Sunday, March 30, 2008

Amo, Amas, Abat Amat....

Quite often, Steven and I will be sitting here, in our living room, drinking coffee and surfing the net on our respective computers. (I am pretty sure you can imagine what I am reading; All Ethiopian adoption all the time!)

From Steven's corner of the room, I hear something that sounds like the pilot over the loudspeaker on a noisy plane," Ladies and gentleman, we are static static static estimated time of static static static and welcome aboard!" What on earth is he listening too? Well I thought it might be interesting to give you some of the links that the soon to be "Abat" surfs in the privacy of his own living room...

First, this one...

Here, he watches HOURS of footage of NASA missions. He also calls his mom and they watch together over the phone. They say things like, "Did you see that rollover pitch maneuver!?" Geeks extreme.

Then, since he is up in space anyway, he might head over here...

Once he sees what's going on there, he will want more information and so he goes here...

When he goes here, I am a happy woman. I sing along, badly, and beg him to please, please, please learn Little Wing.

After he puts down his ax, you may find him here...

Or here...
(If anyone can explain this one to me I would be grateful. It makes me feel dumb as a stone).

I'll oftentimes find him reading this...and this...

You can tell a lot about a person from their favorite links don't you think?

What's in your surfing history? What are some of your favorite links?(besides the ones on your blogrolls) And people please, keep it clean, this is a family blog!!

Friday, March 28, 2008

Monday, March 24, 2008

The C Word...

Four years ago today, I received a phone call that shook me to my core. It went something like this...


"Well, I have to say that most of these reports come back and they are ambiguous. There is nothing ambiguous about your report Julie, you have cancer."

How do I describe what I was feeling at that point? It is difficult. Unless you have heard these words said to you, it is almost impossible to know what it feels like. I guess it felt like a rug was pulled out from under me, and I was falling face first into a cement floor. I immediately called Steven and asked him to come home.

It is scary. It was the scariest thing I have ever gone through. Just writing this has made me start to shake and sweat and cry a little bit. I am lucky. I am so very lucky. I had an easy cancer, thyroid cancer. They basically take out your thyroid, nuke you with some radioactive iodine and send you on your way. It most cases it does not return. You have to have follow up scans and tests, and you are on thyroid replacement medication for the rest of your life, but comparatively, still easy.

Everyone says that when you have cancer you inevitably start appreciating life more. (Once you get through it). It is definitely a cliche, but it is also true. You become very grateful, very quickly for all of the things you have in your life.

You think about the people you love, and how happy you are to know them. You notice the sun. You notice the moon. You look closely to see how big and brown and beautiful your husband's eyes are.

You touch your dog's back and think that you have never in your life touched something so soft. You thank God that you live in America. You thank God that you have health insurance. You feel the love and anxieties of all of your friends, and all of your family members. It makes you very mindful. It stops you in your tracks. It weeds out the fodder. It brings you some clarity.

People may say the wrong things when they find out about your cancer. Like, "No wonder you couldn't stay pregnant," or " That explains why you are so sickly looking," or "What will Steven do without you?" In retrospect, you just have to laugh. People get scared too. People don't really know what to say. It shakes them up too. It makes everyone think about their own mortality.

I am so very lucky. I cannot imagine having to go through that alone. There was a woman who was rolled into the nuclear medicine room I was in. I was waiting for a scan. She too, was waiting for some sort of scan. She was in bad shape. I do not think her cancer was thyroid cancer. I do not think she was about to receive any good news. She couldn't talk, she mumbled a bit. All of the sudden a bad odor took over the room. This woman had soiled herself. A nurse, (one who had obviously been absent on the bedside manner day of nursing school), started berating this woman. "I told you to tell me if you needed to have a bowel movement. You don't even have a diaper on , What are you doing!!??" She continued to yell at her. I said, "Please, please, leave her alone." The nurse rolled this woman out, probably to yell at her in a more private setting. This woman was so helpless, and so sick, and the only one around her was treating her like shit. Truthfully, if the nurse had been more attentive to her, she probably wouldn't have had an accident. Anyway, the point, what was my point? Yes, the point is, I am grateful. I am grateful that I have someone, many someones to help me through the challenges of life.

This is Boyd:

Steven made Boyd the healthy thyroid for me while he was waiting for me to come out of surgery. He thought I might be sad without a thyroid, so he sewed me a new one. Levity, very important when facing cancer. Steven never left my side. Not for one minute.

Have you ever been in the hospital ? Have you ever had surgery? When you finally came home, what was the first thing you wanted to do? I had been very ill from the morphine. I had retched and retched. My hair was matted with blood and sweat and who knows what else. I wanted a shower. Well, since my neck was all bandaged up with gauze and tape, I was told I could take a shallow bath, but no shower.

Steven washed my hair for me.

I will never, ever forget this moment, as long as I live. He gently tilted my head back and washed my dirty hair. I could feel all of his tenderness at that point. I could feel his strength, his love, his fear, his warmth, I could feel everything. It was one of the most intimate moments of our whole relationship. I had never felt anything more comforting. It was so good to be clean. It was so good to be loved. It was so good not to be alone. It was so good to be home.
I am so grateful.

What does this have to do with my Ethiopian adoption? What doesn't it have to do with it. Everything that has happened in our lives has led us to this point. With baited breath we wait for the day when we learn who our children will be. Our experiences, our sickness our health, have brought us to this point. We wait. We reflect. We gather strength for what lies ahead. We take a breath, and are mindful of all that we have, and all that we have lost. We stand tall and embrace a new day. We take joy in a spring breeze. We smile as our pup rolls around on a cool patch of grass. We gaze at each other and are present. We stop and smell the lilies.We are full of emotion and anticipation. We are alive.

I am grateful.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Easter Egg Hunt - 2007

We didn't color eggs or set up a hunt this year. It is kind of pathetic to do it for your dogs. However last year, they enjoyed it quite a bit.

Finding and eating an egg while relieving himself! That's talent!

Happy Easter!

Unfortunately this is all I came up with for Steven this year...

Peeps from last year. They will most likely make an appearance next year as well. Who eats these things?

Friday, March 21, 2008

Friday Friend or Family Feature...

Today's Feature is...


As our realtor, Hugh helped us with the purchasing of our first house. Steven and I have had many homes together, but this is our first house. This will also be our children's first American home. We hope that they will like it.

Hugh went out of his way to help us in getting this house. He is one of the most honest people that I have met in Los Angeles. He has intelligence and integrity.

I have started the nesting process. I have been looking at our first house through the eyes of my new kids. I like what I see.

There is a big backyard, with a bottle brush tree that could inspire a children's book with its numerous inhabitants.

There is a converted garage that is rapidly becoming a fabulous playroom.

There are flowers that started small...

and grew tall...

There are hydrangeas, daffodils, daisies, and runnuculus. There is an orange tree and a lemon tree, the source of last summer's killer lemon bars.

Hugh helped us make this house into a home ready for children . He made sure that the sliding glass doors in our soon to be nursery were made of the kind of glass that doesn't shatter in an earthquake. He spent six months, yes I said six months, after we closed on this house, making sure that our gas shut off valves were installed correctly. He went way above and beyond his duties as a realtor, and for this I am grateful.

Hugh is also a talented screenwriter and story editor. I haven't talked to him for a while, so for all I know he could be off on location somewhere watching his script being made.

Here is a video of the dogs, back when they were still the triumvirate, exploring their new digs...

When Hugh heard that our pup Lummi was nearing the end of her life, he sent us a reference for a vet who does house calls. He also wrote us a nice note sharing how he had been through this with his dog, and how painful it was. He is thoughtful like that.

How will our adoption impact Hugh?

Well, if our kids don't get along, we are going to need a bigger house. Not really, I love this house and plan on staying here a long time.

I am hoping though, that when their new relatives arrive from Africa, my entire family will need to quickly find permanent housing in the Los Angeles area. When and if they do Hugh, we will definitely be calling you. Thanks again for your help.

P.S. If you need to buy or sell a home in the Los Angeles area, leave me your e-mail address in the comments and I'll give you Hugh's info. (Or if you need a talented story editor for that matter- he he - it is Los Angeles!)

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Monday, March 17, 2008

Waldorf Part II- Kinder Edition.

This is a picture of a Waldorf based Kinder classroom. Yes, that is a candlestick on the table. One of the things I don't like about Waldorf, is the use of candles. There are lit candles in all of the classrooms starting with the Kinder classes. Lit flames + small children = BAD IDEA in my opinion. They are not always lit, but still, it seems dangerous to me.

My first experience teaching Kinder class came when the main teacher in this classroom started vomiting. She went home and they called me. When I got there, it was complete chaos. Kids were climbing all over everything. There was screaming, yelling, and gnashing of teeth. I felt like I had walked into some sort of wild animal park.

Luckily, there was a wonderful assistant teacher there who told me what to do. We managed to miraculously get everyone (well almost everyone), settled down at this table for lunch. There was still one child throwing a tantrum in the corner. Luckily, two parents came in to take their kids out early for a dentist/doctor/accountant appointment. It didn't matter what the reason was, I was just so happy that they were leaving.

We managed to get through lunch and through recess. When it was time to come in from the playground the assistant said, "Just sing the Follow, Follow song to bring them in." I didn't know what the hell she was talking about, so I just made up some follow, follow song of my own. Those were the only lyrics I could manage to come up with, but amazingly these kids followed me. What on earth were they thinking ?

The assistant then said, choose one child to light the candle for story time. What? You want me to make one of these tiny people risk life and limb to provide atmosphere for story time!? Okay. I picked a child who was raising his hand. Three other kids began to cry because they were not picked. The assistant quickly soothed them by telling them to get ready for the story. The child lit the candle easily, and took his seat. The story went pretty well, although I am no Laura. Save for a few, "We can't see the picture!" moments, they seemed to enjoy it. When it was over, the assistant said, "Okay, now pick another student to blow out the candle". I picked the small tantrum thrower thinking maybe he was having a tough day and needed a boost.

Suddenly, from across the circle, another small boy , I'll call him Sal, opened his mouth, and at the top of his lungs screamed,

" ShiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiT!!!!"

We all remained frozen in our seats, mouths agape, eyes popped out. Then again, he opened his mouth again and screamed,


He seemed to be a bit disappointed that he didn't get to blow out the candle.

The other kids were in shock. Their tiny jaws were all on the floor. I made an uncomfortable noise that can only be described as a slightly inappropriate nervous laugh, or the beginning of a highly suspect guffaw. I didn't know what to do. The stellar assistant quickly hurried him off toward the kitchen area to speak to him. She told him that, unfortunately she was going to have to tell his mom that he said shit. I think she was delicate enough to say "bad word".

Sal said, "I am sorry, I forgot and I NEVER GET TO DO IT!!"

The assistant said, "You forgot twice?"


"Okay", the assistant said," Let's not have that happen again."

Shit is right. Holy Shit.

Waldorf... It's not just a yucky salad made with apples and mayo...

I have been substitute teaching at our local "Waldorf based," public charter school. I had applied for a non-teaching job at this school last fall in an effort to make some extra money while simultaneously learning something about the public schools here in Los Angeles. When they called me a couple of months ago, the conversation went something like this:

Office Manager: Hi Julie, we are wondering if you are still interested in working at our school?
Me: Yes, of course.
OM: Great, we would like you to be one of our substitute teachers.
Me: I am definitely not qualified for that.
OM: Did you graduate from college?
Me: Yes.
OM: You're qualified. We'd like you to start immediately.

What goes on in the LA public school district that they are ready to hire someone like me? These must be desperate times. Granted, I do have lots of tutoring experience, but a room full of first graders? God help us all. Truth be told, I was wondering if the school system had some sort of secret arrangement with the local adoption agency. I imagined a subversive conversation between the two...

School District Person (to adoption agency professional): Okay, when you get all those finger prints back, please forward the people who passed to our office. We need them to teach our children, and we need them to start tomorrow.

In actuality, I was fingerprinted a third time for the school. Is it normal to be on a first name basis with the finger-printing police officer in your neighborhood? Are people going to think I have a sketchy past when said officer sees me in the Trader Joe's and shouts out,"Hey Julie, how's it going? Are we going to see you at the station this week?"

The school is Waldorf based. I went to Montessori school. My mother owns and operates her own Montessori school. I had some preconceived notions of what Waldorf meant. I thought the philosophy was something like, "If you feel like climbing a tree right now, please by all means, go climb that tree." The more cynical side of me thought that it might be some Lord of the Flies type of scenario. I am sure my mom shuddered when she heard I was going to enter such an establishment. I have to admit, I feared for my life. Now for a disclaimer, I am just giving my observations on one school that is Waldorf based. I am not sure what this means exactly. I would be interested in observing a school that was a true Waldorf school. From what I can tell, the school where I am working is trying to have a Waldorf curriculum, while still following the rules and standards set by LA Unified. This is not an easy task.

Here are my impressions. Keep in mind that kids, for the most part, don't like substitute teachers. When they walk into a classroom they expect to see the same lovely person who leads them everyday, not some middle-aged, surly woman whose underarm flab flaps wildly as she writes something on the chalk board.

First Grade: This is the first group I taught. They were not happy to see me. The classroom was filled with Waldorfy accents; gnomes, wizards, candles, lavender spray etc. I brought the kids into circle. Here is where I learned something amazing about Waldorf kids; They could tell one hell of a story.

It was like something out of Chaucer. I have never been more enthralled by a tale. A tow-headed girl, (we'll call her Laura) began talking when it was her turn in the circle. I had just asked them to each say their name and to tell me something about themselves, briefly. Remember it was my first day and I had absolutely no idea what I was doing.

Laura: Well it all began one day at the beach...
The Other first Graders in the circle: Oh Laura, we heard it before ha, ha ha.
There was a gentle ribbing by the other kids, you could almost hear the clinking of their beer steins as they continued regaling each other.
Laura continued: There was a man. He was lying on his beach towel. There was a crab...
First graders: Oh, no Laura! Not again. Don't forget the best part!

They had all heard the story before. It was basically a story about a guy, on vacation, falling asleep on his beach towel, getting a visit from a crab and shaking said crab off his towel.
Well, you would have thought it was The Odyssey. Laura told this story with such fervor and wild imagination that I became dumbfounded. This seven year old had constructed a tale with prologue, climax, denouement and conclusion. I have never seen anything like it. It was fantastic. During the story, except for a gentle ribbing or," Oh no not again! " from the crowd, these classmates were completely respectful of Laura. They sat with their eyes focused on her. There they were, her cheerful compatriots full of support and wonder. Wow, I thought, there is really something to this Waldorf stuff.

There is definitely something to be said for this type of education. I love the fact that these kids have to sign a "no media" contract. During the school week, these kids are asked to eschew all television, video games, computers etc. They are asked not to wear logos of any kind on their clothing. It is really refreshing to be around a bunch of kids who are not covered head to toe in Dora the Explorer (not that there is anything wrong with that). These kids are highly imaginative, and I have to believe it has something to do with the fact that instead of watching stories, they are creating their own stories. Of course there is the occasional second grader who says, " Miss Julie, Spiderwick is also a book so we are allowed to discuss it."

Another thing that is enviable in this school is the class size. There are only about twenty kids in the class. The kids study two languages, Japanese and Spanish. They do Handwork, (primarily knitting) and have music and movement classes. Having any kind of arts program in a Los Angeles public school is a huge plus.

More later...

Wednesday, March 12, 2008


I found this in my comments:

You've been tagged!Rules of play:
Post 10 random things about yourself
Choose 5 people to tag and a reason you chose each person (can be totally nonsensical)
Leave them each a comment directing them to your blog so they know they are it .
You can't tag the person who tagged you (you'll have to make new friends)
As a courtesy to the person who tagged you, please let them know when you have posted so they can have the sheer delight and extra work load of reading your answers

Okay...Ten Random Things...

1. I have been radioactive. I wouldn’t recommend it. As part of my cancer treatment I had to drink radioactive iodine and stay in a paper lined hospital room until the Geiger counter said I was safe to go home.

2. In college I went on a date with Adam Sandler. The next day his roommate told me that Adam would not be asking me out again because, "I didn’t put out.” Thank God right?

3. I can think of about one hundred cities that I would prefer to live in. I am trying to make the most of it here in LA.

4. I am deathly afraid of driving. (Part of why I would like to live somewhere other than Los Angeles). I have been in several accidents. In the last one, I was literally hit by a shit truck. The septic tanker hit the passenger side of my car and totaled it. I was fine, but now have scars on my wrist that look like they came from a botched suicide attempt.

5. When I was getting ready to go to high school, I begged my parents to send me to an all girls’ Catholic school MILES away from my house. It was not that I was religious. There was a local bully in my neighborhood. She told someone to tell me that if I attended the excellent public school near my house (where she went)- she would kill me. Murder me. I had never met this girl, but she “didn’t like the looks of me.” I was too terrified to argue. I think my parents were happy that I requested a catholic school.

6. When I was fifteen I met Andy Warhol on the streets of New York. He was hard to miss. He gave me a copy of “Interview” Magazine. He was on his way to his publisher. When I got home I noticed that he had written notes throughout it. I guess they were edits that he wanted. I really wish I had kept that magazine. It would have paid for this adoption and probably six more.

7. I had scoliosis as a girl, and was terrified that I would have to wear a brace like Judy Blume’s Deenie.

8. When my mom and I get together we like to make an enormous bowl of popcorn and watch the movie Tootsie.

9. I had a small part on Guiding Light once. I played a birth mother who gives her baby up right after delivering. It was a flashback and the producers decided my voice didn’t sound enough like the person’s I was flashing back, so they dubbed it. It ended up looking like a really bad Kung-Fu movie.

10. I love ginger; ginger ale, ginger scones, ginger candy, ginger tea. Ginger is one of life’s gifts.

I am tagging:

Zufan's Mom

Because I would like to know more about them.

Would you place children with this person...

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Upon all the living and the dead...

I mentioned yesterday that Steven and I went to this show on Saturday night. I had an extremely strong reaction to it. The play was wonderfully done, and the music was absolutely heartbreaking. I cried my eyes out. I am not sure why I reacted so strongly (it may be due to PMS made evident by my breakfast choice of a bowl of M&M's with milk this morning.)

This play completely reminded me of my family. It made me nostalgic. I was remembering back to when I was a kid. I used to go to my grandparents' house in Wilmette for Christmas. My entire family would be there; aunts, uncles, cousins. It was like a scene out of Joyce's story, minus the singing and the dancing. Our celebrations were limited to the eating and the drinking parts.

If I felt such an incredible longing for my family who are just a short flight, instant phone call or e-mail away, what are my kids going to feel about Ethiopia ? About the family they left behind? About their homeland? About their relatives?

I know, I know, it is a bit of a stretch emotionally, but I mentioned that I am a little hormonal. These thoughts were overwhelming to me. I thought about how lucky I am to have such a large, loving family so close to me. I thought about people we have lost in my family like my mom's parents, my dad's mom, my aunt Diane. I thought about Ireland and our trip there.

This is a picture of me in our family cemetery in Ireland. We almost gave up on finding it, but after hours of searching, and a steer in the right direction by a peat farmer named Shamus (cliche right- but I swear that was his name) we finally came upon it. Thank you Steven for reminding me that if we didn't press on, and if we had turned back, I would have regretted it forever. I certainly would have.

Steven makes fun of me when I say that I am Irish. I know that I was born in America, but my ancestors were Irish and I love Ireland and her poets.

From, "The Dead"...

A few light taps upon the pane made him turn to the window. It had begun to snow again. He watched sleepily the flakes, silver and dark, falling obliquely against the lamplight. The time had come for him to set out on his journey westward. Yes, the newspapers were right: snow was general all over Ireland. It was falling on every part of the dark central plain, on the treeless hills, falling softly upon the Bog of Allen and, farther westward, softly falling into the dark mutinous Shannon waves. It was falling, too, upon every part of the lonely churchyard on the hill where Michael Furey lay buried. It lay thickly drifted on the crooked crosses and headstones, on the spears of the little gate, on the barren thorns. His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead.

If you are in Los Angeles, I highly recommend seeing this production. Even if you aren't Irish, you will still find it moving. I wasn't the only one crying in the audience.

I should have saved this post for St.Patrick's Day huh.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Ethiopian Life in Los Angeles...

Steven and I had a very emotionally intense weekend. On Saturday we had our last required adoption preparation class (I think it may need its own post). Saturday night we saw a beautiful production of James Joyce's, "The Dead" (also deserves its own post), and yesterday we went to the event above.

If you are an adoptive parent, especially one who is waiting for your referral, and you have an opportunity to go to an event where you are the only person in the room who is NOT Ethiopian, I suggest you go. This event was eye opening in so many ways. I am not sure if I can even describe, accurately, what it was like. Here are some topics that were discussed; identity, religion, politics, generational differences, culture, loss of culture, the immigrant experience, persecution, censorship, democracy, art, literature, responsibility. That is a lot to cover in a few hours on a bright and sunny Los Angeles afternoon don't you think? Where do I begin? Let's just say I learned more about Ethiopians, and Ethiopia in those three hours, than I have in the past six months of reading. To be honest, most of my research thus far has been about adoption- attachment, health concerns, schools etc, research that is more specific to me as a potential adoptive parent. This event has reminded me that I have a lot to learn about Ethiopia itself. Luckily, I have found some new resources for my education.

I think I will post more about this event later. I need to organize my thoughts. I will say one thing, this group was incredibly welcoming to us. I approached some of the panel members and said,"We need help," and they were more than willing to advise us. They had differing opinions on how we should help our children maintain a sense of their Ethiopian identity. More to come...

Friday, March 7, 2008

Friday Friend or Family Feature...

Today's Feature is...


This has been a really hard entry to write. Mostly because I know how private Heather is. I want to say everything, without saying too much.

This first picture of Heather at a friend's wedding is hilarious to me because it was taken on one of the four days in fourteen years, that I have seen Heather in a dress. She also wore a dress to two other weddings, and to her own. Her wedding dress was accessorized by white Converse sneakers if I remember correctly.

I met Heather the same time I met Steven.

Steven lived in the guest house of Heather and Marc's main house in Santa Fe, New Mexico. They shared a courtyard. The day I met Heather she was participating in a Santa Fe Art Show. Artists opened their homes and studios to the general public. Heather seemed shy, but friendly. I don't even think I had a chance to see her paintings that day. Apparently I only had eyes for Steven.

When I moved into that little purple house three months later, I never would have imagined that this woman would soon become such an important part of my life. Heather is my best friend. I talk to her constantly. She has been there for me time and time again. She is unfaltering in her friendship.

Heather is a no nonsense kind of woman. There is no bullshit with Heather. She tells it like it is. There is no pretense. There is humility, strength, humor, patience and wisdom. Heather is an incredible listener. Heather offers advice in a gentle, constructive manner. She knows what to say, and more importantly she knows what not to say.

When you run something by Heather and she says nothing, you know you are in trouble. If Heather is silent you can tell that she is letting you work through something. She is waiting (very patiently) for you to figure it out on your own (she is confident that you will!) I'll give you an example:

There was a brief, tortuous time when Steven and I officially gave up in the family building department. We couldn't take it anymore. I told Heather that is was obvious that the universe did not want Steven and me to be parents. I had been pregnant four times, and still we remained childless. Adoption, for that brief period, seemed far too daunting a task. Heather just kind of let me work through it on the phone. She didn't push me. She knew what I needed in terms of support. I needed a moment to let the strength come back to me. I needed to build myself up again. I needed to overcome my losses and disappointments. I just needed a little time to get myself together. I needed some time to open my eyes and my heart to something different, to something else.

She never pushed me. She let me get there on my own. I could literally feel her support in her silence. She just listened, and listened, and then she listened some more. Like I said, she is an incredible listener. How on earth did she know that that was exactly what I needed?

I can also think of time when I needed Heather to actually speak up, to set me straight verbally. Steven had a job opportunity in Los Angeles and wanted to take it. I had fallen in love with Santa Fe and didn't want to move. After weeks of stubbornness on my part, Heather sat me down and said," If you love Steven, you will get in that car." I brought this up to Steven the other day and he said that, he too, had gotten a "talking to" from Heather. His was something like," If you love Julie, you better make sure that she comes with you, make sure she gets in that car."

Heather and I both do something that is not ideal. We both worry A LOT. We have both fallen victim to Dr. Google:

"Well I just typed in my symptoms into Google, and I am sure that I have Ebola." Or," Well, according to Google, my cancer has a huge recurrence rate and will you take my dogs when I die?!" Or, the latest from Heather, " Neve's head, (Neve is her 15 month old daughter) is way too big for her body. It must be (insert horrible disease here)."

It is true, Heather and I tend to band together and fall into a Debbie Downer mood. We can't really help it. We have both been through huge health scares and challenges. We have suffered losses. We have battled major illnesses.

We have lost friends...

Together we have cried about Maddie, about Oasis, about Ollie and now about Lummi. These were our kids. These were our family.

Here is another of Heather's paintings. It is called "Disheveled Mom".

Here is another piece, I will title it, "The opposite of Disheveled Mom."

Heather is a great mom. She is vigilant in her care of Neve, but also allows Neve to experience new things on her own.

Heather suffered terribly to make sure that Neve was, and still is breastfed. The La Leche woman, at one point, made Heather stop and let her breasts heal. (Sorry Heether Feether, that was pretty personal huh?) It was an extremely painful and challenging experience for Heather.

She stayed strong and dedicated. It is really an amazing sight to see Neve make the sign for milk. It is even more amazing to see Neve's hand rest gently on her mom's face as she nurses. It was tough, but Heather was determined.

I have mentioned how supportive Heather has been emotionally. Did I mention that Heather gathered up a batch of her paintings, auctioned them off and then sent us the money to put towards our adoption expenses? Who does that? This money completely covered our home study. What a gift. Heather is a well respected artist. Her work commands top dollar, and she is featured in many galleries across the country. She has been the focus of several magazine articles.

When I asked her about this incredible gesture she said," After all of the losses that you guys have gone through, it felt really good to be able to finally help in some way."

Um, what does she think she has been doing for the last fourteen years?

Luckily, in a rare karmic response, a collector stumbled upon this auction and offered Heather, an "Artist in Residence" spot at his estate in the Italian countryside. Yep, I said Italian countryside. Oh, by the way, if you karma Gods are still out there, this is Heather's favorite artist...

Richard Diebenkorn. If you happen to see one lying around, please send it her way. She deserves a nice present.

This is another picture from my wedding...

This is our friend Chris' vintage Cadillac. On our wedding day, Marc and Heather decorated this car with balloons , streamers, and Paco the Pardoned Pinata. Chris, (who is epileptic and not allowed to drive,) drove us around the Santa Fe Plaza. Heather had strategically placed an enormous bag of candy in the back seat. Minutes after saying our vows, Steven and I tossed this candy to cheering onlookers. It was an incredibly exhilarating moment, one that I won't ever forget.

Another moment, made brighter by the presence of Heather...

Ginther's Great Ice Poop ! Truly an inside joke. I apologize.

How will my adoption impact Heather?

One of the pictures I have in my mind, one of the ones that makes me grin so big it hurts, is a picture of me, Heather, Neve, Marc, Steven, our children from Ethiopia and all of our dogs hanging out. In this picture we are laughing. We are happy. We aren't that worried. We are healthy. We are together. We have our children. Neve shows our kids something and they giggle. There is a small scuffle for the best toy, but then there is sharing. There is coffee. There is the New Mexico desert. There are burritos from Bumblebee. There is friendship. There is love. There is gratefulness. There is joy.

I can't wait.

I love you Heather. You are, hands down, the World's Greatest Best Friend.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

One man's trash...

One of my favorite things to do is go to used book sales. Steven's movie is wrapping, and they have a warehouse full of books. We had a glorious Sunday a couple of months ago, where Steven let me loose with an empty box and my greedy fingers. Back then, they still needed most of the books for the set so I just got a few things to supplement our library. These books are library cast-offs that the movie will use, and then recycle. I assumed that this meant that these books would be later donated to a place that could use them.

We went back this weekend. There are about six tons of books. There are now a few boxes of used children's books. When I asked Steven what the movie company really meant by "recycling," he said that they would literally be taken to a recycling bin; their lives as books would end. I started to panic. "What do you mean? You can't throw books away!" I looked around and thought about a post on our adoption forum, (I have received permission from the poster to post it here...)

"The new CHSFS Academy is in desperate need of story books. Their library is a disgrace. There is one tiny shelf and hardly anything on it. They need story books up to a 5th grade reading level."

I looked at Steven and said, "How can we get these books to Ethiopia? " There were a few story books. There were paperback versions of many important, classic novels. I thought, at the very least we could get these over. They don't weigh that much. I looked through them and realized that they are in pretty terrible condition. The pages are yellowed, people have underlined in them; there is a reason the library didn't want them anymore. Then I thought about the practicality of sending over old, weathered copies of the Iliad, and Wuthering Heights. I don't think that this is what they need.
I dug around trying to find books that might be relevant, books that we could bring over. Shipping to Ethiopia is cost prohibitive. Any donations we want to bring, we have to physically carry over. I believe that the airline stipulates that each person is allowed two bags that weigh 50 pounds or less. Any bag after that will have to be paid for. Still, I thought, surely there are some books here that are worth salvaging and carrying over.

Not this one....

And definitely not this one...

But maybe these...

Maybe it makes more sense to keep these used books for our kids, and take over donations like clothing, formula, and new books instead? I guess will will defer to our agency as we get closer to our referral.

I also found this book in one of the boxes we brought home...

Steven swears he didn't add it to our spoils. It is a pretty hilarious book. How did it get into our stuff?

Addendum: I am donating a large box of these books to our local public school where I have been working. I felt a bit better after spending a long time actually looking through everything at the warehouse. I was assured that people in Ethiopia have absolutely no need to receive hardback copies of, "Who's Who in American High School Students 1976-1985." Surely there is something better that I can come up with. Chris (my mother-in-law the librarian), any ideas?