Sunday, March 29, 2009

Shakin the peppers out

There's a lot about Los Angeles that really grates on me, a lot that makes me shake my head in disbelief, a lot that gives me headaches (literal pains in my head from the bright glare on hazy days), a lot that makes me want to run fleeing back to Oregon. But here are two things I really like about it here:

Views like this:And friends like this:

Every little boy should have a hilarious Aunt Kelly who shakes the peppers out of him and gives awesome design and paint color advice to his parents when she's not busy making him laugh.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Book Winners.

Without further delay*, the winners of the Book Giveaway Contest:

Jen for her request to see certain important moments in life on videotape, our favorite being the moment her father picked up her mother in a bar in NYC. Wonderful.

April for her question about infinity. We've ended up with headaches ourselves thinking about the same thing.

PVZ for her question about how ideas seem to spring up sometimes in the collective conscience. It has happened throughout the world's history and is truly baffling. Bill Bryson, in The Mother Tongue, writes about how baffling it is to scientists that language sprang up in this way, in several places throughout the globe, pretty much all at once. PVZ experienced this phenomena with her idea about talking cows and would like God to tell her how this happened. Excellent question.

MamaDog's husband wins for his request for tales about other life forms. We've often wondered the same thing. The universe is vast enough for that, right?

Carrie wins for her question that made both of us laugh out loud. Who has played God best on TV or film? Excellent!

Could all the winners please email us at so we can let you know how to claim your prize?

Choosing the winners was much more difficult of a decision than I thought it would be. We made notes and had the highlighter out and everything. Thanks so much to everyone who participated. It was a lot of fun to read your thoughts.

We do hope that you all find a copy of Angry Conversations With God in your hands at some point. Susan was writing her first draft of the book back in late winter last year, during the difficult time that we were waiting for our March 4th appeal court date. It was an agonizing time for us, so I was lucky enough to have Susan email me each chapter as she was writing them.

Most days, I had a chapter or three to read and respond to.
I'd print out each chapter and realize that, in spite of our difficult circumstances, I could still laugh pretty hard. In the next moment, I'd find myself in tears, running to the computer to send an email back to Susan about how much I could relate to certain moments in her life story.I woke up a lot of mornings looking forward to the arrival of another chapter.

Reading this first draft could not have come at a better time for me, as I was dealing with the same issues she writes about in the book: issues of disappointment and loss and the never-ending mystery of God's ways. I won't give anything away, but the end of the book was so very encouraging to me, so uplifting as I found my eyes being lifted back up to heaven. I hope that you experience something similar as you read it.

Fun at Susan's birthday book-release party.

*I'm so sorry for the delay in announcing the winners. We ran out the door yesterday and I couldn't get anywhere near the computer again until midnight, when I went to sleep. The same has been true for today. Truly, our lives are not usually this frantic, but things have amped up in the last several days. I'm not a fan of amped-up living.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Winners Chosen!

...but we're running out the door. We'll announce from the road...sorry for the delay.

Monday, March 23, 2009

A Day in the Life

Julie gave me this idea from her post last Sunday.

Here is a day in the life of the Rooneys, specifically: Sunday, March 22, 2009
How I start every day.

How Ted often starts his days: some chore. It rained the night before, so he's mopping the deck.

We leave for church, the 11:00 am service.

The only shot I captured during church.

Early afternoon playtime at Sworks.

Odd faces and thumb-sucking at Sworks.

In spite of being in a sprawling metropolis of several million people, running into friends who happen to be having breakfast next door to Sworks and who don't mind my taking pictures of them through the window make us feel like we're in a small town.

Abe enjoys the comics.

Admiring the cool clouds on our way home.

Lunch, probably around 2:30pm.

While the boys nap, Mom reads.

Awake again, around 4:45pm

Look outside and notice this hawk in our palm tree.

We visit our neighbors, Ed and Tita. Their friend was there eating pizza. This conversation went on for ten minutes. This video would have been longer, but my memory ran out. It was our token bit of Sunday insanity.

Checking out pajama sales at Target, 7:30pm.

Abe's favorite place on the planet: the front seat of the VW, 8:30pm.

I would "tag" people, but I've found out that some (if not most) don't like being tagged as much as I do. I'll just say, the "A Day in the Life" project is fun and be sure to tell me if you do it because I really like these posts.

You still have until Wednesday night to enter the Book Giveaway contest. Don't be intimidated by the 55 comments. A lot of those don't qualify to win because it's just people being grumpy :) Any post that finishes the question, "God, I've always wondered..." is eligible to win.

Saturday, March 21, 2009


I'm finally getting around to learning my way around my camera. I've been playing with the presets and exposure and a wonderful thing called "brackets," taught to me by this guy, who took the time last Saturday for a photography lesson down at Union Station and Olvera Street.

Here is Abe's breakfast this morning:

Have a lovely weekend. You still have until Wednesday night to enter the Book Giveaway Contest. Leave a comment here if you'd like a chance to win.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Book Giveaway!

.....slightly edited......again

The situation is this:

Let's assume your time on earth is all finished and you're all settled into your new digs in heaven. You've met God. You've reunited with all your relatives and friends and heroes. You're blissful, of course, but you've started to get used to being in heaven (not a bad thing).

You're out one day walking the streets of gold (or cobblestones or pavement or cheese) when you run into God. The two of you, on a whim, decide to stop for a coffee and piece of cheesecake...or a beer (good Slovak beer, hopefully) and some chips. It's laid back, casual, joking even.

God keeps teasing you about the stupid stuff you did in your life on earth. All the big questions have been answered. But there are a few lingering thoughts about life on earth that haven't quite been explained, so you say, "You know, God? I've always wondered..."

How would you finish that sentence? It can be anything. Ted and I have talked about this and want to ask God, "I've always wondered if our cats are actually thinking loving thoughts about us while they look at us adoringly while purring."
I'm sure the clever readers of this blog will manage to come up with more creative questions than ours about our cats.

Leave your queries for God in a comment (or two or as many as you want) and we will pick our five favorite ones. Those five winners will receive a FREE copy of Susan Isaac's book, Angry Conversations With God. Exciting, no?

Click here for the book's official website.

You have one week: "You know, God, I've always wondered..."

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Lost Hero

Hargewoin Teferra passed away today. You can read more about her by going here and here.

Happy St. Paddy's Day

Go tell Mama Sweet Potato 'congrats'. We love Ryan and Meredith.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Slow down, you move too fast

Abe is looking like a kid lately. It's thrilling to hear him stringing together his 60+ word vocabulary into phrases (yes, we made a list), but man, oh man, kid, slow it down.

Abe's middle name is for my maternal grandfather, my Grandaddy, who I can't write about without a lump in my throat. He's been in heaven since 2001, and I still miss him like crazy. Abe never got to know him here. Something about Abe's expression in this photo reminds me of Grandaddy. I've seen Grandaddy make this face many times, something in the way he's holding his lips and furrowing his eyebrows in concentration and possible slight disapproval of something going on in the distance.

He's taking it all in, just like Grandaddy. And I know what Grandaddy would say about this boy of ours: "He looks just like me."

Saturday, March 14, 2009

The Day We Met

March 12, 2008.

After a brief stop in Khartoum to refuel where we could feel the 93 degree heat in the airplane, we landed in Addis Ababa about 10pm, disembarked from the airplane, and made our way through the terminal to look for customs. This is when the tears began for me. After the two month wait for our appeal, and then the extra day wait due to our eagerness with a touch of idiocy (see my March 11 post), the reality of being so near to our son began to hit me. I stood in the line waiting to get our passports stamped and fought back the tears. I was in the same continent, the same country, the same city as my son. That fact constricted my throat, made my heart pound, and my eyes burn with the tears as desperate to get out as I was to get to the babe.

Travis picked us up from the airport and as we drove through the dark night streets, the adrenalin started pumping. I couldn't believe we were in Africa. I stared at everything we passed, squinting my eyes through the dark. It felt a lot like the day I first landed in Budapest, my first time out of the United States at age 23. I was in a state of shock and wonder at my surroundings. There is nothing like this feeling of seeing, for the first time, another country, and I was happy to get to experience it again driving through the streets of Addis Ababa.

We arrived to the Ayat House, and after a short beep from the car horn, Wegayu came out to open the gate and let us in. He carried our bags upstairs to the bedroom, and I don't remember much after that except falling asleep.

We woke up the next morning, March 13, 2008, around 7am after drinking in that luxurious jet-lagged sleep for hours and hours. Travis and JoAnna picked us up again in the morning and took us to our first trip to Kaldi's for breakfast. What an amazing place. I've heard of some parents going immediately to meet their children on their first day in-country, but I am so glad we took that hour to put food in our bellies and caffeine in the bloodstream. I needed it. Truly, the machiattos that can be had in Ethiopia are like nothing in the entire world. A couple of those, along with mixed juice (hello, pureed avacado!) and scrambled eggs made Lori a happy woman.

We made the drive back to the Gladney home, and Travis beeped the car again to be let in the gate. As we pulled in the drive and caught our first glimpse of the home is when I started shaking. A few of the beautiful caregivers greeted us at the front door and showed us in to that famous living room to the right of the front door, the room I'd seen in so many photographs of first meetings. The shaking in my bones grew stronger as the reality of what was coming grew closer and closer. Travis, with a huge smile on his face, went upstairs and left us with JoAnna and a few members of the Gladney team who were there at the time visiting.

A heat started to grow in my chest and my palms started to sweat. Travis had taken the video camera upstairst with him so he could film the entire walk down. My heart was pounding harder and harder as I heard noises upstairs. Before I knew it, I heard the thumping of Travis's feet coming down the stairs and the moment he appeared around the corner, the dams BURST.

I lost it. Totally, 100% lost it. I saw that huge smile of Travis's above the head of a tiny baby wearing blue striped pants and an orange sweatshirt. He handed Abe to me, and nothing in this entire world will ever, not in a thousand years, compare to this moment. I held in my arms, this tiny, very limp bundle of a boy who was so much lighter and floppier than I'd expected. I smelled the top of his head over and over and felt the tears soaking up my chest.

Abe looked up at me with his bottom lip tucked in, his shy look that he still puts on when he meets new people. He studied me. He stared from me to Ted and back again. I finally was able to stop the tears long enough to give him to Ted, who immediately held him straight above his head in a show of exhileration... a manly "finally!" that made everyone in the room laugh.

We spent the next half hour or so changing his clothes and studying each other. The next few hours felt surreal beyond measure. We toured upstairs and met the many children of the friends we'd made through the blogging community. We took photo after photo. We thanked Abe's caregivers. We saw the bed where he'd spent the last several months. We officially began life as a family of three. I was full.

I was a mom. Ted was a dad. Abe was a son.

There is a Redeemer.

March 13, 2008

March 13, 2009

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Exciting news from friends!

We are so lucky to know these amazing people:

Gladney has hit the jackpot with the addition of Jana and Michael to their in-country staff in Ethiopia. Go to Eyes Towards Ethiopia to read more. We love these guys and are so excited for this big move in their lives!
They are the real deal.

Second bit of exciting news: our friend Susan Isaac's book is out TODAY! I'll be writing more about it in a few days and having a contest where we'll be giving away several copies, but if you can't wait that lo
ng (and I don't think you can), go to any bookstore for your own copy. Go, Susan!

This is what Publisher's Weekly has the say about the book:
"God in couples counseling? Sounds sacrilegious, but in the adept hands of comedian, writer and actress Isaacs, it's a success. Isaacs reached bottom at age 40: no job, no boyfriend, no home. Of course, she blamed God. So off they went to counseling with the ever-patient therapist Rudy. Isaacs moves easily between recounting her life story and her counseling sessions. She describes encounters with the Nice Jesus of her Lutheran upbringing; the "Oakie" Pentecostal church and the militant counselor; the "Rock-n-Roll" church and the "Orthopraxy, Dude" church, plus her rocky acting career and her love life, including guilt-ridden sex and Mostly Mister Right. Isaacs readily admits to being snarky, but she's honest about her quest and its conclusion: "I saw now all too clearly why I had married God: for the power and the glory. For the money." Isaacs goes on a Job-like search for explanations from God, but instead finds the problem to be her. She's funny, biting, earthy and brilliant."

And Don Miller, author of Blue Like Jazz:
"If King David were a woman, and were funny, he'd be Susan Isaacs. And the thing about this book is it surprises you. There are lines in it you won't see coming. You'll be handing this book to somebody else about a month from now thinking, Maybe this will help them understand me. You'll do that because it helped you understand yourself first."

Click here to order your copy through Powells.

Susan teaches Abe the wonders of the juice machine.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

And Lift-Off!...or not.

We'd come down off the high of knowing that Abe, in the eyes of the Ethiopian courts, was finally ours and had managed to celebrate and buy plane tickets and reserve a guest house in Addis Ababa and packed our many bags, thanks to the generous work of our friends Carolee and Pattie, who Ted nicknamed "Radar O'Reilly." Really not sure what I would have done without these friends, the same ones who threw us the amazing Welcome Home, Abe party a week after we got back.

I'm a pretty fastidious traveler, having done a lot of it in my lifetime, on planes and trains and buses and ferries across the Nordic seas, many times totally on my own. This was both of our first times to Africa, so we were pretty excited about that. We were flying out of LAX, which is typically an hour long drive from our house through harried traffic in downtown L.A., so we decided the easiest thing to do would be to have a friend drive us to Union Station (only a ten minute drive) and then take the $2 Flyaway bus to LAX.

We had it all planned perfectly. I'd showered at the very last minute, knowing that it'd be a pretty long time before I'd get the chance to do that again. I'd put on my brand new black stretchy pants ("yoga pants" for those more hoity-toity than I am), pulled my hair back in a bun, and only moisterizer on my face since traveling with mascara is the worst. I had my carry-on stocked with all our important documents, including both our passports, as Ted has misplaced his on occasion.

We unloaded all our bags at Union Station with plenty of time for the flyaway bus. We were so giddy and excited and eagerly answered people's questions about where we were going with all that luggage. We even took a photo with this kind fella who was working the station that day:
Can you believe this guy? He was awesome! Just as giddy as we were! We gave him a generous tip for helping get all our bags on the bus, and we smiled the whole way to LAX.

We jumped off at our terminal, unloaded our bags and set up a 'home base' near the electronic ticket check-in where I waited with our stuff while Ted went to check us in.

He stood about 30 feet away at the kiosk for what seemed like forever. I was starting to grow a little anxious. All I could see was him shaking his head back and forth, trying over and over to move things ahead. He must have put our credit card in and out of the slot 50 times. I had no idea what was going on.

Finally, Ted slowly put the card back in his wallet and walked slowly towards me, his head hanging in what I can only guess was shame. He approached me and slowly looked me in the eye. I asked quietly, "Um, what's going on?"

"It keeps saying we are not allowed to check in more than 24 hours before our departure time."

The neurons in my head started misfiring. I stared at Ted blankly. It started to make a little bit of sense. We stared at each other as we figured it out. We pulled out our itinerary and saw the proof of our idiocy.

We'd arrived to the airport exactly one day too early.

Both of us had lived alone in foreign countries. We'd both managed to keep ourselves alive and fed and clothed and relatively safe for years in foreign countries, even going so far as to make friends and travel to other foreign countries with these friends. So how did this happen?

And more importantly, what were we supposed to do now? We were too embarrassed and ashamed to call anyone to come pick us up. So we got on and tried to book a room close to the airport with a shuttle service so that we wouldn't have to face the embarrassment of going all the way back home. After the shock of our oversight had worn off, we spent the next two hours sitting in the airport trying to figure out what to do.

We finally sucked it up and called our friend Susan, telling her the truth, and asking for a ride back home from Union Station. She laughed and laughed and laughed, and I'm pretty sure I could hear her laughing on the entire bus ride back to the station. As she pulled up to pick us up, the laughter got louder and as we loaded all our luggage back into her car, all the while avoiding the confused gaze of the friendly station worker, she kept saying, "You have to blog about this! You must! What an incredible chapter of this story!"

Except I couldn't. I was too embarrassed. We made it back home in time to go to bed. I woke up the next day and took another shower and put on the same clothes. I sat in front of the computer, completely unsure of what to do with myself and read the comments left by the kind people cheering us on the day before, the wrong day. I felt like such a loser. So did Ted. He piddled around in the yard until it was time to go.

I don't remember a whole lot about the actual day we left. After the day before, it felt pretty anti-climactic. I think I just felt relieved to finally have our boarding passes in hand and to be allowed onto an airplane, the actual right airplane taking us to bring home our son.
March 11, 2008: Finally sitting on the right airplane, on the right day, two idiots in love.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Where We've Been

Learning about "The Two Germanys" art exhibit with Julie at LACMA. We also are crossing our feet at most times.

Desperately trying not to throw up from walking through this sculpture at LACMA which is supposed to bring a feeling a calm and inner peace. Lori had heart palpitations, got sweaty, and had to leave very quickly before the massive steel walls fell on top of her. Even walking through the room a few hours later brought on nausea and just looking at this photo brings a certain amount of stress. Weird.

Really wishing we had a guitar, or banjo, or ukulele. Just anything with strings would do.

Standing in this line at the DMV to bust the El Camino out of lock-up. Warning to all Los Angelinos: if your car is left on the street for more than 72 hours (even in a perfectly legal spot right in front of your own house), the city is entitled to tow your car. No ticket, no warning, just your friendly neighborhood tow. Welcome to L.A., everyone!

Spending a fair amount of time in the car, chilling with our sock on the freeways.

Practicing our "we're so over it" expressions with the loveable Judah, who is actually younger than Abe.

Astro-turf and monster pillow fest at Chris and Heather's, with several other cute babes.

PS: Yes, we own a 1972 El Camino.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

"It's done," Mary said.

I've been having a hard time coming up with just the right reflection on the past year. It sounds trite to say that I can't believe it was a year ago today that we got that phone call from Mary, the one that made me drop the phone as I went sliding across the dining room floor to yell for Ted, the call that filled my head with giddy elation and a high that lasted for days.

I will never ever forget breaking down and sobbing as Mary told us, "It's done" and then standing in the kitchen with the California morning sunlight streaming in as I called my mom. I will never forget seeing Susan out of the corner of my eyes come into the kitchen while I was on the phone with my mom and hearing her SCREAM with both her hands over her mouth as Ted told her the news. I cried again as I hugged her.

I paced and paced and paced around as I made call after call. I had never felt so light. We managed to get ourselves showered and dressed, and while Ted played basketball at the Hollywood Y, I sat outside a coffeeshop talking on the phone and checking the dozens of comments that were coming in on the blog. Every time I drive past this small shop, I get sentimental as I remember the love from fellow bloggers that day. Later that afternoon, I had lunch with my lovely and hilarious friend Staci at a French bistro-type place filled with beautiful things. She gave me that day a hat and mittens for Abe that ended up appearing in Abe's adoption announcement a few weeks later. That was a great hat.

The next few hours were a blur. We'd been given an expensive bottle of champagne for our wedding from our next door neighbors which we'd been saving for a special occasion. This day was the day to open it up. We drank down the whole thing and went to bed that night with thoughts of one certain little sugarplum dancing in our heads.

One week later, we were on a plane to bring him home. As wonderful as our referral day was, the first time we saw Abe's face, it truly didn't compare to March 3, the day everything was finalized. It was only until this day that I felt I could truly breathe deeply, knowing, as Mary said, "It's done."

Our Own Rooney

One year ago today, a dream came true.

You can read it here.