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...

Tuesday, November 13, 2007


There's something so comforting about being understood. This is something I love most about Ted--I feel that he gets me, not judging me during my daily rant about something stupid like the misbehavior of our neighbor's cat or of members of the cast of Friends. And he'll stand there and laugh just as hard as I did when we notice that our leaf-blowing neighbor's yard is now even more full of leaves after last night's windstorm since he hadn't bagged the leaves he blew to the curb.

I was thinking today about how understanding between people is the highest goal, but that in the many cases where this can't be reached, respect should be given. While this feels basic, I was pretty disappointed this weekend by the conversations going on at one of the adoption message boards I'm a member of about the varying degrees to which adoptive parents engage emotionally in the process. Some of the posters on both sides showed a fair amount of close-mindedness and disrespect (I'm more of a lurker than anything, which you may understand if you could read how the occasional voice of dissent is treated).

Providing here the whole backstory that resulted in the message-board nastiness isn't necessary. I couldn't help feeling frustrated by posters who chose to use disrespectful and alienating wording, many times while prefacing their comments with a phrase supposedly giving credit to their openness like, "Everyone is entitled to their opinion" or "This may work for you, but for me..." or "We're all different, but..." and so on. What would sometimes come after one of these prefaces was an expression of an opinion that sounded judgmental and inflammatory.

As one great twentieth century philosopher said, "Can't we all just get along?" We're all people who are interested in adoption; shouldn't we of all people be models of inclusion to other ways of thinking and doing?

Her honesty is the thing I admire most about Melissa Faye Greene (author of There Is No Me Without You). There were so many moments during her reading Sunday that I laughed out loud, felt my heart break, and shoved down the compulsion to stand on my chair and shout hallelujah. She is a pioneer in this world of Ethiopian adoption and such a God-sent impassioned voice to the orphan crisis in Africa.

But what means the most to me as a future-mom is the way she lets us off the hook, so to speak, outright telling us that it's okay not to always believe what a lot of adoption literature says. She lets me know that it's normal if we all don't experience that "love at first sight" when we meet our children. In fact, she even said in her talk Sunday that, not only was she panicked and terrified when meeting all her adoptive children but that she even nearly threw up once or twice. That's not a picture you're likely to see on the front of an agency's brochure.

Since we haven't received our referral yet, I really have no idea how we will respond when seeing that face for the first time. It's a big unknown. As excited as I am as the weeks creep by on the Waitlist, I am growing more familiar with that sense of panic as I drift to sleep, thinking, "Oh my god, this is for real. Our lives are going to change forever. This is a small, fragile little person we're going to be responsible for..." It's always nice when friends of mine who are mothers already tell me that they had the exact same thoughts during their pregnancies or Waiting periods. Whew.

What really struck me Sunday is what a good mother Melissa Faye Greene is, how this is a role she embraces and is honest about. Someone in the audience asked her if any of her kids have had ongoing emotional or psychological issues (he kept using the word "damage") the way that some children whose mothers were drug-users during pregnancy sometimes do. I thought it was a terribly personal question and sort of cringed when he asked it, but she answered with such grace and honesty.

She answered by telling us about one of her sons that very morning refusing to go to Hebrew school, even running away to parts unknown as his siblings were getting in the car. Later that day, the family found him asleep in the treehouse with his bag of Halloween candy tucked under his arm. She said she didn't know where this behavior was coming from, whether it's "damage" or not. She just shrugged and said that sometimes a boy just needs to nap in his treehouse with his Halloween candy.

I loved her honesty and her understanding of her boy. I love that she takes these things in stride. As much of a role model as she is for a lot of us, her family is not perfect and she doesn't claim to be a perfect mother. She didn't feel the love at first sight. The bonding she experienced with her children was sometimes a slow process.

And this is okay because in the end, her kids know they belong and are loved. Shouldn't that be the goal, no matter how we get to that point? If we celebrate the milestones along this long path to adoption, have our showers before we've met our children, and introduce with joyous fanfare to the world the children referred to us, this should all be okay and good and I cheer loudly right alongside anyone who chooses to do this.

But the same should be true if we choose not to do these things. If we choose to be more guarded and private in our experience, that should be okay as well. Our children will not suffer for it. This I strongly believe, and I was saddened this weekend on the message board by being made to feel like a bad mother for not doing things the other way.

We have some close friends who adopted a daughter domestically and were involved pretty close with the birth mother throughout the whole pregnancy. They were there for the birth and got to hold her immediately. But because it was a few days before things were officially finalized, our friends stayed guarded with their emotions. Even while holding the baby, the mom told me that she felt very little. It was only after things were finalized that they truly celebrated and opened wide their hearts.

And I can tell you: their daughter is nothing but well-adjusted, completely confident, and a true charmer who knows that she is loved with ever fiber of her parents' beings. She has suffered no damage because her parents tried to guard their emotions through the process. Her parents lavish attention and love on both her and her sister.

I just hope that we can be, if not understanding, at least respectful of each other. We all know our emotional limits. And we all love our children. I hope that is enough for us to cheer each other on, no matter what path we take.
The Prayer of St. Francis:
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace,
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy;

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Leafblowers and a Certain Hero

The funniest thing I saw all day (and I saw a lot of funny things): our neighbor was "raking" his yard with the help of a leaf blower, and about a third of the way through his yard, he turned the leaf blower upwards and started blowing the still unfallen leaves out of the tree. Just speeding up the process, I guess.

Hey, and look who we met today!
I'll write more about it later, but it was an exciting moment for me, one that made me want to shout Amen! even though I was skipping church to meet her.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Toddler Diplomacy

When it came time to head down for a nap after lunch, T let me know that he really preferred not to. He had handfuls of dinosaurs and kept slowly walking away from me as I tried to get him to say "night-night" to his dinosaurs and go to bed. He'd just stare at me blankly slowly taking steps backward. I don't believe in chasing down 3-year-olds, so I just kept eye contact, letting him know I wasn't giving up.

So I thought, "How can I make this a more concrete idea for T?" So I said that the dinosaurs needed naps too, and here, why don't we put blankets out for them? So I grabbed a place-mat, folded it in half and asked T to put his dinosaurs to bed. The idea seemed to interest him, and he stopped creeping away backwards.

I also don't believe in begging 3-year-olds to do anything, so after asking him twice to come put his dinosaurs to bed, I then told him to put his dinosaurs to bed, which he then did:
All but one dinosaur, at least. He kept his favorite one in his hand, looking at me sideways to see what I was gonna do about it. I asked him, "What about the big one in your hand?" T asnwered, "He's my favorite. He doesn't need a nap."

At this point, all it took was my offering Big-Favorite Dinosaur his own bed to get the job done: T then happily walked downstairs to his bed and blanket. As I was walking out of the room, he said, "What about pillows? My dinosaurs don't have pillows." Some clean, unfolded laundry was there on the couch, so I grabbed my favorite socks and said, "I think these will do. Big Dinosaur will get his own." T nodded, turned on his side, and fell asleep.

Everyone wins, especially the dinosaurs who have probably never felt so snug.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Co-Exist, Schmo-Exist

Do you see anything off about this photograph? In a parking lot so full that, in order to find a spot, drivers (including me) have to circle and do the "hover beside other drivers loading up their car to leave so I can take their spot" thing, this guy (or girl) with the dandy "Co-exist" bumper sticker decides to park over the line, keeping anyone else from taking the spot next to him. If dude had simply double-parked, it might have been less infuriating. As is, he's just barely past the point of being able to squeeze in to the space next to him.

If you're gonna spout platitudes by slapping stupid bumper stickers on your car, at least do what your own bumper sticker says to do, Jerkface.

Oh, and as you can see, the nice fall weather has left the building. Portland now looks like the Portland most people imagine.

On to other things, this blog with the post about the 1977 JCPenny catalogue that's been making the rounds is truly very funny. I have laughed out loud reading it, especially the post titled "On Reflection" about the mirror. (The humor in this blog can be pretty dark/crude, so be forewarned. I was reading a couple of entries out loud to Ted today though and we were both in tears, not the sad or inspired kind but the "ohmygod that's hilarious" kind).

Finally, my friend Jill did a thing over at her blog to gain some cooking inspiration, so here's my late contribution. It's an egg-sausage casserole deal with lots of cheese and half-n-half:
Ta-da! We had this for breakfast one day this week, though I'd wanted to make it for dinner. Ted thinks eating breakfast for dinner is weird, though in my family it was a normal occurrence, especially if my mom couldn't think of anything else to cook. I got this recipe from Robert St. John's book Deep South Staples, which I mentioned here on this blog a couple of weeks ago. I can't recommend it highly enough. Not only are there awesome recipes in there, but he bans cream of mushroom soup from any of his recipes, and he's a pretty funny writer to boot. Even if you never make anything out of his book, it's entertaining to read anyway. I did from start to finish.

Lastly (I know I already wrote "finally"), any 30 Rock fans out there get as mad as I did last night? As much of a fan as I am of Friends, I officially think that David Schwimmer is the biggest Fart-Face in Hollywood for taking that guest star role from a deserving "second tier" (or even third or fourth for that matter) actor who actually could have been funny. Okay, I just went on and on about all that but deleted it. Not the place, not the place. Come over to my house and you'll hear about it though.

Happy Friday everyone! If you see David Schwimmer, punch him in the face and tell him Lori sent you.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007


Some blogs out there are very uplifting. They started out being adoption-blogs, and they've remained adoption blogs. Mine isn't this way, which I started feeling self-conscious about lately. I feel the need to apologize for doing so much babbling about things like the weather, cat videos and The Talking Heads.

I also feel the need to thank all the good people out there who faithfully check this blog during this weird waiting time that we're in. I know you're checking for that anxiously-awaited referral post, and I thank you for not asking us about it in person (like you won't be able to hear our shouts from the rooftops when it happens).

I wish this blog were more "inspirational." You know the ones: those awesome ones with Bible verses and no stupid cat videos. I always hope that people investigating adoption on Gladney's website don't find our blog first among the list of families since I can easily see them with furrowed eyebrows saying, "What the crap? What's all this nonsense about butterbeans and did you see that cracked-out spider video? This agency must be full of nut-cases."

I was inspired this evening by a blogger from Memphis who is now home with their over-the-top gorgeous daughter. Despite the Starbucks theme, I love what she wrote in this post. It really did feel like my "devotional" for today, such a great reminder of God's love for us.

So, no referral news. Nothing adoption related. We are narrowing down the list of names, which is good. I also started painting the dining room and living room today, a project I've been wanting to do for a while now. And I found this for the baby room:
I know it's not really what one might typically put in a baby's room, but I loved the bright, gender-neutral colors. More importantly, what it says has been a theme for Ted and me for the last year: "It'll cost nothing to dream and everything not to." We've realized how easy it is to make many small compromises in life that end up costing more than we may ever realize. Dreaming is a scary proposition because because of a fear of disappointment that can be so overwhelming. But what's the alternative?

"But let us stop all our activity for a moment and consider--comparing the demands of our reason and of our heart with the actual condition of our lives--in order to see how our whole life and our every action are in incessant and outrageous contradiction to the yearnings of our soul."--Leo Tolstoy

Shutting down those yearnings can be a slow process of deciding each moment to stop dreaming, to stop looking for the ideal, to be okay with things as they are despite the longing for more. We want our child(ren) to be dreamers. We want them to know that their presence in our lives is the fulfillment of a dream for us.

I'm not saying anything new here. I guess I'm just trying to open up a can on inspiration on all ya'lls' asses.

Which reminds me: I'll leave you with this clip of a song written and sung here by Tommy Walker, the worship leader at our church in Los Angeles. I'm not sure where this was recorded, but it wasn't at our church (Christian Assembly in Eagle Rock) though a lot of the musicians are from CA. It is impossible for me to sing this song without tears welling up. And one thing I love most about Ted is that whenever this song is sung at CA, I know I can look over at him and see him rocking out, tears streaming down his face too. We can't help it. We love Jesus, people.

PS: Dear tech support, anyone know why the heck the visitor map hasn't been working for the last week?

Monday, November 5, 2007

Hearing God through The Talking Heads

Late Saturday night as we were driving home, we saw a couple of teenage boys on the street in this photo gleefully filling up garbage cans with leaves and making a monster pile. It made me laugh and I wanted to go back to see what they had in store for their yellow mountain. It has been gorgeous in Portland lately. This weekend I got all sentimental about God, thinking about how He made so much beauty for us to find joy in. Fall is essentially the season where everything is dying, and it could be this ugly time of everything turning grey and blowing away like ashes and dust. Instead, it's colorful and windy and cool and fun.

Even I, someone who thrives in rainy weather, was pretty overcome by the blue sky behind orange trees today. It's impossible not to have a skip in your step in weather like this. While out running errands, this is what I heard when the radio came on, "If this is paradise, I wish I had a lawnmower." Turns out it is The Talking Heads Day on my favorite radio station, and I wondered how I made it through my entire life having never heard this song. My hippy-dippy Monday challenge: listen to this song (as loudly as you can stand it, preferably) and stay in a pissy funk. For me, it's impossible:

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Musings while Waiting

I really admire all of you guys out there who have your kid's room ready. As has been mentioned before on this blog, it's something I haven't done yet. Though I went into our library yesterday to look for some Peanuts books (anyone see that heart-breaking American Masters documentary about Schultz last week?), I came out with several how-to books on decorating bedrooms for kids. It's a first step.

As a brief way of explanation for my delay in getting the room ready, it's because we don't really know what's coming. We were nonspecific about gender and are open to twins, so it's hard to know how to prepare when you've got factors like that. The same is true for baby-showers. A couple of people have mentioned wanting to throw us a shower (yay! thanks, guys!), but I've asked them to put it off at least until we've gotten our referral and maybe even until we get back from Ethiopia with our babe(s). I figure I can have a few little outfits on hand so we won't have naked babies, and I've got Alice's blankets so we won't have cold babies, and we'll feed them of course so we won't have hungry babies. Then we can have a shower so we can have stylish babies.

And then there's the naming of the baby to think about. We've got a good list going of both boy and girl names, but it's hard to decide. I was thinking the other day about how weird it is that a parent gives a name to these little strangers who have entered their world that is going to stick with them for the rest of their lives. As Posh would say, "Honey, that's major," not something to take lightly. I totally understand those parents you hear about who still haven't named their kid by the time they leave the hospital.

As you see from the above picture, Ted spent some time yesterday getting reacquainted with the Sesame Street characters. Elmo is relatively new, right? I don't remember him when I watched it in the '70s, though I know he was around by the time my little brother watched it in the early '90s. And now you've got this variation, which I think my favorite.

We were also happy to spend some this time yesterday with our friend's two kids so we can get used to deciphering toddler-speak, as seen here:

Is she cute or what?

I had my first dream about being in Ethiopia last night. I guess it's slowly starting to sink into my subconscious that all this we've been preparing for just actually might happen. I won't go into the boring recount of the dream, but two images that stand out: young female lions wandering the streets and antique-buying tourists in rickshaws. I am very aware that I will (hopefully) encounter neither of those things while in Ethiopia--this just shows how little I know now of life-on-the-streets in Africa. Those images I guess came from vague, tucked away knowledge of safaris and movies like Out of Africa mixed with some New Delhi. I'm looking forward to experiencing up close and personal life in Ethiopia.

I am completely unashamed to admit that I adore the movie, Mr. Holland's Opus. From start to finish, I completely buy into what some people call the movie's 'sappiness'. I don't care--I love it. That ending makes me sob like few movie endings can (and it's nice to see Terrence Howard in a more innocent time, before we knew all about the freakish importance of baby-wipes to him).

So I was excited when I first found out that, not only did Ted go to the high school where Mr. Holland's Opus was filmed, but that the house he grew up in was right next door to the house Mr. Holland bought for his family in the movie. And now we live in this neighborhood, and I always get nostalgic when I drive by the school, and last night I got to wander the halls for the first time when we went to see a collection of one-acts that our neighbor's sophomore son is in.

It was fun to look around at the gorgeous architecture. The school still has most of its original details, like these stained-glass signs in the auditorium (which is the auditorium in that sob-inducing last scene of the movie):
Ted had fun looking at all the old framed photographs hanging on the walls and occasionally finding family members, like his sister who was a Rose Festival Princess:Or his dad, who taught math and coached basketball, even leading one team to the state championship:
I definitely felt my age last night during the plays when the subject matter included rape, promiscuity, wife-beating, and smoking (one kid actually smoked a cigarette on stage). If this hadn't been a high school production, it wouldn't have shocked me in the least (hello? Magnolia is one of my favorite movies). Our neighbor whose son played the wife-beater who gropes both the breasts and "nether regions" of the girl playing his wife told us that before the last production, the introduction to the audience was made by two topless girls, holding paper signs over their chests. What?

I'm really not a prude, really. But this is high school. When I was in high school, of course we all talked about these things when we were alone with our friends, but our teachers and administrators would never have allowed our drama department to veer even slightly away from yearly productions of musicals like Annie my senior year and would have sh*t a brick if any attempt was made to even vaguely reference any of the subject matter included last night.

To their credit though, the current drama teacher does a great job, as do the students. All the productions last night were produced, cast, and directed all by the seniors. And this summer, a group was accepted into the Edinburgh Theater Festival, making the trip to Scotland to participate, which is a pretty big deal. I just couldn't help having a jaw-dropped, gaping look of shock on my face watching these "edgy" productions by teenagers who are playing rapists and middle-aged, smoking wife-beaters. Weird.

On that lovely note, I'll wish you all a happy weekend. Hope it's as gorgeous where you are as it is here in Portland.

Thursday, November 1, 2007


Because of the "Halloween House" around the corner from us, we must have had at least 100 trick-or-treaters last night. Vans of kids are dropped off to look at the wonder around the corner and then they all go beg for candy on our block. It makes for a busy evening every year. We actually ran out of candy by 8:30 and had to blow out the jack-0-lantern, which was fine with me since by this point, all the kids who are probably too old to be trick-or-treating were coming out, literally howling and braying in the streets. Our block is a wild one on Halloween.

One thing I don't get though about the state of things today is parents who shell out large chunks of money for a costume their kid will wear once, or maybe twice. A friend last month was complaining about being stretched thin financially this year and not being able to afford Halloween costumes for her kids. Huh? When I was a kid, my mom had us dress up as zombies or hobos. These costumes cost almost nothing. Last night the most creative costume I saw was a kid wearing pajamas with red dots all over her face: chicken pox kid. It cost probably nothing and was really cute. And then, a friend of ours here in Portland has a kid who wanted to go as a "spy," so her costume was really cute and consisted of things laying around the house.

We were lucky last night to be visited by these guys, a niece and nephew who I thought were pretty cute:
I hope everyone had a fun and safe Halloween. I'll leave you with this video, which for whatever reason, gives me that silent, holding-my-sides, tear-inducing laughter. It has the best use of music in any stupid internet video I've found. Maybe it's that we grew up with a cat that did the same thing. I don't know. Maybe it's just me. Hope you enjoy:

And as an addendum: today as we drove past the Halloween House around the corner, we saw the owner out front taking down all the decorations, including the "low flying witch" on the streetlight. We stopped to chat and he told us that there were fewer kids than usual this year--"only around 1,200." So considering the amount they got, it's surprising that our street only got around 100 (my best guess--maybe it was more).