’d never have. Not that adoption is a second choice – it’s our right choice and we are both incredibly excited that we are starting down the road on this phase of life. Now I find myself sitting in quiet moments wondering if there is already a child in Poland waiting for his or her Mama and Tata (it’s Polish for Daddy – go ahead and laugh. I do.) or if our child has even been born. Either way, I hope that as soon as they are aware of their situation that God lets them know that they are loved and they are wanted – even if we are a half a world away.

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