Sunday, August 2, 2009

5 years ago: An Adoption Story - Meeting My Brother for the First Time

Just over 5 years ago (July 26, 2004 to be exact), I met my brother Brent for the first time. Probably sounds odd for that to be the case.
Brent is 12 years older than me. My parents were young, unmarried and my dad was in Seminary in Oklahoma when they became pregnant with him. From both families' perspectives, adoption was the only option.

My parents moved, had Brent. He was adopted and that was that. I knew nothing of it until Christmas 2003, when my mom (and then my dad one day later) told my brother Kyle and I about Brent (although at that time we didn't know his name).
The following Spring, my mother filled out the Indiana state paperwork, which Brent had filled out many years before. Brent received notice of his mother (my mother) and called her. From there, a flurry of phone calls began: mom to me, mom to Kyle, Kyle to me, Brent to Kyle, Brent to me, etc., etc.

Brent lived in Chicago. Kyle's band, Rainer Maria, was playing a show in Chicago. Brent got a stand-by airline ticket for me to Chicago through a friend of his and that's how it became that just 7 months after I was told that another brother of mine even existed, I found myself sitting at a club with Brent (my new brother -- LLB, long lost brother as we had become fond of calling him) and Kyle (the brother I had grown up with my whole life).

It was a mind-blowing and amazing experience. That has only gotten better. Getting to know Brent and his other family has enriched my life in so many ways. I've decided that this "Ten" would be dedicated to that reunion five years ago. Here's ten amazing/cool/wonderful things (in no particularly order) about having a new brother:

  • Brent's generosity and kindness -- his openness as a person (and his mannerism, which are just like my dad's)
  • Brent's parents - the Middletons - very warm and loving people that raised their son to have such an amazing spirit; they have made our reunion with him (and our experiences with them) so comfortable and easy.
  • Brent's sister, Karla, who told me the first time we met that she always wanted a sister.
  • Brent's new wife, Deb, a welcome addition to this every-expanding family
  • Brent's awesome step-daughter, Hayley, who kept me very busy when I was in Chicago for Brent and Deb's wedding last Christmas.
  • Skydiving with Brent!! - My mom decided that the best way to celebrate her 60th birthday would be jump out of a plane with her son, Brent (who is an avid skydiver). Of course, Kyle and I had to also. It was a blast!! (Though I don't know if I would do it again).
  • Brent's nephews, who are my nephews too now and who both have unique personalities that I've enjoyed slowly starting to get to know.
  • The Middleton-Fischer Thanksgiving when time my mom, Kyle and I first met Brent's family. There were so many incredible things about that experience. I know I will never forgot it.
  • The peace that the reunion has brought to my mother.
  • Having more family -- always a good thing!!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Pregnancy & Meditation

One of my favorite evening meditations for the baby is a derivative of a Thich Naht Hanh meditation from his amazing book, True Love: A Practice of Awakening the Heart.

It is a simple meditation where you pick a single focal point (usually within oneself -- your heart, for example) and say as you breath in - I am aware of my heart, and as you breath out - I smile at my heart.

My take on this meditation is to put both of my hands on my belly, breath in and communicate with the baby -- "Baby, I know that you are there" and as I breath out -- "Baby, I am smiling at you."

It might seem odd to some people, but I know the baby feels it and experiences it. I often feel the baby moving inside of me during these meditations and it definitely leads me (and baby) into a calm and peaceful sleep. It's amazing how simple and yet effective it is. I've struggled with meditation in the past (due to a distracted mind), but most nights this meditation comes to me very easily.

And, in keeping with my theme of Ten, I close this blog with ten lines from True Love:

"So every time you have an energy
that needs to be transformed, like jealousy or fear,
do something to care for this energy, for this negative energy,
if you do not want this energy to destroy you.
Touch the seed of mindfulness, and then all of its energy
will be able to establish itself in your 'living room,'
like a mother tenderly embracing your pain. With that energy of mindfulness,you are
doing the true practice of meditation with regard to your pain, your emotions.
If you are able to maintain mindfulness for five or ten minutes, you will experience some relief right away." 

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Ten - An Egyptian Retrospective

It was almost exactly 10 years ago that I moved to Cairo, Egypt (6 weeks before my study abroad program would begin) and had my first encounter/experience with the Middle East. Please enjoy a list of 10 ways this experience/decision influenced my life:

10. The experience expanded my world-view and allowed me to gain a better understanding of the complexity and universality of the world.

9. I fell undeniably in love with travel and exploration and haven’t been able to stop venturing abroad since.

8. I experienced generosity and hospitality at an amazing level, which taught me to be more giving.

7. I saw first-hand the possibility that peace can exist (and has and does exist) between Israelis and Palestinians as Ramon and I celebrated Christmas in Bethlehem alongside Israelis, Palestinians, Germans, Africans and so many others from around the world, who celebrated together in an atmosphere of love and hope.

6. I gained confidence and strength as I journeyed through various parts of the Middle East alone.

5. I learned Arabic (though I must admit 10 years later, it is quite rusty and lost in the depths of my brain waiting to be recovered from years of storage).

4. I am now able to share my experience with others and breakdown many stereotypes and misconceptions that exist about the Middle East and Islam.

3. I decided that my life should be lived as a peacemaker.

2. I met amazing people who taught me a variety of wonderful things about life and gained a few lifelong friends.

1. And, of course, I met and fell in love with Ramon, who ended up being my partner in life, love, work, art and so much more. I feel so blessed to spend each day working together to grow our non-profit, to teach the arts to children, to push our creative abilities through filmmaking, to (now) be starting a family together, and to have his support and love in all that I do and to return that support and love. Being together makes each of us better.

I’m sure, there are many other ways that my trip to Egypt changed my life, but these 10 are stick out, and I am certain that when I went to Egypt, I never imagined that all of this would be the result, but I am definitely grateful that it was.

Though it is 2009, this year for me is the year of “Ten’s” or at least a year when grouping things in Ten or thinking about things in groups of Ten has been (and continues to be dominant):
  • Ramon, my wonderful life partner, and I will be celebrating 10 years together in December, at which point we should have just celebrated the birth of our first child (expected to arrive around Nov. 5)
  • My documentary, “Ten,” which has been swirling around in my brain for almost two years, is finally really taking shape and I am applying for development funding for the project; the application is due on the 1st day of the 10th month
  • I recently did a writing/visualization project a friend sent me that involved selecting 10 things I wanted (and there are many more examples of Ten's in my life.
With all these Ten’s swirling around and my recent awareness that my blog upkeep since my run has been less than stellar, I’ve decided to set a goal of keeping my blog simple and trying to post every 10 days with, at the very least, a list of 10 – not like David Letterman’s (I’m not that funny), but a 10 list that is relevant and important to my life. The Egyptian 10 is the first of many to come.