Oh, 2017. I started 2017 sick with fear and worry. I woke up every day realizing that the nightmare of the American election was still true. I felt like I was racing against time because we were still in process to adopt our son from China, and we were already far behind where we should have been. As anti-immigrant sentiment reached a fever pitch, I bit my nails, wondering if our adoption would be disrupted through no fault of our own.
And yet, the adoption happened. Our process went smooth as silk once we finally got through the fingerprinting SNAFU that had held us up since September 2016. On March 7th, we were told to arrive in China on the 18th because we needed to pick up our son March 21st.
The long haul to our daughter that finally came to fruition in 2013 had been painful, but with our son it was almost worse because we had been told it would not be that way. He was the last child to be brought in the door that morning after a 3.5 hour drive from his orphanage out in the countryside. My heart dropped into my shoes to see that he was real and we were together at last, that my daughter’s deepest dream had finally, finally come true. My gratitude to those who helped make that happen is everlasting.
I was terrified that something would happen when we got home to Customs, to the point where I saved most of our spending money in fear we’d be forced back to Hong Kong.
But nothing happened. “Welcome home,” the Customs official in Chicago said to my son.
We were welcomed home, and yet I did not breathe the same way in America that I had in Hong Kong, in Guangzhou, in Wuhan. The sense of terror clamped back down on me. We had brought these precious children to America because we hoped they could have a life here that they would not have had as orphans in China. And yet, I wondered. I wonder still.
My son adjusted brilliantly—it was as though we had always been together. We bonded beautifully, and then went through the travail of my return to work and his first steps into daycare.
The summer is a whirlwind that only seemed to pause for a deadly moment in July. We discovered then that our son would need major surgery within the year. I had been fearful of at least one possibility, but that, coupled with four other issues was something I’d not been prepared to deal with. And the way in which it was revealed to us—with such glee at the rarity of his case, rather than any empathy for how we felt just four months into bonding with this precious boy—sank me even further.
Another thing had happened, too, that stressed our family severely. Two days after my husband returned to his job from family leave, he was terminated from his position and forced to move to a new department until the end of his contract in April 2018. Jobs in his field are few and far between and we were financially tapped out because of the adoption. It was a huge blow and extremely nervewracking.
Fall came and I realized that all my goals for the year, aside from finally having my son in my arms, weren’t going to be met. The novella I’d started last fall and planned to submit by January 2017 had blossomed into a full-on novel. I stopped resisting it, but it also was difficult to expand. In the latter half of the summer, I was endlessly reworking the beginning, endlessly frustrated at my slowness. There was a lot of stumbling, and I’m thankful to those who encouraged me to go on.
At the end of October, with some help from dear friends, I attended Sirens in Colorado for the first time. My entire writing group was there, and it was lovely to see them. The time felt far too short. I met Kate Elliott (whose Court of Fives books I had fallen in love with) at last and complimented Yoon Ha Lee on his work (though we were in the buffet line, so he thought I was talking about his artistry with salads!) I met Nora Jemisin and Rebecca Roanhorse (and got an ARC of TRAIL OF LIGHTNING, which I am finally reading with great happiness!). I saw many other folks I’ve known for ages but have scarcely spent time with: Miriam Forster, E.K. Johnston, Tessa Gratton, Natalie Parker, Shveta Thakrar, Artemis Grey, Jennifer Schmit Adam. Such good peeps. But I must admit that one of the best things was being able to sit alone in front of a blazing fire writing for hours on end. I had forgotten what that felt like. I didn’t want it to end.
I came home unfortunately to more sorrow. Our beloved dog River had been failing since coming down with vestibular syndrome. The day after I returned, we made the difficult choice to end her suffering. River was 14; we’d had her since she was 3. The time was far too short, and I honestly still have not thrown out the last food in her bowl, nor been able to get rid of her bed. Nor have I stopped looking for her, hoping to hear her clicking nails (which used to so annoy me when I was trying to get the kids to bed) or her groan as she flops on the floor. My daughter’s heart is still broken over it; tonight she put River’s final pawprint on her bedside table next to a handprint ornament she’d made when she was four. “That way it’ll feel like we’re always together,” she said. Oh, my heart.
I tried to meet deadlines to finish my novel before Thanksgiving, but it was absolutely not possible. I was grateful for the wisdom of one agent on Twitter who advised everyone not to rush. It’s slow going, but this is the world of my heart. I must do it right. And right now, I have the time.
Here at the end of the year, we’ve had good news: My husband’s new department supported him through a career change. He is now at a new permanent position with a raise. We received clarifying information about my son’s surgery that will make it possible for us to wait until spring. He was able to enjoy his first Christmas without pain, thankfully. We were reassured that while this will still be a major surgery, techniques are in place at Boston Children’s Hospital (where we hope to go) that will reduce his time in hospital and recovery and give him an excellent prognosis for the future, assuming all goes well.
And there are many little joys: The 6yo is nearly reading independently and always proud of herself when she’s able to suddenly read signs or understand things she never did before. She’s passed up to the next level in gymnastics. She is curious and bright and silly and starting to seem so grown up to me all at once. My son, despite his medical challenges, is doing remarkably well—sensitive, sweet, intelligent, but definitely a threenager. My husband is happy where he is and is again teaching martial arts for our local Chinese school. We just returned from a lovely Christmas with my maternal clan; could not have asked for a better first Christmas experience for our son.
I am writing the novels of my heart—two in tandem, actually. I’ve enjoyed many literary discussions with co-workers and colleagues who get the merits of science fiction and fantasy and don’t dismiss it out of hand. I am working on a super-fun anthology with a group of writer friends. I saw one story published and sold another. Was rejected for another recently, too, but ah well. I will be starting my Patreon site soon.
And while I met pretty much none of my exercise goals, I did manage to lose ten pounds and hope to continue that trend in the new year, as well as increasing my healthy eating and movement. (No disparagement to those comfortable with their health at any size—I am simply not and have seldom been happy with mine, and as metabolic disease is rampant in my family, I feel it incumbent on me to head it off at the pass if I can).
I honestly don’t know what future we can expect here in America; it feels so dark now. I am still often devastated that the future I promised my children may never come to pass or be worse than I could have possibly imagined. I still don’t know what to do about that except continuing to resist, teaching my children to have pride in their heritage, and to love this beautiful earth that is our only home.
Here at the end of 2017, I see these little lights flickering in the gloom, and I hope we can keep them alight for as long as we need them—“…a light when all other lights go out.” I hope we will all weather this storm. I will do my best to be a haven, and to build a wall strong enough to withstand the corruption of despair.
Therefore, my touchstone word for 2018 is MAINTAIN. Just to maintain the strength we’re building in our family, my son’s current level of function, the writing I’ve been doing, the crazy plates we’re all spinning. To maintain some modicum of civility, civic duty, and kindness to our fellow beings on this planet.
2018, I AM READY.
May we all be ready for whatever comes. May we all find sanctuary in our families, friends, and our art.