Sunday, December 30, 2007

Neezer Gear!

Okay, I admit it: shopping for baby clothes is fun. I'd avoided it for a long time since my way of coping was to tell myself that we weren't going to hear about our baby until well into 2008, so why torture myself with an empty room stocked with baby stuff? And besides that, we didn't know if a boy or girl was in the cards for us, but now that we know... what fun.

With Portland being a hippie-dippie, recycling kind of town, it's easy to find good quality childrens' gear at consignment shops. I found a rack Saturday with all items only $1 a piece, so guess who stocked up?

I'm not a huge fan of the turtle overalls, but since they were just a dollar, I figured, what the hey? He can wear them this summer and get them dirty. I'm a big fan of kids clothes like the ones on the left in the above photo: clothes that just look like shrunken adult clothes. Kids are cute enough anyway: why guild the lily with cutesy characters?

Well...the cutesy characters rule doesn't apply to sleepers:
This tshirt he won't be able to wear for another year or so, but I'm keeping everything together. The "My Dad's a Geek" onesie: well now, is there really any question about that one?
We got these in Ireland this summer and stuffed them with grocery bags for our Christmas brunch prayer photo. We can't wait to fill them with Baby Rooney.

We have friends loaning us a Moses basket, a wooden high chair (love those things), and various other items. We're on the lookout now for good carseat and an Ergo Baby Carrier, plus all the other items on our list to travel with. A friend who's made two trips to Ethiopia with kids told me today to plan on one diaper per hour on the flight. She planned this way and used every stinkin' (literally) one of hers. Holy Crap.

So with this court date coming so soon, I've had the occasional moments of panic and general feeling of being absolutely overwhelmed with all that has to be done (and have I mentioned we're in the middle of a kitchen remodel?)...but then I take a look at that chubby, rosy, thumb-sucking little face, and all the worry fades. It's all going to be okay in the end, God willing, help us, Jesus.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Court Date and other things.

We're hoping baby Abenezer is ready to go from the warmth of Ethiopia to this: winter in the Pacific Northwest. I snapped this photo while driving up to Seattle yesterday to visit friends. And it seems that he may be here sooner than we expected! Mary called today with the surprising news that we have been assigned a court date on January 4th! As our friend Kelly K would say...Holy Crap! It's all wonderfully exciting but boy is there tons to do to get ready.
Yesterday while up in Washington, I got to sit betwixt two of my favorite women in the world, Carolee and Dee. I feel so blessed beyond measure to have these inspirations in my life. These folks know how to live well. Carolee makes me laugh and cry nearly every time I see her, by the little ways she has of doing things like jumping fully clothed into a swimming pool to relieve stress or like the time she made me cry at our Christmas party a couple of years ago by handing me a framed snapshot she had of Rich Mullins sitting on his porch with his dog. She knew that Rich is my hero and she even got to sing with him and everything. Carolee has the voice of an angel.

Dee is the most creative person I know, with a house filled with meaningful treasures and joyful things, like a framed portrait of her chickens. She gave us a basket of gifts yesterday, with stuff like fizzing bath crystals (ooh la la), green fuzzy baby socks, and an adoption-themed baby book. It's a treasure. It's called My Family, My Journey: a Memory Book. She also gave this book to "Ted and his boy," which made both of us cry. We love Dee and Chris.On my birthday, we finally got to try out the local Cajun/Creole place in town, which I was especially excited about. And Ted made me feel very special by splurging on a gift set of Lovely as well as all kinds of art supplies. Amidst all the preparations for Baby Rooney, I hope I have time to get to those... We also found out on my birthday how horrendously expensive diapers are. As Ted would say, Jiminy Christmas! So it looks like we'll be starting out with a big box from Costco and then transitioning to cloth diapers when we get home and settled in. Portland's a cloth diaper kind of town, so I'm sure we'll figure it out.

Christmas was a lot of fun, with Ted getting to change his very first diaper after Christmas dinner. He did great. We're lucky to have Baby E around to practice on--he and Baby Rooney are even the same age, though E is twice as heavy :) Here he is taking a nap on Aunt Lori during dinner. What a sweet snuggler. I can't wait for Baby E and Baby A to play together.
While opening presents Christmas day, it started to snow pretty hard, so all the neighbors ran outside. That was fun fun fun. Here we are with some of our favorite neighbors:
We did our best to include Baby Neezer (as Sophie Breedlove has been calling him) in our Christmas day brunch, so here's evidence of that. A little bit twisted? Or sweet? Weird? Oh well:
By the way, Ted is wearing here the sweater his mom knitted for him twenty years ago. He pulls it out every Christmas, like a good son should.

Finally, we got to do lots of singing and games too, like Apples to Apples: the Bible version...which is kind of trippy. On one of my turns as judge, my adjective was "wide," so despite being offered choices like the Nile River and the land of Canaan, how could I be a good Christian and not pick "the love of God," laid down by nephew Matthew?

Here are a couple of clips of the caroling that went on Christmas Eve. Ted's instructions to the crowd during "Feliz Navidad" is a nice example of what he likes to call his "stupid humor." He's awfully good at that.

And finally, I wanted to put the query out there (for anyone who's read this far) for advice on what the heck to take on this trip. We have a great list from our agency, and I've been reading travel tips from parents who've already gone, but I'd love to hear input/advice about traveling with a 7-month old baby. Any of you who have flown long distances with a baby: What items came in handy and which items just got in the way? I'd love to hear input.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Baby Got Back

That sweet girl with the mischievous smile standing here with me at my wedding--the same one who bravely karaoke sang "Whomp, There It Is" two days before our wedding in front of a large crowd of our friends and family, plus a few strangers--just sent me this video today, which has completely made my birthday! I love it! Thanks, SJ!

I hope you all had the best Christmas ever. I know we did. Pictures to follow. For now though, we're off to watch Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story. Last year on my birthday, it was Tenacious D: The Pick of Destiny, so I'm sensing a theme here with rock music parodies...

Monday, December 24, 2007

Cloud Nine

So what's been going on with the Rooneys since last week? For one thing, my brain keeps misfiring. I can't think of simple words sometimes, I forget to eat, and I've felt like I've been existing on some other plane of reality. I'm guessing (and hoping) this wears off as reality sets in?

One thing that has surprised me is how quickly I've felt myself attaching to these precious photos we have of baby Abenezer. I had somehow convinced myself that I could remain guarded until we passed our court date, but that was before I'd seen a photo of that wide-mouthed gummy smile! So, I'm a goner: completely ga-ga over this little guy. I even brought his framed photo to church yesterday to show anyone who'd expressed even a passing interest in our adoption plans.

We've had fun celebrating in various ways this week. We finished up wrapping our Christmas packages last night and have them all nestled under the tree. I opened up one early, a bumper sticker made by our friends Rusty and Carrie, which says,
"Life is like having a bumper sticker. You believe in something strongly for a short period of time and display it proudly. When you've moved on, the idea refuses to let go completely, leaving marks and stickiness where it once was, embarrassing you until you eventually just cover it up with something just as dumb, hoping no one notices the lumps underneath." Rusty and Carrie are my cleverest friends.

We've also been eating things like this:

This one is called the "Queen of Sheba," so of course I had to order it. If you're ever in Portland, I highly recommend the shop Pix for dessert.

I didn't eat this one, but I thought it was really pretty anyway.

My friend Jana came to visit all the way from Slovakia, so we had fun showing her around Portland. Jana and I have been friends for ten years now. She likes to eat tortilla chips and salsa, even at breakfast:
We took a walk with Jana up on NW 23rd, a.k.a. Yuppie-ville U.S.A., where we found this John Cleese t-shirt hanging in a window. This Wednesday it will be four years since Ted proposed to me by giving me this "Ministry of Silly Walks" t-shirt. He said that part of his calling in life was to have a ministry of silly walks and he asked me join him. There's more to it than that, of course, but it's a whole other long story. Suffice it to say, it was a very original proposal. So we got all sentimental when we saw it, even going so far as to kiss on the street.

We've also had lots of time this week to visit with friends. We've never understood it when people say, "Oh, we'd love to get together but you know, with the busy holiday season, we may not be able to until January when things have calmed down." Huh? Isn't that what the holidays are for? To slow down and visit with friends? So here is Ted with one of his oldest--and I'd say best--friend Jim.
And here are some old friends of Ted's from high school. We got together with a group of them who are in town for the holidays, including one who is a genuine FBI Agent. You'd never know it to meet her: she seems pretty gentle in person, so I think it's pretty awesome to imagine her chasing down criminals with her pistol drawn. I put this picture here to point out the little photograph on the table. Anyone recognize that little face?

I'll leave you with a clip from one of my favorite Christmas movies. I hope you all have a blessed holiday, with lots of peace, joy, delicious treats, and some Christmas enthusiasm as displayed here:

Friday, December 21, 2007

New Photos!

Thank you Thank you THANK YOU Cortney and Lindsey for taking the time to pass these photos along to us. That, along with an all-day surprise visit from one of my oldest friends from Slovakia, Jana K, has made my day! And she came bearing Becherovka, so I think I know how the Rooney house will be celebrating tonight :)

Wednesday, December 19, 2007


The following is the email that Ted sent out yesterday to the Rooney yahoo group. With eight siblings, plus spouses and children and spouses of children plus their children, that's a lot of people to keep up with, hence our own Rooney yahoo group :) Feel free to "ooh and ahh" to your heart's content. I can't stop looking at this picture! Have you ever seen such amazing lips?!


Does this look like a Rooney at all to you?

Well, it is!!!

Lori and I wanted to introduce you to someone we met today. His name is Abenezer, and he is about 6 months old. We have decided to make him a big part of our lives, so you may be seeing a lot of him in the future. Our commitment toward this relationship is at least through him turning the age of 18. Sounds serious, huh? Well, we are actually committed up to the day we die, but after 18 the choice will be up to him, as well. So we hope he likes us.

My dear Rooney extended family. I just wanted to let you know as soon as we did that we got the referral for our Ethiopian child this morning and we are still in a bit of a daze. To read more, go to Lori's blog. We are not sure about his name, but we do like the name he was given (Means: "God has always helped us"--or so we hear), so it just may stick.
We'll let you know as things progress.
Much love.
Ted & Lori

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Soundtrack by Roberta

"His own heart laughed: and that was quite enough for him."--Charles Dickens, about Ebenezer Scrooge.

I woke up wide awake this morning at 5:00 am, worried because our little cat Buddy wasn't sleeping beside me like usual. In fact, the last I'd seen him was at 9:30 when he scampered out of the kitty door, miffed about all the noise going on in the house (we had friends over, with four kids running around).

I got up and called him, but he didn't come. I woke Ted up, and he got dressed and went walking around in the rain calling him. Ted does these sorts of things not because he's worried about Buddy but because he loves me. Sometimes I think I'm indulged more than I'm worth.
I managed to go back to sleep but all I dreamed about was Buddy getting lost or run over by a car or chased by coyotes. When I woke up again, Buddy still wasn't around, so I put on clothes and hat and walked around the block, checking the gutters and curbs know. My mind goes to that dark place. Sorry.

As I walked back home, the stupid cat comes running up to me, meeowing. Where he'd been, I have no idea. But I think I got a taste of what it means to parent a teenager who doesn't come home on time. I was happy to see him but a little mad at him too for making me have dark dreams about his violent demise.

Satisfied that all the living things in my care were safe again, I sat down at the computer with my hot cup of PGTips to read emails, many of which were sweet, encouraging comments from people about the Wait.

Half an hour later, the phone rang. It was Mary, our Gladney caseworker, and for about half a second, I thought it might be our referral call. But then I realized that we weren't going to hear about our referral until January, and Mary then started answering a question I'd emailed her about this week. Whew. She answered my question but didn't hang right up. She lingered. I didn't know what to say. I thought, "Uh, Mary? Aren't you kind of busy these days? Didn't I hear something about you guys working late nights lately? Shouldn't you be doing something important?"

It turns out that the important thing was to make sure I was seated because...she was calling about a certain little 6-month-old boy named Abenezer who is going to become Our Own Rooney! Yowzers!

Because Ted had his night disturbed by searching for our wayward lil' bastard, he was sleeping in. I went upstairs and found him hanging with Bang Bang. With his signature Rooney morning face, he gazed at me, but it was clear he wasn't getting it. When I gave him a thumbs up and mouthed the word "Referral!," he sprung out of bed. Later, he told me that at that moment it felt like it was Christmas morning and he'd overslept and was awakened with that news of an extra big surprise under the tree with his name on it.

The next half hour sitting in front of the computer was the most surreal moment of my life to date. As Mary went through all the information about this little guy, I only heard about half of it. My head was swimming, and the thing I never thought would happen did: I fell in love with a photograph. People, our little Christmas Abenezer Scrooge Rooney is STUNNING.

For all of you parents out there still in process, feeling overwhelmed by notaries, by having every intimate detail of your life scrutinized by strangers, by papercuts and signatures, and copy machines, by the hours spent pouring over blogs, by the occasional dumb question, and by the long, long wait: be of good faith! It's all worth it for the moment that you see that face.

I've been hearing Roberta Flack singing in my head all day "The first time ever I saw your face, I thought the sun rose in your eyes...," this beautiful, beautiful day.

PS: No, we are not naming him Christmas Abenezer Scrooge Rooney. And hang in there, pictures are coming :)

Monday, December 17, 2007

As We Wait...

We were sent this weekend through some family member I've never met a blog of someone they know who've adopted from Ethiopia, and looking at their photos of them home with their child, I got this longing ache. It physically hurt. I guess this is what comes upon entering the magical 3-5 month period we were told it would take for our referral to come. Until last week, I hadn't let myself think about it, knowing that it was too early. But could happen anytime, and that ache is a real killer. I sent an email this morning to another Waiting Mom with the subject line simply "Sigh."

This is my prayer. I wish I could take credit for having written it because I think it's the best blessing I've heard...maybe ever.

"May all your expectations be frustrated. May all your plans be thwarted. May all your desires be withered into nothingness that you may experience the powerlessness and poverty of a child and sing and dance in the love of God who is Father, Son, and Spirit. Amen."

Let go, let go, let go. Thank you, Jesus, for Brennan Manning's spiritual mentor, the author of this blessing. Thank you for our friends Nan and Dave who sent us to these retreat talks. Thanks for loving me as I am, not as I think I should be. Thank you for "Me and My Arrow," roasted pecan dip on snow peas, and Full Sail Wassail. Thanks for giving Blind Kitty a home. Thanks for giving me a man who cries at Will Smith movies. Thank you for friends who forgive me when I forget to call them back and thank you for and the friends I've found there.

Thank you for our baby(s), wherever he/she/they may be.


Brennan Manning

We just now found out through a friend at our church in Los Angeles that Brennan Manning, my number one favorite Christian writer, spoke at a recent retreat. Ragamuffin Gospel and Abba's Child changed my life, absolutely. I was excited to hear that his talks at the retreat are online for download. I haven't listened to them yet, but I wanted to put the word out to any other ragamuffins who might be interested in hearing a Seasonal dose of grace.

Go here to listen. You'll get to hear lines like this one:

"Aristotle said I'm a rational animal. I say I'm an angel with an incredible capacity for beer. That's the real Brennan."

PS: Our friend Dave suggested turning the volume way up, as Mr. Manning has gotten pretty feeble of late and mumbles/slurs sometimes.


This has been making us laugh...

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

A Thing of Beauty is a Joy Forever

My friend Melissa gave us this quilt last week as an early Christmas gift. She made it herself. The only thing I've ever sewn in my life, at age 19 because my mother made me, was a tent dress made with fabric in the "kountry kitchen" style with chicken feed labels and black-eyed pea cans all over it. I think it was supposed to be used for curtains...very ugly curtains. And I got carpal tunnel syndrome in my wrists and forearms from the sewing experience, so I haven't gone back to it since. Because I'm so lacking in crafty talent, I'm always impressed by people like Melissa who manage to put such beautiful things together with their own heads and hands.

It got me thinking about a few beautiful things in my life lately, starting with this quilt. You can check out the other things Melissa has available at her shop at etsy. She sells a lot of things in stores around Portland too. I'm proud of her and the way she manages to work full time, take care of her gorgeous kids, and make such beautiful things.

Another beautiful thing can be found here, at the blog of a 2007 Photobloggies Award nominee. The other nominees are great too, but hers is my favorite.

I find these prints, made by fellow Gladney-ite Jana, especially beautiful and meaningful. I think she needs to do more of these because she's very good at it. Then she can teach me how to do them.

I must have a thing for men in period costumes because I find this, this, and this oh so dashing and gorgeous (I'm the lucky girl actually married to one of these men!).

Finally, I've always loved ballet, ever since I was a little girl (pre-fat days) and met Kathy Thibodeaux right before her performance in The Nutcracker. I thought she was the most beautiful thing I'd ever set my young eyes on. Not long after that, the movie Six Weeks, starring Dudley Moore, Mary Tyler Moore (who I thought looked just like my mom in this movie), and Katherine Healy, came out, and I'd watch it every time it came on HBO. I always loved this scene as a little girl, thinking that playing Clara would have been the best thing in the entire world. And (spoiler alert), no matter how many times I saw it, I cried every time I saw this scene because I knew her days were numbered. I loved this movie.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Good Samaritan

Ted has this habit of getting into the car, turning the ignition, putting the car in gear, and then clicking his seatbelt on after he's already started driving. When he does this, I tend to make the Marge Simpson sigh/growl, which he knows is his reminder that I prefer he not get killed or maimed in a car accident. He doesn't do it as much as he used to, and maybe after what happened this week to my mom, he'll remember even more.

My mom, seen here dancing with Ted at our wedding, came upon a wreck one morning this week on her early-morning drive to work. Cars ahead of her were swerving off to the shoulder to avoid the wreckage, so she did the same. Once she stopped, she saw that one young woman was standing outside her car next to the body of a man curled in fetal position on the side of the road.

My mom told my little brother to stay in the car (he rides to school with her) while she got out to check on the man. The paramedics had been called, but this man was in bad shape, and Momma said she couldn't just stand there and do nothing.

She's been a registered nurse for more than thirty years, so she knew what to do but felt frustrated by her lack of equipment. She'd had experience in trauma cases like this before, but only in an emergency room, not on the side of a freeway. She found that he had a pulse but his breathing was very labored. The young woman standing next to him had seen the accident and said that she counted ten times that the man bounced on the pavement before stopping. He'd not been wearing a seatbelt and had been thrown from the truck. Obviously, he was in bad shape.

So my mom weighed the options, and she knew that, despite her lack of gloves and anything sterile, she couldn't live with herself if she didn't at least help him breathe. So she said a prayer, asking God to protect her from the risk of contaminated blood and with her bare hands, cleared his air passageway. He took a deep breath then, but his pulse was weakening, and by this time firemen had arrived and could move him onto a board.

After they'd done this, my mom could see the full extent of his massive injuries and started doing chest compressions. She continued doing this while hearing the local news stations' helicopters flying overhead. (She told me today how angry she felt then, thinking 1. how intrusive this was to the injured man and his family and 2. how ridiculous it is that news stations have the money for helicopters but hospitals don't and that things could have gone much differently if a medical chopper could have whisked him away rather than having to wait for an ambulance to make its way through miles of stalled traffic).

The medics finally arrived, but quickly after getting him into the ambulance, they pronounced him dead. My mom turned and saw the same young woman standing there watching all of this, so she went to her, put her arm around her violently shaking shoulders and asked how she was. She had never seen someone die before. My mom then got back into her car and realized for the first time how cold she was--she'd not noticed until getting back into the heated car that it was only 32 degrees outside. She and my brother drove back home so that she could clean herself up.

I was so proud of my mother and get teary every time I think about what happened. Of all the people who could have happened so quickly upon this accident, my mom couldn't have been more perfect for that situation. Not only did she know exactly what to do, but she did it with compassion. Upon first feeling the man's pulse, she had a bystander go find some I.D. so that she could address him by name. She leaned next to him and spoke directly to him, calling him by name and letting him know that he wasn't alone. As awful as this accident was, it's also good that hopefully he knew that a caring someone was there with him in his final moments.

He was 27 years old, with a wife and son.

We were talking today about what happened, and one thing Momma said was that she was making sure from now on that she had a box of latex gloves in her car, plus a first aid kit and a blanket. We were also talking about the importance of more people having at least a basic understanding of CPR and first aid. She was telling me how simple it can actually be to keep someone alive in the crucial minutes it takes for help to arrive and how any average Joe could do it. Apparently most fire stations will give free classes on CPR if you can organize a group of people to come. This has inspired me to try to get one of these classes together in our neighborhood.

All this got me thinking about the practical side of being a good samaritan. It's not just having compassion and generosity, though those things are certainly important. If I have a giving heart, I should also have in my car things like a first aid kit, latex gloves, a small box of nonperishable food, a list of all the shelters in my area, a blanket to give to someone who is cold, an extra hat and coat too.

I'm not sure how to wrap this up except to say how proud I am to be my mother's daughter. She's been a hero to many, like the countless special needs foster kids she's taken care of through the years and the family whose father she gave one of her kidneys to (yes, you heard me right--she gave away her kidney, and she's a bone marrow donor too). This week, she rose once again to the occasion, being the comforting hands and voice to someone crossing over, to someone who would have died alone had she not been there to gently say his name.

Please wear your seatbelt.

Thursday, December 6, 2007


Because this is who I was as a 10-year-old...

(notice napkin firmly in place for next feeding)

...I can laugh at things like this, knowing my inner fat-kid now knows her way around an eliptical trainer and does yoga:

Fat Kid Successfully Avoids Ridicule By Swimming With Shirt On

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Little Tykes

The couple we have staying with us this week through Hospitality Club make me feel old. I like them and all, but it's hard for me to get used to the fact that I'm not in my mid-20's anymore like they are. They both have this "youthful optimism" (to use a cliche) and wide-eyed wonder at a lot of things, like all the vegetarian offerings at Trader Joe's and the surround-sound in our basement (which the previous owners of our house installed).

They both just returned from their stints in Peace Corps-Macedonia, so they're in that weird reentry culture shock that I so much remember. It's nice though--they think nothing of walking the little trek from our house to the closest light-rail station and they came on this trip to Portland with the attitude of "Yes! We will move here! We will get jobs and find an apartment all this week!"

They go to bed early and get up early and cook big eggy breakfasts before setting off on their days, which are no doubt full of optimism. Even the weather seemed to follow them: it'd been downpouring for days before they came but the sun came out on their first morning here. Granted, it's raining again today, but I'm sure they're taking it in stride. They've got their love to keep them dry.

And interestingly, they were just visiting last week with a Macedonian Peace Corps recruiter who I knew in Slovakia. He taught me to make cucumber salad. I even have a picture of Igor on this salad-making day to show them. Small world, as they say.

Another little tyke we've taken in this week is a blind/deaf cat who showed up at our church Sunday morning. I have no idea what to do with this thing. He was shivering and wet and oh so pathetic, so of course we brought him home. We bathed him and fed him and didn't complain too bad when he pooped out some weird, hard stuff with lots of hair in it onto our bathmat (sorry for being so gross). He's still a kitten and is actually pretty cute, but he makes me so so so sad.

Since Sunday, he's perked up a bit. His poops are more normal (I know this because he won't go in the box, only on the floor--though he will pee in the box, which means I get to clean poo every day, hurray!) and he's been trying to explore his surroundings a bit more by walking head-down until he bumps his head on a wall.

I really don't know what to do with him. I've tried giving him to one of the "no-kill" shelters, but they're all full, and I know the chances of some kind soul choosing a blind kitten to take home from the humane society are pretty slim. No one has claimed him from the ad I put on craigslist either. I keep hoping I can find someone in a retirement home to take him. He's just the most vulnerable, helpless little thing, not an ounce of scrappy stray-cat in him. Sigh.

According to the Breedlove's countdown, we're now on week 11 or something Waiting. Just so you know.

I leave you with this clip I sneaked during the preshow of the play Ted just finished directing. He led the preshow for the first two performances. I call this piece "Christmas Gusto." I wish you all could see the energy that man has on stage.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

The Richest Man in Town

"...And we shall walk through all our days with love remembered and love renewed."

We had lunch today with a charming man, the father of Ted's high school girlfriend. Ted hadn't seen Mr. Miller in decades, and he came to our church Sunday just to find Ted. He lives with his wife in and is the chaplain of an assisted living home. His lovely wife has Lou Gehrigs Disease and can no longer walk or speak. You should see the light in her eyes though. That woman sparkles. The two of them have their own repertoire of signs to communicate with each other, and the love they have for each other is so apparent. The drawing here was done by one of their grandchildren and hangs outside the door to their apartment.

He reminds me a bit of my Grandaddy (who went on to heaven in 2001). I was riding in the car with Grandaddy one day when I was in college, and we saw Granny coming home on the same street. The two of them slowed down, rolled down their windows, and talked for a moment about the event that Granny was returning from. As Grandaddy and I drove away, he said, "Lori, your grandmother is the most beautiful woman God ever created." And that was that.

Mr. Miller used to be a traveling salesman. Some days were harder than others. He is blind in one eye, and has both one bad leg and one bad arm due to childhood polio. One evening at the end of a lean few days of meager sales, he expressed his weariness to his wife, even wondering if he should give up. She said that with their combined three eyes, three legs, and three arms, they should be alright. They were. In the few hours I've spent with them, I can see that these people have lived their lives well.

A friend was telling me today about the importance of surrounding ourselves with people who inspire us, who will challenge us to live better. She's right, and I feel lucky to have met the Millers.

Ted has been directing this fall a production of It's a Wonderful Life which is getting ready to open as I write this. Ted's playing piano for the "preshow" for the first few performances, so he was practicing this afternoon while I was looking through the script. I so love this story. The Actor's Co-Op did productions of the same show for the last two Christmases, both of which Ted was in, playing nine different roles including Mr. Potter and Uncle Billy. I saw several performances those two years and loved that moment during each show when the audience collectively gasped at Ted's first Mr. Potter line: it was dead-on Lionel Barrymore. I was proud of him. Each performance was such a cathartic experience for the audience (at least for me). I think people were not expecting to feel the same sentiment towards the play, yet you'd see the majority of people bawling by the end, probably even more than when watching the movie.

I got all teary reading the script today. That moment when Clarence says, "Strange isn't it? Each person's life touches so many other lives, and when he isn't around, he leaves an awful big hole, doesn't he?" gets me every time.

But the one line that makes my face scrunch up and my chest all achy more than any other, even as I type this, is Harry's toast to his brother George at the end:

To my big brother George: the richest man in town.

This is what was going on at the Rooney house today around 4:30, a woman crying over a script and a man in a suit banging away "Jingle Bells."

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Life More Bearable

"The arts are not a way to make a living. They are a very human way of making life more bearable. Practicing an art, no matter how well or how badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven's sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possibly can. You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something."
--Kurt Vonnegut

It's important for me to be given the freedom to create something badly. I'm oh so good at that. Thank you, Mr. Vonnegut.

Simon Rodia is the Italian immigrant who created Watts Towers, which I strongly encourage you to go visit in South Central Los Angeles.

I found the Vonnegut quote at The Jimson Weed Gazette. This man has a way of making Los Angeles, a city I typically think is pretty ugly, look beautiful. He often highlights the overlooked faces found wandering the streets and takes the time to tell their stories. This inspires me too.

Maybe making life more bearable is what these stencils are all about. This one I found in Jackson, Mississippi, in the parking lot of Basil's Cafe, which is in the old post office where Eudora Welty mailed her manuscripts and then went shopping next door at the Jitney Jungle.
Or I don't know, maybe they're gang symbols and I'm being had.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Happy Sunday

Thanks to the blog from a fellow soon-to-be adoptive mom, I found these two videos, which have made me laugh so hard my stomach hurts now. I may not have gotten a face work-out, but at least my abs got some work today...

Friday, November 23, 2007

Thank God for Thanksgiving

When I had my tonsils out at age three, the nurses (all friends of my mom, who is also a nurse) knew I liked to eat eggs, so they started feeding me some post-surgery. I don't know if they were scrambled, fried, boiled or what, but I ate them until they forced me to stop on number eight, thinking I might get sick.

My love-affair with all things eggy continues until today, so you can imagine my excitement upon walking into Alice's house and seeing a plate of heavy-on-the-mustard deviled eggs made by Christina and Lilly. Forget the moist turkey, rosemary laden stuffing, and sweet potato casserole, not that these things aren't delicious. I just want the deviled eggs.

I haven't spent Thanksgiving with my relatives in Mississippi since I was in graduate school back in 2000. Since then, I've made my own Thanksgiving meal with the help of friends in Slovakia on the Friday after the day (since I had to work on the actual holiday), and cooked for friends and family for two years in Los Angeles where it was always so warm we could eat outside.

Last year was the weirdest Thanksgiving ever, where I had a rueben and cole-slaw at my father-in-law's favorite New York-style deli in Palm Springs. It wasn't without its Thanksgiving cheer though. Upon arriving to Ed's condo and wishing him a "Happy Thanksgiving!" I get a surly "Don't you Happy god-damned Thanksgiving me!" Mr. Ed always makes the holidays cheery and bright.

So with all the years of Friday celebrations in another country, outside on the deck meals in hot L.A., and a Palm Springs Thanksgiving, it was really nice yesterday to be a part of a traditional meal with our family in Oregon. I felt very grateful to Edwin and Alice for hosting everyone and especially to Alice for doing the thankless job of eating the turkey neck and later picking all the meat off the bones.

It was a fun day, one in which we all got to meet a little fella named Peppercorn. He's a shy one who probably doesn't want his picture on this blog--and really, that's best for us all--so in place of Peppercorn, here's his new friends:We got up this morning and took part in "Black Friday" by getting to Fred Meyer's by 10:30 for their annual Sock-Sale, which had started at 5:00 am. There weren't too many people there, and Ted encouraged me to knock over this old lady's shopping cart. She eyed us for a while before realizing he was joking. The lady standing behind Ted then told us that there were whole bins of socks right around the corner, so Ted did his dramatic jump and scamper down the aisle and around the corner, making everyone in the aisle crack up.
Ted was picking out enough socks for the next few years while I was compromising my anti-corporation principles by taking a free white chocolate mocha offered to me by one of the Starbucks baristas as I was coming out of the restroom (he'd made it with caffeine instead of decaf as a customer had requested). I felt a little dirty walking around with that red cup, but I had to admit: it is such a cheery little thing.

And on a side-note (as if this post has a target-note), I don't get how people can drink these sweet coffee drinks every stinkin' day. Sure, it tasted good, but it was so syrupy and was a 16 ouncer too. I felt gross after going through half of it. And what's the appeal of white chocolate anyway? It tastes like nothing to me, just sweet. If any white-chocolate fans out there can explain this to me, I'd be grateful.

Hope your Thanksgiving was happy and that you avoided the mall today.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

In Their Own Voices

So far in the reading I have done on adoption, the one book I would recommend most enthusiastically for other people interested in the subject is In Their Own Voices: Transracial Adoptees Tell Their Stories. Actually, this book is so informative and helpful that I wonder why parents of children of a different race wouldn't take the time to hear what these people have to say. The book is not all touchy-feely, instant bonding, everyone lives happily ever after. These people tell the truth, both good and bad, and I am grateful to Rita Simon and Rhonda Roorda, the editors, for having the good sense to put this book together.

Laurie Goff's story has so far been the most inspiring to me. She has a bitingly sarcastic sense of humor and tells such funny stories about encounters she's had with people around the world who see her outside-the-box family. This woman was raised to be resilient. I think she gets it from her mother:

"People were afraid of my mother. If they messed with me once, she'd come to school. For three months my school didn't have a world culture teacher or a French teacher. My mother called the principal's office, but he did nothing. Then she wrote letters to the school board and two teachers were hired--two of the best teachers in the school.

In history I ended up getting a grade point average of 5.8 out of 4.0--my teacher let us do extra credit. I did mine on Apartheid. In a school of 400 students, with only ten of them white, no one knew what Apartheid was. No one.

How did you explain the meaning of Apartheid?

I explained that it was like slavery, that for decades white people came into the country and took it over, that they didn't allow blacks to gather or to keep their family unts together. It was legalized slavery. These students didn't know this was going on. I did an assembly for the whole school to clue them in. People told me I was smart. I said that I read.

My father came to school to give a talk on AIDS since he's a medical doctor. Kids were impressed with my dad. Some people asked me if I ever wanted to meet my real parents. My philosophy has always been that a parent is someone who loves you, who takes care of you, who is there for you when you are sick, when you do fabulous things, and when you do stupid things. They'll even bail you out of jail. I told these kids that I didn't really want to meet them. Some of them didn't understand. They wondered if I felt weird because my parents were white and I was black. I said, "No. The people who feel weird are people like you."

Ms. Goff did go on to try to meet her biological parents and in the process connected with many of her biological relatives, which she said was both a good and bad thing. An example of her sense of humor: When she found out that her biological father was in prison for murder, she said, "Well, isn't that just precious."

As a future adoptive parent, I so appreciated hearing her words about what a real parent is, and she gave such excellent advice throughout her whole interview about how to raise well-adjusted and confident children in the complicated world of transracial adoption. While the sad stories of heart-ache and confusion are helpful and necessary to read and study for knowing what not to do as parents, these success stories are truly so inspiring.

I also really liked her response to people telling her that she was smart. That's so true! It makes me want to toss our television (not that we watch it all that much anyway--I'd say it's on maybe five hours per week).

I'm going to get back to the book now. I hope you all go track it down and read it too.

Saturday, November 17, 2007


When I moved to Slovakia for the first time in 1998, one of the first friends I made was Joko, one of the computer teachers at the school where I was teaching. Early in the schoolyear, I noticed in the zborovna (staff room) that someone had just logged out of "pine," the very old-school (yet efficient) email software on the computer as "Agent Cooper." Being a Twin Peaks fan, I immediately wrote Joko to ask him who this account belonged to because I said that I knew I'd have an instant bond with a fellow Dale Cooper fan. He wrote back saying he was Agent Cooper and thus cemented our friendship. David Lynch brings all sorts of people together.

Nearly ten years later, Joko and I are still friends, despite living thousands of miles away from each other. He's one of the truest, bluest friends I've ever had, completely and utterly dependable. That first year, I could always count on him to show up at my office a couple of times a week after classes were finished with an invitation to go downtown for zmrzlina (ice cream). And he'd occasionally humor me by going with me to Aj Vega, the local vegetarian place where he'd only order the oh-so-healthy vyprazany syr (fried cheese) with potatoes and tartar sauce. To this day, he avoids vegetables whenever possible.

We also discovered that we were both fans of the 80's, German pop band Alphaville, so when they came to Kosice, we went to the concert. And yes, we sang along to "Forever Young," which became "our" song, as cheesebally as it is, and which Joko would always request to have played at any school ples (dance) we went to. Here we are at Imatrikulacny ples back in 2002, I think.

I could write a book of funny stories about Joko, including interesting tidbits like a four-hour cab ride to Budapest, camping out on the Great Wall of China, my first time officially "tipsy" thanks to someone sneakily refilling my cup with becherovka while I wasn't watching, a couple of surprise parties, a frigid tour of Prague with the flu, and an interesting translation of the ice-show Mrazik in Spisska Nova Ves ("Are you cold?"--"What, are you asking me now or translating again?").

Suffice it to say, good people like Joko are the reason I love Slovakia as much as I do. My years there would have been completely different and much less interesting without his friendship and helpfulness to me the foreigner in his country.

Eventually we grew up and the carefree time of our '20s left us. Joko met a beautiful dentist named Silvia, and I met Ted. Joko and Silvia had a baby, and when Joko wrote me to ask if I'd be Marok's krstna mama (godmother), I cried, so beyond honored.

It's another long, odd, funny story for the book about Joko that I may eventually write, but the short end is that the Catholic Church in Slovakia wouldn't let me be official krstna mama. That summer, Ted and I were visiting Kosice, so we had a couple of meetings with Joko and a young priest
who Joko somehow hoped would overlook the fact that he wasn't Catholic, I wasn't Catholic, I wasn't Slovak, and that he didn't plan on raising Marok to be Catholic. It was fun to watch the varied expressions of bafflement on the priest's face as each of these facts came to light through the meeting.

So we ended that visit to Slovakia with my promise to be Unofficial American Krstna Mama to Marok, that when he grows up, he can come visit us and spend as much time with us as he wants. I hope he does.

Joko sent me this video this week of Marok taking his first steps, and it made me cry as I had all those thoughts about how fast time passes, growing up and becoming adults, and how it feels like yesterday that I was 23 and gallivanting around in what to me felt like an 'exotic' country with quirky locals. It was definitely weird to see Joko as a dad, but he's a proud, doting one, as you can see from the video.

Joko and I have tried to translate all the lyrics to this song, but it's too hard. The song is on the surface about learning to walk but speaks metaphorically (hence the difficulty to translate by us nonprofessionals) about how we are searching for our own personal ideals and Edens but get scraped knees in the process of learning to stand on our own feet and need the help of others. We'll be unaveny a sam (tired and alone) as we search to live to the fullest, trying to stand on our own legs and picking out the best bits from life's bonboniera (box of chocolates).

It's a lovely song with lovely ideas introduced by a lovely friend. Hope you enjoy:

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Awash in a Sea of Books

It's starting to sink in that I may never read all of the books that have found their way to our house in the last couple of months. I've had a hard time knowing where to start, which ones are most important and which ones I'll actually like. If the tone or style of the author rubs me the wrong way, I'll usually set it down, never getting back to it. I'm not sure how bad of a habit this is. When this happens, I usually feel guilty a little. So more for my own sake than anything, I'm going to compile a list of the new books in our house, just in the last couple of months.

Feel free to chime in with what you think I should go for (though some of these on the list I've already read).

Books not about parenting or adoption:

1. Deep South Staples (Robert St. John). I've written about this book already. I love it and want his new one.

2. White Trash Cooking (Ernest Mathew Mickler). My dad has had this book for ages, and I'd always loved thumbing through it when I was at his house. When I bought my own copy last month, my grandmother was offended. She thinks I and the book make fun of the South. Is she not aware of how I glorify the South on this blog? Sheesh. And besides that, I have family--albeit not on her side--whose cooking resembles pretty closely what one finds in this book. And I love it!

3. Revolution (George Barna). Some Christian friends in Southern California gave us this book. It explains why they stopped going to church. I've only read bits and pieces, but so far, it makes a lot of sense.

4. The Complete Peanuts Collection 1959-1960 (Charles M. Schultz). After watching the American Masters documentary, I had to go back and read these. I poured over them throughout my childhood, so it's wonderful to go back now and read them as an adult. This is what I'm up reading before I fall asleep most nights these days.

5. She Got Up Off the Couch (Haven Kimmel). My favorite "memoirist."

6. Too Much Coffee Man: How to be Happy (Shannon Wheeler). I met him Sunday right before meeting Melissa Faye Greene. He is a very sweet guy and his comics are hilarious. Go read them.

7. The Happiest Days (Cressida Connolly). I picked this up at the free table this weekend at Wordstock. I see you
can buy it used on Amazon for one cent. I got a deal.

8. The Heights, the Depths, and Everything in Between (Sally Nemeth). She is a friend of Ted's who hosts the most kick-ass New Year's Day party every year with black-eyed peas, cornbread and a bookswap. We stole her bookswap idea the next year but had ours as a Christmas party, and I think she got miffed. I still feel bad about that. We got to see her Sunday at Wordstock too, where she signed her new book for us. We like Sally.

9. Children of Zion (Henryk Grynberg and Jacqueline Mitchell). I got this at the free table too. It's about Polish Jewish children during the Holocaust. I don't plan on reading this before bedtime.

10. Sunset Song (Lewis Grassic Gibbon). We just got this in the mail this week as a thank-you gift from John, the crazy Scottish cyclist.

11. In the Forest (Edna O'Brien). This book came for free in the Saturday edition of The Irish Times that I bought before flying out of the Shannon airport. I read her Country Girls trilogy when I lived in Slovakia, which I liked a lot, so I was excited about a free book by her. I still haven't read it though.

12. The Pirate Queen (Morgan Llywelyn). I'm fascinated by the Irish Queen Granuaile whose fortress we happened upon on Achil Island, so I got this book to find out more about her. I haven't read it either.

13. A Star Called Henry (Roddy Doyle). I found this at Goodwill and got it because I tend to like Irish writers. Still unread too.

14. Land of Lincoln: Adventures in Abe's America (Andrew Ferguson). Ted's dad gave us this. He said it's about all the people who make their livings off Abraham Lincoln. Whatever.

15. The Chinook Book of Coupons. Does anyone truly remember to use enough of the discounts to cover the cost of the book? That's our goal.

Books about parenting, Africa, and adoption:

1. Parenting with Love and Logic (Foster Cline and Jim Fay). Apparently, this book is a big deal these days. It was on PBS and everything, though I've heard it doesn't teach you how to keep your kid from running into traffic--how to obey in those urgent moments of danger.

2. Shepherding a Child's Heart (Ted Tripp). The friend who loaned this to me got it as a gift and hates it.

3. Secrets of the Baby Whisperer (Tracy Hogg and Melinda Blau). I found this at Goodwill too and got it never having heard of it. I have several friends who love it and swear by it.

4. The Myth of the Perfect Mother (Carla Barnhill). Picked this one up for free too at the free table. I liked the title a lot and got all jazzed up by reading the introduction. I like that it's written by a Christian. I am not Betty Crocker.

5. Both Supernanny books (Jo Frost). I adore Jo Frost. And how sexy is she on the front of
her first book? Go check it out.

6. Discovery of a Continent: Foods, Flavors, and Inspirations from
Africa (Marcus Saumuelsson). Our friends with the three kids from Ethiopia gave us this book this week. I love it. And she made this from it: This stuff was better than anything we've ordered in Ethiopian restaurants, as you can see by Ted's eagerness to dig in.

7. Black Baby, White Hands (Jaiya John). I got this from the library. I've heard great things about this memoir written by a black man who was raised in a white family.

8. In Their Own Voices: Transracial Adoptees Tell Their Stories. I just got this in the mail this week and have read one story so far. I think I'm most excited about this book.

9. Spirit of the Nursery (Jane Alexander). Another from the free table. I've read it already and can tell you all you might need to know about how to spiritually cleanse your baby's room with various crystals and energy fields. Trippy.

10. The Bradt Ethiopia Guidebook.

Books I Want:

1. The Daring book for Girls (Andrea Buchanan and Miriam Peskowitz).
2. The Dangerous book for Boys (Conn Iggulden and Hal Iggulden). I've been intrigued by these for ages now and fell flat in love with the one for girls this weekend at Wordstock. Then Erin wrote about these over at Holding Still. The Universe is telling me to get my hands on these books.

3. Confessions of a Failed Southern Lady (Florence King). Hell, with a title like that, what Southern girl wouldn't want to read it? Plus, I have a friend who loves it, and she is so beyond rad that I want to read it too.

4. Fifty Acres and a Poodle. (Jeane Marie Laskas). This is another friend recommendation, one that sh
e says this about: "it makes me laugh, and cry and it is one of those rare books where I feel like this person is describing some of my own thoughts better than I am capable of. It makes me think I may not be as abnormal as I sometimes feel." There's my friend "doing her thing" in Jamaica (serving the poor). If we were all as abnormal as her, the world would be a better place. I just like the photo and I like what she said about the book. Makes me want to read it.

5. Deep South Parties: How to Survive the Southern Cocktail Hour Without a Box of French Onion Soup Mix, a Block of Processed Cheese, or a Cocktail Weenie (Robert St. John).

6. First Meals (Annabel Karmel): I've always liked the idea of making my own babyfood and of raising a kid who is not a picky eater (one of my biggest pet peeves is a kid who won't try new things and even worse, parents who say, "Oh, my kid doesn't eat fill-in-the-blank."), so I was excited when a friend showed me this book that she used with all her kids.

7. The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox (Maggie O'Farrell). Just read about this in the NYTimes, am fascinated.

8. Blankets (Craig Thompson). I've been wanting to dip my toe in the world of graphic novels, min
us the ninjas and vampires, and this one appealed to me when I found it in a bookstore this weekend. I have it on hold at the library, which is probably a bad idea considering the list I have just shown you...