Saturday, January 31, 2009

Nanny's birthday

January 31, 2009

Dear Child/ren,

Today your great-grandmother – Nanny, as I’ve always called her – turns 90 years old. I just spoke to her on the phone, and, even though it was her birthday, the first thing out of her mouth was, “Any news about the babies? When are they going to get here?” Because even though she is in good health, still lives alone in her own home, still mows her own lawn, and still drives to HER JOB…she is worried you won’t get here in time for her to get to know you. It’s not that she’s had a premonition or is a pessimist; it’s just that “you never know what God has planned for you.” And therefore she wants you here ASAP! When we first told her about our plans to adopt she said, “I’ll get our new preacher started praying that those babies get here soon. Now we’re going to see what kind of power he has!!”

Nanny says the happiest days of her life were when my brother, my cousin, and I were born, but I honestly think the happiest day of her life was when I got married…and that's not my ego talking, I just think she was beginning to really worry it would never happen. And let me tell you, she LOVES your father. She thinks The Esquire is the funniest, handsomest, most charming man she’s ever met. They flirt. For Christmas one year he picked out some lovely sapphire earrings specifically to go with her purple suit and trust me, she wears them every time we see her. She’ll turn her head from side to side, coquettishly, until he notices them. Nanny has said since the first day she met The Esq., “He will make a good daddy.”

I will admit that I was nervous to tell Nanny about the adoption. But the very first words out of her mouth were “Oh! I am so glad you two will have family!” She didn’t ask why adoption, she didn’t ask from where, she just breathed a sigh of relief that now we would have family of our own. She’s buried most of her siblings, a son and two grandsons so she has a very deep understanding of what ‘having family’ means.

Of course, after that first reaction of happiness and relief, she became curious. Where is Ethiopia? What do the people look like? What will your children look like? It was all very new to her and I’ll be honest, after she got over the happiness part, she was a little thrown. It’s an odd thing for her to have to figure out, why we would choose to adopt children from another country. It’s something she had never even considered and so, she has to sit with it and think about it for a while. And I get it, why it’s such a strange concept to her. As my cousin (other side of the family) puts it, “you have to read the story using their dictionary” and for Nanny that dictionary was written in the small southern town (population 803) that she has lived in for the majority of her 90 years.

But oh, how I love her little town. Every summer when I was little my parents would drop my pink Huffy Desert Rose bike and me off at Nanny’s house for a week so I could attend her church’s Vacation Bible School. I don’t have many memories of VBS …the smell of play dough, an Autoharp, bible drills (man, I used to LOVE bible drills, can still find Galatians in under 10 seconds)… but I have hundreds of memories of riding my bike around that little town either by myself or with my ‘summer friends.’ This was the late 70’s so a kid on a bike could still go almost anywhere as long as she was home by dinner. Nanny knew that Miz Helen and Miz Katherine and Miz Mary and 799 other people in town were keeping an eye on me. I am sad that you, my soon-to-be children, will probably never have a chance to know this kind of freedom when you are 9 years old. The world is just a different place, even in a town of 803.

(The best part was coming home for dinner. Nanny would have fried a few pieces of chicken and made a little plate of corn bread… just enough for the two of us. For dessert there would always be peach ice cream...)

I have faith that you, my little ones, will have a chance to meet your great-Nanny but you will never really know what a dynamo she is. At 5 feet tall she is still a force to be reckoned with in every way. For a polite southern girl she has always said exactly what is on her mind, with or without the required “bless their heart” attached. Her husband was sick off and on during their marriage so she has always been more or less the strong one in the family. Every day she reads every inch of the newspaper and often falls asleep at night reading her Bible.

She has worked at the local funeral home for almost 40 years. Still goes in ‘when they need me.’ She helps organize the flower arrangements and takes care of the families. When I was in college she used to write me letters regularly telling me about her week, “worked a lot this week, saw so many old friends.” My roommate and I used to wonder, were those friends alive...?

And she’s funny…cracks herself up. When she was 80 she was chosen to ride the lead float in her town’s annual Peach Festival Parade. She told them yes, she’d do it, but she couldn’t wear her bathing suit because it had holes in the knees. Of course there might have been more to that story but she laughs so hard when she tells it this is all we can ever understand.

The main thing you need to know in order to truly understand your great grandmother is that she is and has always been a woman of strong, unshakable faith. She attends her Southern Baptist church two or three times a week. Don’t bother offering to share a hymnal or a bible with her during service because she has both books memorized. I may not always agree with the stands her faith requires her to take, but I have huge admiration that she lives every second of her day as a child of God.

As I said, her faith is unwavering, and that’s why we are ok with her taking this whole adoption thing slowly. Because we know that her thinking is all done with love. Every time we hang up with her, Nanny says, “I just pray every day that you will be happy.” And she means that. So even though she might not totally understand our choices for adoption, she understands that this will make us happy…and that’s all she wants. Well, that and great-grandchildren.

Oh future-children-of-mine, I have so many things that I want to tell you about your Nanny and at the same time it feels like I have no words to describe her. So just know this…she loves you already.

your parents

Kat, Nanny & Missy the boxer, circa 1980

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Cuteness on the East Coast

I am pleased to say there was MUCH cuteness on the East Coast last week. I was in CT to finally meet Mr Leo and Miz Popi in person and I must say they lived up to all my expectations. I predict they will be great friends of our own soon-to-be-cuties.

Here is just a smidgen of cuteness for your enjoyment ...

Popi & Leo sittin' in a tree...

fyi--the only reason I feel comfortable posting pictures of these two lovelies is because they both already have their own blogs and PR reps, otherwise you'd have to settle for photos like this one:

Baby Love, Oh Baby Love...

Leo incognito

Popi, all worn out after a hard morning of coo-ing and smiling...

Who ordered the extra-large baby burrito?

Ok, so this isn't Popi or Leo but there is no denying the Cuteness Factor!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

"One Day/Day One" Washington DC, January 20th, 2009

(I'll just go right ahead and confess... I stole today's title from Spontaneous Delight...I tried to think of my own but I knew it would never get better than her's.)

January 20, 2009. What a day, what a day. I mean seriously, is there anyone out there who wasn't moved at least a tiny little bit watching the swearing in of our 44th president, Barack Obama? Anyone who didn't find Malia and Sasha to be pretty much the cutest kids around? Anyone who wasn't in awe by the tradition and the ritual and the spectacle?

In the past, I have only seen bits and pieces of Inauguration coverage. This year though, I watched every single minute, the whole day from beginning to end ... 15 hours in total. And since we Tivo'd the whole event, the Esquire and I have now watched the actual swearing in ceremony 3 more times (ok, we skip Warren's prayer).

Since the Esquire couldn't use the DC traffic as an excuse to take the day off in LA, I watched most of the day's events alone. I found myself jotting down things that I would have said out loud, had someone else been there. I've spent the last two days trying to organize this list of jumbled thoughts into something coherent but I can't seem to do it. So for my Inauguration Blog Entry I've decided to just to share the list with you. I don't make any claims that these thoughts are intellectual or political or even interesting, it's just a list of things that crossed my mind--in between emotional crying jags--as I spent 15 hours watching history being made. Enjoy.

Kat's Ponderings on Inauguration Day

*Watching Obama follow Nancy Pelosi down the hall, about to be announced at the swearing-in ceremony. He is walking alone--no Michelle, no Joe, no smile--he is all by himself. What can he be thinking now? This has to be way more stressful than walking down the aisle at your wedding. Talk about the walk of a lifetime.

*From Diane Feinstein's greeting: "...future generations will mark this morning as the turning point for real and necessary change, they will look back and remember that this was the moment when the dream that began on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial finally reached the walls of the White House..." Wow. I like that.

*Aretha's hat??? No one else could get away with that. Good for her. (side note: I read in the paper today that the milliner who made her hat is overwhelmed with orders for the same hat)

*Air and Simple Gifts, the classical quartet. Didn't like it much at first (can't dance to it) but then the clarinet played alone...clear, haunting notes playing the first few measures of "Tis a Gift to Be Simple" and I got chills. (side note: I've replayed that part of the song about 15 times so far. Can I get it on my iPod?)

*quotes I particularly liked from Pres Obama's speech:
"we have chosen hope over fear"
"all are equal, all are free, all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of greatness"
"The question we ask today is not if our government is too big or too small but if it works"

*The new President looks GOOD in Hi-Def! (side note: we just got a new HDTV and trust me, not everyone looks good in HD but Obama does!)

*Does the man ever use his teleprompter or does he have the whole speech memorized?

*Wonder what W is thinking? Can't tell by his expression. It must be a mixture of sadness and relief and sheer exhaustion. And I'm sure all the ex-presidents are listening to Obama's hopes and promises for the nation and are thinking "good luck with that." No matter what their political views I like to believe every president goes into office hoping to make things better and every president leaves wishing they could have done more.

*Bush Seniors fur hat: LOVE it! Was he always so stylish or is the purple turtleneck/yellow scarf/big fur hat a new side of him?

*From FaceBook during the swearing-in:
"Autumn thinks Justice Stevens is probably the actual happiest person in America today, since the poor man can finally retire.

Also on FaceBook, this message for our nephew Jack, who turned 9 on Inauguration day:
"HAPPY BIRTHDAY JACK...and for your birthday I give you the greatest hope for your country. You'll be the next great hope for the world someday I'm sure. --hugs from the Caseys"

*My status on Facebook during the swearing-in: " Kat is thrilled by the fact that she knows exactly what almost everyone she loves is doing RIGHT NOW at 8:55pst/11:55est. What an amazing moment for us all to share." I really was moved by that thought... that for at least 5 minutes--no matter what their timezone-- everyone was a part of the exact same moment.

*From the poem: "...each one of our ancestors on our tongue..." The Esquire and I are constantly asked how will we preserve our child/ren's Ethiopian heritage. I think this sums it up...we will try to keep their ancestors on our tongues.

*Greatest. Benediction. Ever. "In the shadow of your hand, may we always stand... may we turn TO each other, not ON each other..." Seriously, can I go to this man's church?

*Watching the Obamas escort the Bushes to their get-away-helicopter. I love that as Michelle hugged W good bye you could see her saying, "Thank you so much." I also love the fact that she gave Laura a parting gift. Class Act.

*Is the reflecting pool frozen over?

*I love that the Bravo Channel is showing a West Wing marathon during the Inauguration coverage ... the last season which eerily predicted real life. I love the last episode when the Bill Gates-esque character asks CJ to name the one problem in Africa that she'd most like to fix and she says, without hesitation, "Highways. It's not sexy but you can't fix anything else without them." And then he gives her 10 billion dollars to fix the highways. I've often wondered what ONE thing I'd fix if suddenly given 10 billion dollars...

*Budweiser commercial advertising their "American InaugurALE" Wow. I'm repulsed and yet oddly impressed with their marketing.

*Checking my google reader I find this quote on Spontaneous Delights' blog: "These souls (people who traveled to DC for the inauguration without having tickets or seats or plans) for whom freedom and justice and equality mean so much that they must travel down together to stand in the cold just to feel the change in the air." I feel like we can taste a bit of that air even here in LA but wow--how amazing to be in the middle of it.

*At the Luncheon (which I was absolutely fascinated by. I loved the coziness of it, but feel bad for poor Teddy) Obama thanked "the devoted waitstaff for putting up with me wandering through the tables." He thanked the waiters BEFORE he mentioned the dignitaries gathered...if that's not a sign of change I don't know what is.

*Lots of commercials for "Slumdog Millionaire"... another underdog that has risen to the top for good reason.

*During the parade: Al Roker, the Today Show weatherman, got a shout out from the Obama's as they walked past him. Al Roker, who has been on national television for at least 653 years was jumping up and down in excitement over the fact that President Obama spoke to HIM. So cute.

*In the Review Stands, where the Obama's will watch the parade--you can see the name tags on each of the seats--"Cabinet Member" "Malia" "Secret Service."

*In all the long shots of the White House, you can see the Secret Service walking on the roof, watching everything. Another Secret Service fun fact: no matter how cold it gets, the agents guarding the President can't button up their coats...they have to have them open so they can reach in quickly in case they need to shoot someone.

*The street lights along the parade route were specially designed so that they can be removed easily, so they don't mess up the view of the parade. Who knew?

*I kinda love watching Obama get down to drum corp as they pass by. He can't dance, bless his heart, but I love him for having fun and being willing to try.

*I cried when I saw the huge banner across the AFL-CIO headquarters: "Welcome Malia and Sasha" I love Unions.

But the main thing running through my mind, the main overwhelming thought I had the whole day as I watched the Inauguration coverage: This is the America I want our kid to come home to.

For some reason I have inextricably bound the election of President Obama to our soon-to-be kid(s). I wanted him to win the election for many reasons but I have to be honest and say that a large one was wanting our kids to have him as their president. I wanted them to start life as Americans with actual proof that anyone can become anything they want. And when he won the election, it hit me suddenly that one day we will have our Ethiopian children. And when I saw him being sworn in, I was overwhelmed with optimism not just for our country but for my family-to-be.

So yes, I spent a lot of time on Tuesday thinking about fashion and the Secret Service and the Secret Service's fashion, but I mainly spent the day thinking about my kid(s) and how much I wished for them to be curled up with me on the couch watching history being made. I guess I'll have to take them out of school for Obama '12 :-)


ps... back in August 2008, when we first started the Wait List Wait, I had big hopes and dreams that we would get our referral on the day Barack Obama was sworn in as our 44th president... talk about symbolism! Alas, it didn't happen for us, but it did happen for these people, and hey, symbolism is symbolism no matter what! Congratulations Cindy and Craig!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

(cold) Baby Tour '09

So I'm leaving lovely, warm, sunny Southern California today ... headed to NY & CT for a long weekend of babies. A long, cold, Arctic-Winds-Are-a-Comin' weekend. I'm excited about the babies. Not so thrilled about the weather.

My friend Susie and I are going east to see him and her and their parents. Leo and Popi were born within 4 days of each other last October and, as is the custom with arranged marriages, have already met, but this will be our first chance to meet them. Their moms and Susie are three of my best girlfriends (from our wild, single days in San Francisco) and their husbands are among my favorite men. Sadly, we all live in different places now so instead of spending all our time in each others apartments like the old days, we now have to book flights to have Girl Time.

I'm very excited to meet these two munchkins. And I'm really excited to have a chance to sit around the dinner table visiting with their parents for long hours at a time. I'm excited to see how cloth diapers and the Tripp Trapp are working out for them (Leo and Popi are consumer guinea pigs for my soon-to-be children). And I'm excited to see these new moms in all their glory. Last time we were all together Susie's daughter was the only kid around, Leo and Popi were just rumbles in their mom's belly's and I had just entered the Waiting Phase. So now almost all of our kids are here! We just need my Little Ethiopian(s) and the gang will be complete. Getting to finally meet Leo and Popi in the flesh makes me realize just how fast time is moving in this waiting game. Gives me hope and optimism that my time is coming soon. Like I said, I am very excited to meet these two new people.

But I'm not excited about the weather. It's supposed to be a high of 17 degrees on Friday. SEVENTEEN. I live in Los Angeles, where it rarely gets to 17 degrees Celsius! has all sorts of flashing headlines saying "Severe Weather Alert in NY and CT." Great. I went out this weekend and bought a real winter coat (one with the ability to actually keep me warm as opposed to just looking cute). It took 2 days and 6 stores before we found one. This being LA, on Jan 1st all the stores replaced their winter coats with bikinis. I'm not making that up.

So just to sum up this entry: Babies = good. Arctic Weather = Bad.

Have a happy (warm) weekend where ever you are. Wish my thin skin, thin blood, wimpy self good luck in the tundra... xoxo-Kat

ps--and could all my relatives in South Dakota and Minnesota please stop laughing at my wimpiness and go put on coats!

See..even Leo and Popi are upset about the Arctic Winds!

Friday, January 9, 2009

Goodbye old friend...

I have so many things that I’ve been wanting to write about...

I've been tagged to make a list of my new year's resolutions. But to be totally honest, I prefer to make grand promises all year long rather than save them for one day. Makes ignoring them so much easier. So odds are I won't ever get around to writing about that.

I wanted to write about our fabulous Christmas holidays and all the amazing "gifts" we received. I'm one of those crazy people who actually mean it when I say, "Please don't get me anything." Which I know is annoying to family members who are legally required to give me presents. But this year we received the best, most thoughtful gifts: lots and lots of children's books (our weakness) and several really cool donations in our name here and here. Perfect gifts for parents to be!

I wanted to write about our visit to the east coast and my cool conversations about adoption with my goddaughter (6) and her brother (8). In a nutshell they think adoption is cool because it will give them more friends though they are dubious about our asking for babies, "They cry all the time. Did you know that?"

I wanted to start a weekly feature called Friday Fun Fact. Every Friday I would share one cool thing about Ethiopia. For example, did you know that the Wise Man bearing myrrh came from Ethiopia? See... I told you it would be cool!

But now that I'm sitting here, I find the only thing I really want to write about is my car. My very uncool, but much loved 1997 Saturn. Today she was towed away, donated to charity to support our local public radio station (KPCC). Sigh. I was kinda sad to see her go.

Um... hello Kat? This is an ADOPTION blog? How the heck does a very old Saturn tie into adoption? I guess it's what the Saturn represented. She was the beginning and, now the end, of an important era for me.

In 2001, I packed up and moved to Los Angeles for a boy (no, not the Esquire, but the move is what lead me to the Esq. so I'm very grateful to that other boy for getting me here). This would be the first time in over 10 years that I couldn't rely on public transportation so I needed to buy a car. I searched long and hard for a good used safe one with lots of trunk space (I am my mother's daughter). The only 'extra' I wanted was power locks. Not sure if it's rational or not but power locks have always made me feel safer. When the LA boyfriend and I went to look at this car the saleslady tried to woo me with the fact that it had a spoiler (?) and some sort uber-cool, one-of-a-kind, customized stereo system. To which LA Boyfriend promptly snorted, "you'll love that for listening to NPR." The Saturn only had 39,000 miles on her, power locks, and a trunk big enough to live out of so I bought her.

And she's been a great car...has been there for me throughout everything. She's hauled campaign paraphernalia, props and set pieces, plants, recycling, ball gowns, celebrities, and wedding gear; not to mention most of my belongings as I moved from apartment to apartment. She's been valet parked at Spago's, the Emmy's and the SAG Awards. She’s taken me on countless road trips to Vegas, Berkeley, and Joshua Tree. And on those road-trips, her tape player –and that oh so cool stereo system-- let me listen to hours of Neil Diamond, REM, Lyle Lovett, and Duran Duran. When I broke up with the LA boyfriend, I would take long drives in her listening to sad music. And when I started to date the Esq. in secret (we didn't want our friends to know at first), I kept random groceries in the Saturn to help give me an alibi after seeing him. My friend Slaw decide I had officially gone LA when he noticed that I always, always kept a beach chair, granola bars and an eyelash curler in the Saturn. Even when the Esq. and I took off for a year, she ended up helping out by holding all the random last minute things we had forgotten to put into storage--like the vacuum, a trashcan and a tupperware full of grits.

She had her share of mechanical problems of course. Never anything too serious in the long run but since I'm not car-inclined at all, I would always freak out when the mechanic gave me a long list of "required" repairs. You know, the very first glimmer I ever had that the Esq. might be the one for me was when he calmly and rationally gave me car repair words I could understand. The LA Boyfriend was worse than me when it came to car stuff, so not only was he never any help, but his lack of knowledge often just caused me to freak out even more. After all, what's the use of a boyfriend if he can't help with car stuff??

As much as I loved the Saturn though, times change and we are now waiting on our child(ren). Yes, she's still a good safe car but she is also 11 years old, and we felt we needed to get a new car with more current child safety standards. So we made plans to trade her in. Even though LA isn't made for it, I still manage to walk almost everywhere so in 8 years I've only put 20,000 miles on her. I thought it was impressive to have an 11 yr old car w/ only 60,000 miles but then the Honda guy accused me of rolling back the odometer. We went and bought a Mazda.
The new and the old

It’s funny the random things that suddenly make you realize you are A Grown Up. My best friend had been married for 5 years, built her own home and had 2 children but it wasn’t until she bought a dining room table with an extra leaf that suddenly she felt like a grown up. Something about owning an extra section to her dining room table seemed very adult to her. I guess I experienced my Grown Up moment today when I watched the Saturn being towed away. I’m no longer that single carefree girl who hauls around a beach chair. Now I’m a mom-to-be, excited that her new car has the LATCH system for car seats.

Yes, I love our new Mazda (power locks AND power windows!) and I love my husband and the life we've made together. But as I’m excited as I am about our future and what’s next, I was still a little sad to see the Saturn, and the girl who once owned her, go.


Thursday, January 1, 2009

New Year's Eve Magic

I'm a big believer in New Year Eve's traditions. And by tradition I mean "repeating silly actions annually to ensure good luck/fortune/health or at the very least funny photos." One year (long, long ago) I found myself polka-ing right at the stroke of midnight. The following year I got a new boyfriend and a new job. Needless to say I made sure to polka at the stroke of midnight for the next 5 or 6 years. Until one day a friend said, "um...has the Magic Polka really done any good since that first year?" I had just broken up with said boyfriend and was now in a crappy job. Thus ended the New Year's Eve Polka Tradition.

My current (and, might I add, most successful) New Year's Eve tradition is to walk around the block with a suitcase right after midnight in order to guarantee travel in the New Year. Apparently this is a Colombian tradition. At least it was a woman from Colombia who shared it with me. But come to think of it she might have just been trying to get a bunch of drunkards to leave the house so she could have alone time with her then boyfriend-now husband on New Year's Eve. She also told us that Colombians believe in order to ensure lots of money in the New Year you had to wear new, red underwear that you put on under the bed. Hmmm... maybe it was "to ensure romantic success you put on new underwear while standing ON the bed..." Obviously I haven't been keeping that tradition...but hey, it was a party, you can't blame me for being fuzzy on the details.

But I'm positive about the rules for Future Travel: you have to walk around the block with a suitcase just after midnight. Yes, the suitcase can be empty. And yes, 'the block' can be whatever you have to work with (one year while in South Dakota, the Esquire and I simply circled the outside of the house because well, in rural SD a block can be 10 miles or 3 soybean fields). The key is to do it with intention.

And it works. I have proof. I made the walk the very first time (around the block near the Ashby Bart station in Berkeley CA) with a great friend who now splits her time between the US and Sierra Leone. Coincidence? I think not. That same year I spontaneously decided to spend a month in Ecuador (after being spontaneously laid off). The first year after meeting the Esquire, the Future Walk caused him to whisk me away on a surprise trip to Costa Rica. And just months after the Esquire and I first made the walk as a married couple, we took off and spent the next year and a half traveling around the world. Gives you goose bumps eh?

I could go on and on giving you examples but really it's up to you... either you believe it or you don't. But trust me that for this year, 2009, when we hope to make the biggest, most life-changing trip of all, you can be sure we BELIEVE in the MAGIC!

And so, early this morning, at 12:04am, Jan. 1, 2009, we took the walk. And not only did the Esquire gallantly carry the suitcase for us, but he also humored me enough to slow down for a photo so I could provide proof for you and all the adoption gods out there.

And no, it’s not snowing in LA (the Magic isn't THAT strong silly); those specks are just the prerequisite mist and fog that makes the Magic seem cooler.

Happy New Year... may 2009 take you exactly where you want to go! xoxo-Kat