Guatemala Gift

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Guest Post: Kim and Jack adopt José Toxpop

CHAPTER ONE – by Kim Straus

img-207124528-0001Our adoption story may be like many others experienced by two gay men, but then every story is different.  Ours began in 2004, the year José was born.

It was early February.  I had just finished reading the book, Gay Dads.  My dentist, his partner, and their two sons were featured in a chapter.  As I closed the book that evening I turned to Jack and said, “We could do this.”  Well, the next day, Jack was on the internet looking up gay adoption.  When I made that comment I had no idea of the depth of Jack’s feeling about wanting to be a father, about wanting to start a family.  While we’re both from big families, his is very close; mine is not. He had far better role models for parents than I did; I likely always feared being the inept parents mine were.

And, you see, most gay men of our generation grew up thinking that we’d never be fathers.  For us adoption was still a relatively new and uncommon idea.  And when we did hear of gay adoption, it was often a news story involving discriminatory state laws and hateful attitudes.

Nevertheless, despite a few reservations, we plunged into the process of endless forms, background checks, home studies, parenting classes, affidavits, etc.  One of the first decisions we made was that we would do an international adoption.  We knew others who had made this choice and we felt it would be safer.  We’d heard those stories of domestic adoptions that had been reversed by distant relatives of the child.  And, sadly, we knew that there was the chance that a child put up for adoption in this country could have fetal alcohol syndrome.  Jack and I are not spring chickens – he was turning forty and I was fifty-one.  We did not feel we could truly handle a special needs child.  But then all children have special needs.  As it turned out, ours did, but it was something we could handle.

We connected with an adoption agency here in New Mexico that prided itself in helping gay people adopt (the same agency my dentist and his partner used) and we soon learned that New Mexico has one of the best records for gay adoption in the nation.  We examined the countries that would allow a single man to adopt a child  – no countries that I know of allow a gay couple to adopt.  Our choices were somewhat limited.  Fortunately, one of our best choices was Guatemala.  Jack had spent two years in the Peace Corps there.  He knew the people, customs, places and Spanish.  His Mayan dialects were rudimentary.  Because this was to be a single parent adoption at first, it was logical for Jack to be the adopting parent.  As far as Guatemala knew, I didn’t exist; or if they knew about me, it was that I happened to be another man living in the same house.  We didn’t have to hide our relationship in this country.

In August we received photos and a video of a small plump Kekchi Mayan boy named José Felipe Tox Pop from the Cobán region.  He was three months old and living with a foster mother in Guatemala City.  Jack and I were asked, would you like this boy to be your son?  How could we say no!

From there the process became one of Guatemalan courts and lots of money.  We began hearing stories of adoptions that dragged on for months so we figured it would be the following May at the least before we could dream of bringing our son home.

However, in November, nine months after conceiving this idea, we got the call from the agency that José was ready for us (Jack) to come get him.  Wait, we’re not ready!   Jack’s a teacher and wanted to finish out the semester.  And we’d just bought tickets to spend the holidays in Guatemala.  So we asked if Jack could pick him up at the beginning of January and the two of us spent ten days beforehand seeing the country Jack had told me so much about.  I returned to Santa Fe the day before Jack was to meet our son. We thought it best for me not to be there and, after all,  I had to assemble the crib.

I’ve heard Jack’s recollections many times of that moment when José was put in

Family life is a win/win situation

Family life is a win/win situation

arms for the first time.  Scary, exhilarating.  But this man is lucky.  Who should be at the Marriott Hotel in Guatemala City where most of the adopting families stay but a woman he knew who had served in the Peace Corps a year ahead of Jack’s group.  She was there visiting the child she was adopting; she helped with that first diaper change and gave sound advice on bottle feeding and getting José asleep that first night.  As it turned out, José preferred sleeping in the umbrella stroller we had brought with us.

Two days later Jose and Jack were on a plane bound for home.  After a stay-over in Miami they arrived in Albuquerque on January 7, 2005.   One exhausting journey was over; another joyful one was just beginning.

A Cool Morning Walk

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We swelter; we await afternoon rains; we live in the hope that our leaders will address climate change in meaningful ways.

This spring and summer, New Mexico suffered the worst wildfires in its history. Over 899,000 acres burned from major wildfires around the state. Four times the yearly average. Following the inferno, we had a blessing from Mother Nature, abundant afternoon rainfall, our vitally important “monsoon season.” The rains seemed to end. Now, in late July, we Santa Fe, New Mexico residents are suffering from relentless heat. Day after day, records are broken.

This morning, however, provided blessed relief. Clouds moved into Santa Fe, and it was actually cool. Not enough for a jacket, but refreshingly chilly. The shift reminded me that this season too will pass.

Please join me as I recollect today’s outing. First, I climbed to the boulders halfway up Sun Mountain. Looking down toward the city of Santa Fe provided a reassuring overview. 

After “Monte Sol,” I walked the Foothills Trail loop that I traverse nearly every day. First, there was the sculpture that neighbors have stationed on their property, a sort of Samurai Warrior acting as sentry over our homes.

As I strolled around a curve in the loop, the last third of the daily peregrination, I marveled at yet another beautiful skyscape in this land of beautiful skies. Below it, a construction site. Yet another new home. My city is seeing a constant influx of new arrivals. It’s lamented and sometimes resented, but there is no way to close the gates. Mostly, I’m grateful that I live in such an inviting location.

Miraculously, the coolness persisted. The clouds will clear and temperatures will once again rise, but for now, the air was benign. I’ve adopted an attitude of gratitude that will last all day.

As a final gift, I returned home to a visit from my backyard deer. I’ve named this one Nellie.

Join Elaine on Mondays for reflections on the writing, hiking and the outdoors, Santa Fe life, and the world as seen through adoption-colored glasses. Check out her newest novel The Hand of Ganesh. Follow adoptees Clara Jordan and Dottie Benet in their  quest to find Dottie’s birthparents. Order today from Amazon or www.pocolpress.com. And thanks for reading!

To Market, to Market

A Market like No Other, IFAM attracts tens of thousands of visitors from all over the USA.

The 18th annual International Folk Art Market (IFAM) is Santa Fe, New Mexico’s summertime gem. A global arts and crafts market, the event draws artisans and artists from around the world. This year there were participants from 49 countries, India to Indonesia, Egypt to Japan. The artists display their finest textiles, paintings, pottery and sculptures to visitors and buyers. It is an amazing event, and the best part is that the participants take profits back to their respective countries. In the past, I’ve been an artist’s assistant to an Indian whose collective weaves exquisite shawls and pashminas. My artist had established a women’s collective in her native Rajasthan. All the shawls were created by folks in her village.

The market runs for several days, from dawn to dusk. This year featured a Night Market. When my friend Dorothy suggested that we go, it seemed like a wonderful way to spend Saturday night! It began with catching a shuttle at the campus of former College of Santa Fe. A short journey took us to Museum Hill. After viewing a program of Guatemalan dances and music, we wandered tents full of artistic creations and their makers.

The Folk Art Market stage welcomed performers from around the world. Above, dancers from Guatemala.

Dorothy and I tried to resist buying any of the treasures, shopping with our eyes only. Total abstinence wasn’t possible, however. Dorothy bought a Folk Art Market tee shirt; I couldn’t resist a multicolored silk scarf from Thailand.

Here are some of the wares we admired rather than bought:

Shoes and boots from Uzbekistan

Baskets from Africa, many shapes and sizes.

With the sun going down and another brief rainfall, it was finally time to catch the shuttle bus back home. The perfect symbol for the evening, a rainbow, awaited us.

Join Elaine on Mondays for reflections on the writing, hiking and the outdoors, Santa Fe life, and the world as seen through adoption-colored glasses. Check out her newest novel, The Hand of Ganesh. Follow adoptees Clara Jordan and Dottie Benet in their  quest to find Dottie’s birthparents. Order today from Amazon or www.pocolpress.com. And thanks for reading!

In with the New

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Last week I remodeled my back yard

For fifty years, the Century Plant lived and grew. It was big and green and beautiful. Every decade or so, it produced a lovely white blossom. It witnessed the overnight campouts of my two young sons, just little guys then. It thrived next to a California style hot tub, scene of social gatherings and solo soaking. In the 1990s, hot tub maintenance became burdensome and I had the redwood barrel removed. My Century Plant soldiered on. Though it flowered rarely, the plant held court constantly. In the 1970s and early 1980s, it was surrounded by grass. Up until 2000, year of New Mexico’s devastating bark beetle invasion, it was neighbor to a forest of piñons.

Then, a harbinger of losses to come, the backyard piñon trees died. First one, then another, and finally 70 of them. Everywhere in my two acres. It happened not just to me but to all of Northern New Mexico. Because of ongoing drought, the trees’ immune systems were wrecked. The beetle larvae, always present within the trees, came alive, fed on the trees, going voraciously from one piñon to another. The bug came to be called “a wildfire on six legs.”

With the help of my helper, Julian, the Century Plant was removed. Its roots went deep into the earth and it took my very strong gardener nearly an hour to dig and saw his way to the depths of the plant’s reach. To our delight, there was a new fledgling plant underneath the spikes of the old. Julian created a “rock pond” where the parent Century Plant had resided. Junior, as we named the offspring, displays himself proudly at the edge. Little things can mean a lot.

Why is this such a big deal? Today’s world is changing with increasing velocity. Problems such as climate change, war, famine, abortion rights, inequality and a host of ills. It can all be too much. Personally, I contribute what I can to help the world. After that, I narrow the lens. My goal: make improvements in the personal sphere. In with the new!

The old plant removed, a new start can live and breathe.

Join Elaine on Mondays for reflections on the writing, hiking and the outdoors, Santa Fe life, and the world as seen through adoption-colored glasses. Check out her newest novel The Hand of Ganesh. Follow adoptees Clara Jordan and Dottie Benet in their  quest to find Dottie’s birthparents. Order today from Amazon or http://www.pocolpress.com. And thanks for reading!

Best Friends Forever

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“Let us be grateful to the people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.”
– Marcel Proust

“Friendship is the hardest thing in the world to explain. It’s not something you learn in school. But if you haven’t learned the meaning of friendship, you really haven’t learned anything.”
– Muhammad Ali

“Anything is possible when you have the right people there to support you.”
— Misty Copeland

It’s been said that friends are those rare people who ask how you are and wait to hear the answer. Throughout my long life, I’ve been lucky enough to have friends who genuinely listen. Apparently I’m a good listener, because it seems that they use me for a sounding board as well. The better friends we are, the more fine-tuned the listening.

Over the past decade of blogging, I’ve seldom written about Friendship, a topic dear to me. Now’s the time! Their names have all been changed, but everything else is true. Of all my friends of the past, Rebecca comes most vividly to mind. We were both writers, both single mothers, both associated with St. John’s College in Santa Fe, New Mexico…Our lives were in transition, we were going through similar passages.
I met Rebecca in 1983 at a book and author reception at St. John’s College. She was writing young adult novels for Scholastic Publishers and I was a freelance journalist who dreamed of getting a book published. She worked for St. John’s in the Admissions Office; I was a student in the Graduate Institute. Our children — her son and daughter and my two sons — were the same ages. I admired her ability to juggle a job, motherhood and writing books. She respected my juggling act, which included training for and running marathons. She understood my issues about being an adopted daughter. We were both also dating men who were friends. We celebrated holidays together, hiked and camped, immersed ourselves in the life or our city, Santa Fe: we were a family.

Rebecca inspired me to proceed with plans for a guidebook featuring walks, runs and bike routes around Santa Fe. She believed in me and my project; thanks to her encouragement, I found an independent Santa Fe publisher.l The result: Santa Fe on Foot appeared in 1986 and it has been in publication, updated every few years, ever since. Meanwhile, Rebecca sought a job that would take her closer to the New York publishing world. She landed one with the City University of New York. She and her children moved to the east coast, ending our wonderful proximity but not the friendship. Shortly after her move, Rebecca met the love or her life, Daniel. They married and began an enviable life of work, adventure and travel.

For thirty years, Rebecca and I kept in touch and spoke about getting together. Years slipped away, and it didn’t happen. It took a tragedy to reunite us. Daniel died, very suddenly, two years ago in May. The sudden loss brought Rebecca and Elaine back to a former closeness. Knowing how challenging it would be to face Christmas alone, I invited myself to spend the holiday with her. It was as though no time at all had passed. The time and distance between us fell away and as we shared the magic of New York at Christmas time. We renewed a friendship that ran deep, and it took on a new life. Truly BFFs. And thank you, dear readers, for listening.

Nature Nearby

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For New Mexico, the month of May is anything but merry. Nature “red in tooth and claw”as the saying goes. Last month, four wildfires merged into a giant blaze. The monster conflagration has consumed over 260,000 acres, including forest, wildlife, and homes. As fire information officer Ryan Berlin said last week, “We need help from Mother Nature to shut the wind down and a little rain.” Sadly, the wind rages on, and there is little rain in sight. Nature is on a rampage, reminding us that we must move away from fossil fuels. In the microcosm, however, there is much to cherish.

I’m re-reading books in my personal library, one of which is The Selected Poems of Emily Dickinson. As enchanting as the first time I discovered her! She captures beauty in the small things. Dickinson, who became a recluse, is one of the most original and passionate poets in American literature. Her profound insights into nature and life have fascinated readers for over a century.

Emily Dickinson (1830-1886) guarded her poems against publication during her lifetime.

A Bird, came down the Walk
by Emily Dickinson

A Bird, came down the Walk –
He did not know I saw –
He bit an Angle Worm in halves
And ate the fellow, raw,

And then, he drank a Dew
From a convenient Grass –
And then hopped sidewise to the Wall
To let a Beetle pass –

He glanced with rapid eyes,
That hurried all abroad –
They looked like frightened Beads, I thought,
He stirred his Velvet Head. –

Like one in danger, Cautious,
I offered him a Crumb,
And he unrolled his feathers,
And rowed him softer Home –

Than Oars divide the Ocean,
Too silver for a seam,
Or Butterflies, off Banks of Noon,
Leap, plashless as they swim.
*******
Join author Elaine Pinkerton for Monday Blogs on adoption, hiking and the writing life. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter (@TheGoodbyeBaby)  Check out her newest novel The Hand of Ganesh. Discover  adoptees Clara Jordan and Dottie Benet as they quest to find Dottie’s birthparents. If you are in Santa Fe, you are invited to attend my official book launch on Friday, June 10, 5 p.m. at St. John’s College/ Jr. Common Room. Or, you can order The Hand of Ganesh from Amazon or http://www.pocolpress.com. Thanks for reading!

Too Many Books, Too Little Time

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It started with a call from Readers Magnet, inviting me to participate in their booth at the Los Angeles Times Book Festival. The event, postponed for two years but finally able to happen, was April 23-24. I added a few days to take in a few museums. My goal was showcasing The Hand of Ganesh, and that I accomplished. But the getaway was far more.

Getty Villa in Pacific Palisades, California

My friend Karla, part-time Santa Monica resident, hosted me and joined in the whirlwind of events. After two days spent exploring beaches, Venice seaside, the Getty Villa Museum and the Getty Center Museum, we embarked on our literary adventure.

Saturday morning arrived fresh and sunny. Hundreds were already gathered when we arrived at the USC campus. Youth poet laureate Amanda Gorman delivered a stirring talk, highlighted by fresh new poetry. Writers Mary Laura Philpott, Annabelle Gurwitch, and Sandra Tsing Loo, introduced by Samantha Dunn, hosted a panel titled “The Next Chapter.” The essence of their messages: Drill down to the core of what you’re doing. Another captivating panel was “Imagining the Future,” which featured Latina and African American panelists Blair Imani and Dereca Purcell. Imani talked about the importance of Now and the fact that we were all “chosen” to survive the pandemic. Arce called on people not to compare their pandemic sufferings and instead to work on building more racial harmony in the future.

A discussion title “The Gilded Age” featured scholarly authors Jonathan Kirsch, Michael Hilzik and Zachary Karabel. Their focus was on robber barons and how the railroad changed U.S. history. Railroad “kings” became “aristocracy.” Edward Harriman, related Michael Hilzik, expanded his holding from railroads to steamships. Harriman, it seems, “despite his great wealth,” was very public spirited. These panelists gave the impression that in the past the gospel of wealth included giving back to society. Edith Wharton, they agreed, was the best literary critic of the Gilded Age.

Speaking of books, not only did I sell copies of mine, I supported other authors by buying theirs. These autographed copies have joined my stack by the bedside. Book immersion is great for the brain.

Join Elaine on Monday for a view of life through adoption colored glasses. She reflects on gardening, walking, outdoors and the writing life. To buy Beast of Bengal, All the Wrong Places, or her newest book The Hand of Ganesh, click on book titles. You’ll be able to order directly from Pocol Press. Your comments are invited.

Shakespeare-Mania!

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April is National Poetry Month. Not only that, it’s the BIRTHDAY month of the great English poet and playwright, William Shakespeare. For me, it means ADOPTING SHAKESPEARE- HIS LANGUAGE, HIS PLAYS, HIS SONNETS, and you’re invited to join in. In a week, the Sweet Swan of Avon (who lived from April 23, 1564-April 23, 1616) turns 457! To celebrate Shakespeare’s Birthday, please send favorite quotations to elaine.coleman2013@gmail.com, thereby entering my annual Shakespeare contest.   Also, tweet them, using my twitter name @TheGoodbyeBaby. Quotation competition takes place during the remainder of April. The prize, my two suspense novels (Beast of Bengal and All the Wrong Places, will be sent to the top contributor via snail mail. Past winners include poet/memoirist Luanne Castle (@writersitetweet). To honor Shakespeare and celebrate poetry month, read Sonnet 18 aloud to someone you love.

William Shakespeare

 

SONNET 18

Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer’s lease hath all too short a date:
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimm’d;
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance, or nature’s changing course, untrimm’d;
But thy eternal summer shall not fade
Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow’st;
Nor shall Death brag thou wander’st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou grow’st;
So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.

The contest ends May 1, after which my novels will be sent to the top contributor. So, as the song goes, “Brush up on your Shakespeare…start quoting him now!”

Join Elaine each month for musings on adoption and life.

New Kid on the Block

The Hand of Ganesh is out! Even though much of the plot takes place in India, the book reintroduces a few home-grown characters. Let’s just say, the novels are connected. There’s a thread running though them. Before I explain, a word of thanks to Pocol Press, an excellent independent publisher located in Punxsatawney, Pennsylvania.

All my life, I’d dreamed of writing fiction. After years of working as a technical writer and freelancing for magazines (Runners World, Family Circle, New Mexico Magazine).I wrote several nonfiction books: The Santa Fe Trail by Bicycle, Santa Fe On Foot, The Goodbye Baby, From Calcutta with Love. The fiction dream simmered.

Then, in 2005, I wrote a novel based on my father’s experience in the China-Burma-India (CBI) theater of World War II. Beast of Bengal takes place in a military hospital in Calcutta. It involves opium smuggling and the Indian “goondas.” Richard Benet, my hero, has to take command when the dysfunctional hospital commander, Mac McDermott becomes an “empty uniform.” What sustains him in a harrowing fight for not only the hospital but his life, is his love for his wife Rita. The two had been planning to adopt a child but the war interrupted. They write to one another every day and plan to start their family when the war ends.

Clara Jordan runs from trouble and goes forward to meeting a best friend, Arundati Benet. Together the two adoptees will travel to India.


In 2017, I wrote All the Wrong Places, a novel inspired by my years of teaching at Santa Fe Indian School. Protagonist Clara Jordan, an adoptee, moves to New Mexico in search of her Native American birthmother. She takes a job as English teacher at the American Indian Academy, located near Santa Fe, New Mexico. Her birthmother, she learns, has died. When Henry DiMarco, the school’s IT director, sweeps her off her feet, she overlooks his strange behavior. He’s secretly a pottery smuggler and when he realizes that Clara knows, her life is in danger. She literally has to run to save her life.

Clara survives and lives on to join Arundhati Benet, the adopted daughter of Richard and Rita Benet. All these characters play important roles in The Hand of Ganesh (Pocol Press, 2022). To learn more about that novel, click on a recent radio interview by Carly Newfeld, “The Last Word,” KSFR 101.f.m. >https://thelastword.libsyn.com/march-31-2022-with-elaine-pinkerton


Elaine Pinkerton Coleman is a New Mexico author. In monthly blog posts, she opines about adoption, hiking, nature, and the writing life. To follow her blog, click the FOLLOW button her webpage. She’d love to hear from you. Feedback and suggestions welcome.

One Spring Day…

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ONE SPRING DAY…

led to starry, starry nights.

Along with friends. I recently visited the amazing, immersive Vincent Van Gogh exhibit in Albuquerque, New Mexico. I’d admired VanGogh’s painting ever since an art history course taken in college. “Beyond VanGogh” did not disappoint. It was one of the most inspiring and beautiful art events any of us had ever seen.

The painter Van Gogh, who lived from 1853 till 1890, was considered the greatest post-impressionist after Rembrandt van Rijn. (Van Gogh, we learned from Carly, is properly pronounced not to rhyme with “go” but rather closer to rhyme with “cough”). In just over a decade VanGogh created about 2,100 artworks, including around 860 oil paintings, most of them in the last two years of his life. They include landscapes, still lifes, portraits and self-portraits. Their bold colors and dramatic brushwork were illuminated in the big room.

Entering the dark, cavernous space, we were transported into a sound and light show of the artist’s life and paintings. The exhibit began with interlocking corridors of quotes taken from VanGogh’s correspondence with his brother Theo. 

 

Following the corridor narrative, the path led to a huge room with ever-changing VanGogh images projected above and below, on all four sides. It was truly magical. We three friends, after 45 minutes of Van Gogh immersion, stepped into the early afternoon sunshine. Our souls had been satisfied; now it was time for lunch.