Archive for July, 2010

Today is my birthday, so I’ll assume that this offering of easy blog fodder is a gift for the occasion from my good buddy, Ben the Popester … or not.

Pope pens children’s book entitled The Friends of Jesus

Pope Benedict XVI joins a long list of celebrities looking for younger audience with release of book about apostles …

Following in the footsteps of Madonna and Geri Halliwell, Pope Benedict XVI has written a children’s book.

I confess that my own work has taken a turn toward the salacious lately, so perhaps that’s one reason the cliché Old Ben opens with … Once upon a time … followed by, “… there was a small group of men who, one day two thousand years ago, met a young man who walked the roads of Galilee,” has me giggling like a Catholic School girl and mentally replacing the subsequent 48 pages of the imagined actual text with all sorts of rude allusions that run in directions that would make Geppetto, fairy tale version of pedophile that he is, blush; not an easy feat for a guy so into wood, sperm whales and his heart’s desire turning into an ass.

It’s not like there’s any giant leap needed to get from Point A … “group of men”, Catholic, “met a young man” … to Point B … sexual abuse of children by priests … so it seems either stupid or arrogant an angle to choose for a debut foray into kiddy lit.

Could it be Ben’s trying to make a point? The prologue could be considered stirring the pot to any with an abuse/power/bondage thing going on in their head:

The pope “takes us by the hand and accompanies us as we discover who Jesus’s first companions were, how they met Him and were conquered by Him to the point that they never abandoned Him” …

Okay, I’m a cynic. Forgive me. But I can’t help thinking, given the present tone of Papal PR, Benny would have been better off writing a tale on some aspect of Catholic that had less potential for punny parallels … the four horses, for instance. A pony called “Apocalypse” would make one hell of a bedtime story.

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Three stories in the news this morning have me thinking about mothers and what it means to be one. Not that it directly relates, but I have mentioned often in my writing about adoption that “mother” is also a verb which legitimizes the noun. I leave it to readers today to decide which out of the three here qualify for both the action and the title.

mother |ˈməðər|
1 a woman in relation to a child or children to whom she has given birth.
• a person who provides the care and affection normally associated with a female parent : my adoptive mother.
• a female animal in relation to its offspring : [as adj. ] a mother penguin.

verb [ trans. ]
1 [often as n. ] ( mothering) bring up (a child) with care and affection : the art of mothering.
• look after kindly and protectively, sometimes excessively so : she felt mothered by her older sister.

First, we have a heartwarming video of one mom putting herself on the line to save her baby.

Amateur video has captured footage of a mother bear saving her cub from a fishing net in Anchorage, Alaska.

The mother desperately struggled to save her cub as fisherman Dane Havard pulled the small bear out of tall reeds behind his house with his truck.

The trapped black bear squirmed and thrashed around inside the net, while another small cub watched at a distance.

The mother bear tried to free the screaming cub for several moments before cutting through the net with her teeth and claws.

The mother then ran away with the cub in her mouth.

Anyone thinking there was no actual danger involved will want to check out this story detailing what can go wrong when moms of a certain size and species cross paths with perceived threats of another sort.

Wildlife authorities have captured a mother grizzly bear that they believe killed a Michigan man and injured two other campers in the north-western US state of Montana.

Wildlife authorities then left the mother grizzly overnight to attract her three cubs, two of which were caught in adjacent traps on Thursday.

Officials say the adult bear will be killed if the DNA test results, expected on Friday, link it to the attacks.

These moms are both bears in the wild raising cubs. One is celebrated, the other on death row, both doing what they could to protect their offspring from the havoc that humans bring to their world.

Yes, we’re talking now about animals, their instincts and the potential for mayhem that sometimes occurs when their ‘lesser brains’ and greater bulk set a good part of the mothering agenda.

The third story is also about lesser brains and greater bulk, but taxonomists would actually classify the subject here as human.

A woman in northern France has admitted killing her eight newborn babies but said her husband knew nothing about it, the prosecutor in the case has said.

Mrs Cottrez said she was fully aware of her pregnancies, but that she did not want any more children and did not want to see a doctor for contraception …

Mr Cottrez said he had never noticed his wife’s pregnancies because of her heavy weight, and had no idea she had been getting rid of the babies at birth …

Lest anyone get the idea that this woman is an unparalleled aberration in the species, the article goes on with a disturbing list:

In March, a mother confessed to killing six of her newborn children and hiding them in the cellar of her house in north-west France.

In 1984 a couple in Correze, central France, were jailed for killing seven of their newborn infants over a period of seven years.

In Germany in 2006, Sabine Hilschenz was sentenced to 15 years in prison for the manslaughter of eight of her newborn babies. A ninth baby also died, but too long ago to allow a prosecution.

Somehow, I just don’t see bears doing this …

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Tennessee Williams said, “Life is partly what we make it, and partly what it is made by the friends we choose.” Apparently, he was limiting the scope of friendship …

I really, really like the idea presented in this report in the BBC today, but keep getting caught up in the language of the article.

Having a good network of friends and neighbours boosts survival chances by 50%, US researchers believe.

Okay …

Having friends … real friends, not Farmville neighbors … is a very good thing. Last I checked, though, everyone on the planet has exactly a 100% chance of not getting out of here alive, so I’m wondering what the heck those researchers actually believe.

In their study, which looked at over 300,000 people from four continents over a period of seven years, those with the strongest social networks fared best in terms of health outcomes and lifespan. They were nearly twice (1.5 times) as likely to be alive at any given age than those who were lonely.


The article seems to indicate that folks with friends are better off, that as a species we’re designed to benefit from company and that isolation isn’t healthy, and, sure, I buy all that.

But this?

Professor Sally Macintyre, director of the Medical Research Council’s Social and Public Health Sciences Unit, said: “Policymakers and health care staff should note this important finding, and we need to build on it to find out how we can use social relationships to reduce the risk of death.”

Reduce the risk of death … hm …

Since I have the best friends in the whole world, this ‘news’ has me phoning up all my pals to announce that we’re not friends to the end … we’re immortal!

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In less than a week, I’ll be horrified by celebrating my birthday, and although for many this is justanotherday, it’s a big fucking deal to me. After all, don’t we all deserve at least one day out of every 365 to indulge and be indulged?

That’s the theory.

As a gift to myself, I’ve indulged in a bit more body art, as nothing says birthday like new tattoos as one heads into senectitude … or something.

Sam has already presented me with a lovely card, and Cj has promised to rub my back for five minutes on the day, gestures well appreciated and counted amongst my blessings.

For the most part, however, this year’s reality involves unrealized plans and hopes that my next year see things working out a bit more favorably.

Anyone with a better idea is more than welcome to offer it …

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People outside the adoption community are often surprised to learn that there is no little contention on the issue, that there is a contingent of adult adoptees who are dead set against building families through adoption, that some consider international adoption as “cultural genocide” robbing children of their birth heritage. Those purporting such have their points, and I’m not here … today … to argue claims of wrongness about adoption; I’ve done that beforemany times.

Nope. Today is not about what can go wrong in adoption … and, as it is in any case where mere humans are involved, shit does happen … but rather on what is so very, very right.

As long-time readers know, my dear friend Gay has been been heading off to Cambodia to build houses every since we brought Sam home. She does this through the organization Tabitha, a non-profit that does so much for so many … I encourage all to learn more and participate … or, at least, shop their store.

Tabitha was started by a Canadian, Janne Ritkes, personal heroine to anyone familiar with her work and her spirit, in 1994, and she’s been on the ground in Cambodia running the show ever since.

In 1995, Jan and her friend June Cunningham found themselves in charge of an orphanage, Cambodia House, after the person who had establish it abandoned the project and the thirty-two one-to-six year-olds living there.

As Tabitha was just beginning and Cambodia was still very unstable, we decided that running an orphanage was not what was best for the children, so we started a process of adoption. Over the next two years we placed all the children in adoptive families around the world.

While some would see this as a theft of their Cambodian identity, all these years later, the children, apparently don’t.

In the ensuing years, many of the children and their families have returned to Cambodia for reunions and house building. It was good to watch these young people grow and mature. This summer marked another passage for these young people – they are either finishing high school or their first year at university. They came for a reunion – they came to house build.

In the past, a number of these young people would talk about their desire to return to their birth country and work with the people here. They knew firsthand about the poverty and the suffering of so many. As they would say to us as parents, this could have been us.

This summer was no different except that they are now young adults with a vision in mind. Several are training to be teachers, architects, contractors, etc.. Their adoptive siblings are also young adults who have caught the vision.

What was clear was that house building was no longer enough. They wanted to continue impacting their birth country even while they were studying and developing skills. Over the past 6 months, these young people had done fund raising themselves and they had raised enough money for twenty houses. For them and their families it was fun and it was concrete.

We talked about what they could do. We talked about Theoun, one of our children, who had died in a tragic fire a year ago. We talked of his legacy, a school for impoverished children in Kompong Thom – a school that will be finished in August. They talked of their desire to also build a school. And so that is what they will do.

A mom herself to a Cambodian-born daughter, the impact on Janne is very personal.

My daughter Miriam is part of this process. She came home so very emotional about the impact of this past week.

“Mum, these are my brothers and sisters”, she said. “That’s what we call each other – we are all Cambodian, we are all adopted. We all want to help our fellow Cambodians. And their families mum, these are also my family. We know each other, we understand each other, and we take care of each other.”

I wondered at her maturity.

“I want to be a doctor mum, or at least a nurse – then I, too, can come back and help.”

Sam and Cj are still small, but already they have developed a love for and pride in the country of their birth. Over the years, we will visit Cambodia, and Gay has plans now to take them on house-building trips when they’re old enough. I fully expect they, too, will make significant contributions.

I understand well Janne’s point when she says:

As a parent, I often wonder if I am doing the right thing. As Cambodia House Chair, I often wonder if I did the right thing. As founder and director of Tabitha, I often wonder if we keep doing the right things– this week, I know it is right.

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Let’s hear a round of applause for a cooperative effort between Afghans and Americans at the National Military Hospital in Kabul … and not only because we have two hands to clap with.

Abandoned as a baby, 12-year-old Haidar has never buttoned a shirt, held a pencil or combed his hair. Born without hands, Haidar has only been able to use his wrists and forearms to pick up objects and manipulate his environment; he has never been able to care for himself properly.

Having neither the expertise nor the facilities at the hospital in Afghanistan to construct hands for this boy, a doctor from the US Navy has been invited to do what Vincent Price was unable to do for Edward.

By July, one month after U.S. Navy Capt. Jerone Landstrom – a surgeon specializing in hand and microsurgery – arrived, Haidar has undergone an operation on his left hand and, while he’ll never have a normal hand, it is now functional.

When in the land of the blind the one-eyed man is king, so there’s little doubt that this young man’s life and prospects have improved tremendously, and with his case building bridges that span between medical professionals the advantages may be far-reaching.

Given how much time Afghans and Americans spend pointing fingers of blame at each other and palming off responsibility for the horrible things happening in Afghanistan daily, it’s great to see some people from both nations working hand-in-hand.

Okay. Okay. I’m done with the word play … although armed with such handy material I can hardly thumb my nose at the chance …but this is hands down my favorite story in today’s news.

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Not learned much in 600 years, have we ... ?

Lest anyone get the idea that I am inclined to chew on the ass of only one religion, I’ll range more widely today and slam effects of worship all the way to witchcraft.

Subscribing to a bit of the old double, double can seem nothing more than a giggle, but as is the case with all who take hocuspocus as gospel, be it the Eucharist or “He turned me into a newt!”, it always results in damage to some innocent bystander.

Today’s example comes from the BBC in this report on an increasing number of kids in Africa being accused of witchcraft, and the horrible consequences of those accusations.

A new Unicef report warns that children accused of being witches – some as young as eight – have been been burned, beaten and even killed as punishment.

(… burned, beaten AND EVEN KILLED … What the hell sort of sentence is that? Oh … never mind … )

In rounding up the usual suspects, it’s orphans, street kids, albinos and the disabled, mainly boys between the ages of 8 and 14 who are victims.

Unicef … always so good at counting atrocities, but not so hot on preventing them … reports that 20,000 street kids have been tarred with the black magic brush in Kinshasa, DRC alone.

The agency [Unicef] said there was little it could do about the belief in witchcraft itself, and that it was not trying to eradicate the practice. But it said violence against children was wrong, and that it would do everything it could to stop it.

Well … isn’t that special?

Urbanization and war are fingered as prompts for a shift from picking on old crones and focusing on kids as harbingers of evil sorcery as more and more children fend for themselves in ways that just might make some uncomfortable. Of course, there’s always a few folks who have figured there’s a buck or two to be made, as well.

It is reported that some evangelical preachers have added to the problem by charging large sums for exorcisms. One was recently arrested in Nigeria after charging more than $250 for each procedure.

When some of those rituals involve petrol being poured into the eyes, one must wonder at the price of fuel.

As logical as it gets ...

Being me of little faith, the whole disambiguation song and dance has always been a puzzler. I get that paganism, being an outdoor activity that didn’t make a lot of dosh, was an unpopular option to offer potential church members, but didn’t anyone twig to the fact that anyone with the sorts of powers accused could easily avoid the horrific demise those devout Christians so relished?

But it’s never been about sense. As Nietzsche so aptly put it, “’Faith’ means not wanting to know what is true.”

True is that tens of thousands of children are being tortured and murdered over something that J.K. Rowling has made a mint from.

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