Friends & their Kids


New York, New York!

I just got back from a two week work trip to Washington DC and New York, for a series of meetings and conferences. Although I was looking forward to some of the conferences and seeing colleagues and friends, this felt like a long trip and part of me was dreading it too. As much as I love travelling, lately I’ve been in nesting mode and find myself just wanting to hang out at home rather than hauling around luggage between hotels and cities. All that said, it wound up being a fun trip. Best of all, I had a bit of free time in between work events and so managed to squeeze in a few visits with old friends from grad school. While in DC, I visited with my friend Noelle and her kids Aidan and Keira again. It was a short trip, but we managed to play a rousing game of Monopoly. (As an aside, can you believe there’s a version of Monopoly now where Park Place, Marvin Gardens and the other properties have been replaced by online “properties” like Yahoo and Disney! And the silver show show and top hat that you move around the board is now an Angry Bird. Boy did I feel old fashioned!). Keira was very proud of her stuffed Bodhi, which I had given her after her visit in April, where she fell in love with my Bodhi (the real one!). After DC, I was in New York City for the weekend. I visited with my friend Jen her daughter, another Kira! Jen, Noelle and I were best buds in grad school. I was so struck by how much their Keira/Kira’s look and act like them — little Jen and Noelle “mini-me’s!” Check out the old photo below of the three of us on vacation in Spain while in grad school (circa 1998?) and the pictures of each of their girls. Guess which kid and Mom go together?

I also got to see my friends Zemer and Coleen and their “mini-me’s” Benjamin and Lena. We spent a nice Sunday exploring the Chelsea and lower east side. We had a nice walk on The High Line, visited the new Whitney Museum of  American Art and got to experience the all-plant “I can’t believe it’s not meat” Impossible Burger at Momofuku. Not to mention ice cream and cupcakes to round out the day.  It was a really fun Sunday.

There was something so lovely about seeing these friends who I first got to know when we were in our 20s, as parents with kids, families and accomplished careers. I  love seeing them with their little “mini-me’s” and getting to know their kids, though truthfully, these moments are also bittersweet. There’s a part of me , when seeing friends and their kids all together, that does get a bit sad and  wistful for a child of my own. I have friends who have told me that they worried  that it must be hard to spend time with them and their kids, that it might make me sad. And some who have worried about inviting me to events with lots of kids and parents, like birthday parties, wondering whether I might feel uncomfortable. I feel lucky to have friends who are so thoughtful and considerate about my feelings but what I tell them all is that  I really don’t want people worrying about me and certainly, don’t want friends to think they should avoid exposing me to their kids. Being with kids of course reminds of what I’m missing and longing for. I’d be lying if I said that sometimes it doesn’t hurt. But that’s not the overwhelming feeling. I don’t want to spend my life or this time waiting in a child-free bubble. More often when I’m having fun with your kids and seeing you being great parents, I’m reminded, in a positive way, of why all of this effort, angst and waiting is going to be worth it. Being with your kids is actually motivating and confirming of what I know in my heart to be true, that I want a child as the center of my world too. It reminds me of how much I love kids and what a great Mom I am going to strive to be.  I’ve found that one of the hardest things about this adoption waiting limbo is keeping it feeling real and tangible. After you get past the point of all the research, forms, interviews, putting together websites and letters and the like, it feels like there’s just time and waiting. You spend time updating websites and checking your phone and email accounts hoping for a call, but as the days and weeks and months go  by, its become harder and harder to feel that this is all real and that something is happening while I’m here in waiting.  For me, spending time with kids, my friends and their families has honestly been a lifeline in this waiting limbo. Being around your kids has kept me sane and feeling connected and has given me hope and inspiration.

I should say that I know from conversations with other waiting adoptive parents that not everyone feels this way about being around kids. Some parents-in-waiting do find it painful to be around kids and do avoid situations with kids or families.  While that’s not been true for me, I certainly respect those feelings and can see where they come from. What I would say as advice to folks who have friends who are waiting to adopt (or for that matter,  friends who are trying to conceive and grow their family in other ways) is that the best approach is just to ask your friend what they prefer. You can ask them how they are doing. Ask them whether being with your kids makes them uncomfortable. Ask them how you can help and support them. Don’t be afraid to bring up the issue. Trust me,  your asking and bringing up the issue won’t be anymore of a reminder or trigger than not asking, and more likely, they will appreciate your thinking of them.



Puppy love


Happy Birthday, my sweet boy!

This week Bodhi and I celebrated his birthday. Bodhi got a birthday dog cookie and a new chew toy which he promptly chewed to bits and we took a sunset walk at Point Isabel, one of our favorite local dog parks. It’s actually more accurate to say that this is our anniversary, since I don’t know Bodhi’s real birthday and I count back to the day we found each other at the local animal rescue. That was three years ago and I always wonder who rescued who. The day I met Bodhi, I was just coming off of a few difficult and stressful weeks culminating in one day that just felt shattering. I had been dealing with some very  disappointing news and was feeling very sad, alone and regretful. I remember crying a lot that night. But after that dark night, when I woke that morning, something in me said “today’s the day you find your dog.” I had been thinking about getting a dog for sometime, starting around the time my Mom died, a few years back. But somehow the timing and situation never seemed right. But that morning was fate. I woke up drove over to the rescue to get there when they opened and there he was, this little guy curled up in his bed, looking up at me with his big brown eyes. I knew he was “the one” instantly.  Bodhi is named after the Bodhi tree, the tree under which the Buddha found enlightenment. I often joke that Bodhi was meant to be my little enlightened zen dog. Well, I’m not sure if “zen” is a word that anyone who’s met this little dynamo would use to describe him, but he has, in many ways, brought some touch of enlightenment to my life. Through Bodhi, I’ve learned to let go, slow down  and be more present and in the moment. I used to rush when I walked and bolt out the door for work every morning. Bodhi is a sniffer and every blade of grass and every dog he encounters is worthy of a sniff. With him, the world just slows down and I pay attention more to the little things. With Bodhi, I never come home in a bad mood. Any stress or worry I’m carrying around melts away when I open the front door and there is this little guy wagging his tail madly, bouncing up and down, so happy to see me. I’ve learned that dog people are great people. I’ve met so many interesting, kind and generous people at dog parks and on walks. People who love their little furballs are generally good people. Bodhi’s taught me about being a kinder and more open person, to look on the bright side.  To trust more and judge less. Or as the bumper sticker on my car says “Wag more, bark less.”  Bodhi holds no grudges or regrets. For Bodhi, every day is a new day and every walk is a new adventure. Most of all, I’ve learned about the expansiveness of love. Bodhi loves everyone. Well, everyone except postmen, UPS truck drivers and squirrels. I love Bodhi with all my heart. He makes me smile and laugh every day and has brought more joy to my life than I could have ever anticipated. I can’t imagine my life without this fifteen pound fuzz ball and am so glad he came into my life when he did. Bodhi has been my constant companion throughout this adoption process. Going through the adoption process really tests your personal resilience and your willingness to believe. Whether you’re in a couple or single, it’s a tough process, but going through this alone, as a single person, is just particularly hard and can feel terribly lonely, even with my many lovely friends and supporters rooting me on. But having this little guy to cuddle and love and seeing how much he loves me has helped me not feel so alone.  Stepping into the adoption process is a giant leap of faith. You place all your bets on hope and luck and the faith that somewhere out there, there is a child waiting for you. It’s a lot to believe in and hope for but knowing that Bodhi and I found one another just when our time was right, helps me believe that this, too, will work out and that someday Bodhi and I will both have a new baby at home to love.

Check out some of my favorite photos of Bodhi. I’m totally biased, of course, but I think he’s just the cutest dog ever!



Openness and vulnerability

IMG_3322It’s funny how sometimes the universe speaks to you in mysterious ways. Yesterday, I had two unexpected experiences where I feel like I really learned something about the value of openness and vulnerability.

For the first incident, it was the end of my day and I was chatting on the phone with a work colleague who I know fairly well and consider a friendly acquaintance. I hadn’t seen her in quite a while and we were catching up, mostly about work related things, with a bit of professional gossip thrown in. We were checking in a bit on how we were doing work-wise and personally, but I hadn’t intended to tell her about my adoption plans. My adoption journey is something that I haven’t shared with many people in my professional life. I’ve kept this part of my life private, sharing it selectively. It’s not at all about shame or fear or worry about potential repercussions for my career, but more just because I am naturally a very private person.  Key people at work are in the know about my adoption plans and they are very supportive, but I try hard to keep my private life separate from my professional. It’s a level of balance that works for me. So back to the conversation with this work friend, from catching up about professional stuff and changes in her work life, we drifted into the realm of more personal and then there came a moment where it just seemed right to open up about my adoption plans. She herself adopted her son and is a single Mom, so I think that had something to do with it. I’ve also been recently feeling more and more stressed and anxious about being in this “waiting limbo” and somehow, I think I just needed to unload with someone who would understand, where I could be vulnerable and open up. We ended up talking for ages. The office cleared out, lights went dark  and there we were still talking and soon I was crying on the phone—and somehow this was a much needed catharsis for the stress that I had been carrying around. It was a really good conversation, uplifting and reassuring when I needed it.We talked about adoption and being a single Mom, about the parts that are hard and the parts that open your heart. And remarkably this letting go, opening up and being vulnerable when I didn’t expect it or plan it, managed to put me more at ease than I’ve felt in a long while.

The second experience happened right after, on my way home. I was waiting for my train and was scrolling through Facebook and my eye caught on a post from a friend that mentioned adoption. I’m not sure why this friend posted about adoption. I don’t know whether there’s a personal connection but she’s a pretty prolific poster about all sorts of things.  The post was titled “Shame is sticky“and was from a blog written by a woman named Marci Glass. In it Marci tells her her adoption story–having been placed for adoption as child 48 years ago, finding and trying to reconnect with her birthmother but being rebuffed, and now trying to come to terms with the situation that her birthmother does not want to reconnect.

I found myself just so struck and moved by Marci’s blog post, this random post that popped up on Facebook page on a night I was feeling vulnerable and open. She writes so honestly about her longing and sadness, and hers is a moving and heart-breaking story. She makes very clear that the heartbreak she feels is not because of the adoption which she respects and expresses gratitude for, but rather the heartbreak comes from the loss and shame that she feels in her mother’s decision not to be open to meeting her. She writes:

I completely support her decision in 1968 to place me for adoption. I am, quite literally, the woman I am today because of that decision, and I am so grateful she gave me life and gave me up…I am quite certain that shame is at the root of why she won’t meet me now…for my birthmother, shame appears to have silenced her and is keeping her from speaking to me and speaking to her family about me. As I am navigating the discovery of my own story, I’m learning how “sticky” shame is in my life. I do not feel shame about being adopted. It’s been a gift in my life. I do not feel shame for having been born. Yet as I navigate the places her shame requests my silence, I feel her shame trying to cloud over my life too, making me feel that I can’t claim my story, trying to keep me from asking questions, meeting my family, etc.

In what she writes, you could really feel the hurt child, even now, so many decades on. And It really reinforced for me what it feels like not only for the child who is adopted but for the adult that child becomes.  It made me think again about what I would want for my own child, what I would want them to be able to know about where they came from and how I would want them to feel good about themselves and their story, the history I would want them to have access to and the family they are always going to be part of in some way. Her story became even more poignant when I learned, scrolling through her blog to an earlier post (a post about her conflicted views on Mothers Day) that not only was she adopted, but she also placed a son for adoption when she was a college student. She talks about her relationship with her first born son (whom she placed in an open adoption and has remained in contact with) and writes about him with such obvious pride and love. She tells us that she later married and had two more sons, who also have been able to get to know first born son. She talks about how placing her first son for adoption — a decision she does not regret— has made her a better, more devoted mother to her other sons. And so, she really lives both sides—as a child who was adopted and a mother who placed her child for adoption.

After reading Marci’s story and her experiences, from both sides, it made me even more committed to wanting to insure that my child  will have the opportunity and the gift of knowing his/her family history and birthparents. I know you can’t always control what happens but it made me even more committed to doing my part to approach our mutual adoption story with openness. Reading Marci’s story and  feeling vicariously, through her, her birthmother’s shame also made me even more sympathetic to how hard all this is for the mothers who give birth and place their children for adoption. I’m really grateful to have stumbled on her blog (thanks, Universe and Facebook!) and Marci’s story. I hope you too have a chance to read her blog. Her openness and her willingness to be so honest, vulnerable and open in putting this all out there has been a real gift of insight for me—here from a stranger who whose post randomly wound up in my Facebook feed.


Tassajara Magic

Tassajara Zen CenterLast weekend, I went away with my friend Phil for a long weekend to Tassajara, a Zen monastery and hot springs four hours south of here, in the mountains outside of Carmel Valley. This was our second Tassajara trip and I am hopeful we’re going to make this an annual tradition. It’s hard to describe the calming magic of Tassajara. Tassajara is the oldest Soto Zen monastery in the United States. The hot springs are the main physical attraction, though Tassajara is about so much more than the hot springs. The hot springs were originally discovered by the Esselen native people and even then the springs were known for their restorative properties. Later in the 1900s , the hot springs were part of a mountain resort, where Californians would come to “take the cure” for the supposed healing powers waters. By the 50s and early 60s, the resort had fallen in disrepair and then was rediscovered by Shunryu Roshi who founded the San Francisco Zen Center and brought new life to Tassajara, as a center for the study of Zen Buddhism. Tassajara today remains an active Zen monastery, where for most of the year, students come here for the monastic life, to meditate and study Buddhism. During the spring and summer, Tassajara is open for the “guest season” and “guests” from the lay world can come for retreats and workshops, or just to get away. The hot springs themselves are beautiful and relaxing, with the baths having a very Japan architecture, adding to the relaxing zen feel. A babbling creek runs through the center of Tassajara and its melody. along with the chirping birds, is constantly in the background. At regularly intervals in the day, its gurgling is interrupted with the gentle gongs and bells from the Zendo, calling the students to Zazen (meditation). Part of the magic of Tassajara is the journey. Tassajara itself is that end of the long 14 mile rugged, narrow, steep and winding one-lane dirt road, one that some are brave enough to drive but we got a ride from the nearby town via the Tassajara “stage” (aka a SUV with 4 wheel drive and good brakes!). My first ever trip to Tassajara was one where I drove alone and made the mistake of arriving close to dusk. I’ll never forget that drive down that bumpy, narrow, dirt road, wondering whether I would ever get out of there alive. I was smart enough for that trip (having been warned!) to have rented a 4 wheel drive (there’s no way my little car would have made it!) but even so, it was by far the scariest drive of my life. It’s common for cars to burn out their breaks or pop tires coming down this road. Our driver told us that at least four times per season someone’s car completely breaks down. The funniest story of this season was the person who drove their Tessla in not realizing that they would not be able to charge it once there (talk about clueless and entitled!). When you are driving down that road,  one wonders why people even bother, but then, you get to the bottom, and there you are, in this truly magical place. The stress of the drive just melts away. You really feel like you are a million miles away from the real world when you’re there. There is no internet or phone reception and in  fact, you’re discouraged from even having your phone visible.  Electricity is also limited. Even a few years ago, none of the cabins had electricity. The only lights there were old-fashioned gas lanterns, but now they’ve exchanged these with solar lights. The food is all vegetarian and super-delicious, especially the home baked Tassajara bread that they are so famous for. Whenever I arrive at Tassajara, I just notice my body and mind getting lighter. My steps slow down and I can feel my mind recentering. I had first come to Tassajara a few years ago for a workshop, not quite knowing what to expect. I initially took up meditation in the period after my Mom died. That was a difficult time for me and meditation helped me refind myself and start to come to terms with the grief and trauma of her illness and death. I had heard about Tassajara from various people over the years but never made the trip myself. It’s one of those places where people come year after year. Phil and I met people who have been making the annual pilgrimage for 30 plus years. As a result, it’s not so easy to get a reservation. On my first visit, I actually got lucky and signing up for this workshop was a rather spur of the moment decision and lucky break that there was a last minute opening. That workshop, which was about making life changes, really transformed me in many ways, and I got my first taste of the magic of Tassajara. It seemed fated somehow. This past weekend was no less perfect. We spent the weekend hiking, lounging in the hot springs, swimming in the creek’s swimming pool, reading and just catching up and slowing down. The special moments are many—sitting in the hot springs at night staring up at a sky overflowing with stars; escaping the incessant pull of my iphone and not thinking about emails for three whole days;  watching the blue jays chatter up a storm from our porch overlooking the creek; swimming in the swimming hole at the Narrows; naps by the pool and sleeping late; watching my mind slow down and catching up with myself. Bliss. Throughout this adoption journey and especially as I wait, it’s been really helpful for me to find time, like this weekend, to get away. With the adoption wait, you are always “on” somehow, waiting for the phone to ring or an email to arrive. Most of the time, it’s just crickets, seemingly nothing happening and the phone silent and yet, I am in constant fear being out of contact and missing THE call. It’s hard to be constantly on call and waiting, so I made a decision early on not to put my life on hold while I waited. Sure, that does mean special arrangements sometimes—like this weekend, making sure my counselors had the main phone number at Tassajara if something came up or buying trip insurance for my vacations, just in case they need to be cancelled. It’s not that I wouldn’t drop everything to be ready when the time comes—in fact, I probably would even have hiked out that 14 mile dirt road from Tassajara if that were necessary. But, making sure that I still enjoy my life for what it is, as it is now, keeps me grounded and optimistic, even when the wait seems unbearable.


The Letter

!!! With Bodhi 4 (possible back cover)I’ve been working on a revised “Dear Birthmother Letter” and at long last, it’s finished! The final prints came in the mail this week! For those of you who have been following my adoption journey, I should perhaps back-up a bit. I decided a little while back to diversify my adoption strategy and started working with an additional adoption agency. I really like IAC (Independent Adoption Center, the nonprofit open adoption-focused agency I’ve been working with since I started this process), but for various reasons, I started to feel that I wanted a more hands-on approach to help me find my way to this special baby. It was a big step (and major financial commitment) to start working with a second agency, but I feel like it’s the right choice for me and have been excited for this next step. This agency has a bit of a different outreach philosophy than IAC and a different approach to the “Dear Birthmother Letter,” so here I am, revising my Letter again.

For friends who may not know about the “Dear Birthmother Letter,” “The Letter” (as I’ll refer to it) is a key part of the adoption process. It’s the first view that most Birthmoms have of prospective families and key part of the whole adoption networking process. I think I speak for most wanna-be adoptive parents when I say that “The Letter” might be one of the hardest, most-time consuming and fraught parts of the whole adoption process. At one point, I think the “Dear Birthmother Letter” was literally that, a letter to the prospective Birthmother, maybe with some photos included. Now these Letters are essentially glossy multi-paged photospreads. Preparing my IAC letter was harder and more emotionally tortured than even preparing for the homestudy.  These days, most of the adoption process happens online, where birthparents are presented with profiles of potential adoptive parents.  In the ideal, “The Letter” is intended to give birthparents a view of the potential family/person who may adopt their child. “The Letter” and on-line profile is a window into the adoptive parents, who they are, what their lives are like, why they want to adopt.This all seems incredibly reasonable, when seen from the Birthmother’s point of view, but still the whole concept of putting together this profile really intimidated me. In many ways, the adoption process these days seems a lot like online dating. (A comparison which seems chock full of irony  for me personally, considering that my distaste for online dating is a good part of the reason why I’m still single!) I’m a very private person and I intentionally keep a low online and social-media profile in the rest of my life. I’ll admit that initially hearing about “The Letter” and the whole process involved made me very anxious. I’m not a person who likes to talk about myself. I don’t even like having my photo taken. I like to live below the radar, so the idea of spilling out my life into what is essentially a glossy marketing brochure and online profile and on top of that, one that needed to stand out from a crowd gave me heart palpitations. There’s also this immediate feeling of being judged (pick me!), a feeling I found heightened when I perused other wanna-be adoptive family’s profiles. Reading those profiles, the other wanna-be parents all sound so very perfect, lovely and so right to be great parents. My insecure side wondered how I could possibly compare? Plus, while I usually am quite content with my life as a single woman, somehow, seeing this sea of shiny happy-looking couples, got me wondering why anyone would pick just me. At the same time, I couldn’t help but think how hard it must be for Birthmoms to sort through all these profiles, looking for that special one without knowing even what to look for.  Can you really tell who would be a good parent from one of these Letters? There is this sameness to the formatting and the language that makes it hard to stand out from the crowd.

Well, the first go-round of putting together my Letter, was really tough. Writer’s block to the extreme. For weeks, it was all I thought about. I walked around just thinking about to present who I am and my hopes and dreams for this baby into words and pictures on a page. The agency put forward very specific recommendations for format and what to say, which is helpful in some ways when you’re staring at a blank page, but very quickly starts to feel formulaic and not true to who I am. There’s also the issue of the photos. The agencies also have very specific recommendations for photos. For the IAC Letter, the recommendation was to have as many photos with children as possible. Now, I love kids and I love my friends’ kids, but I had few photos to document this, so for a few months, there were a lot of “photoshoots” with friends and their kids. Of course, it made me laugh when the new agency told me that their style favors photos of hobbies and your “adult life.” So, out with the kid shots and in with the hobby shots!

All this being said, as difficult as the process was I actually am so pleased with how my Letter turned out. In the end, what helped me to pull it all together (literally and psychologically) and made the process more meaningful and real for me, was thinking about this as not just a letter to the woman who would give birth to the baby I would be lucky enough to adopt but also a letter to my future child. Someday, I will be able to share this with him or her and show her/him what my life was like while he/she was just a dream. It’s the beginning of the story of our family and the first family scrapbook of many more to come.

I had a lot of help along the way and in particular, wanted to thank a few people who helped me create a Letter that really represents me, as I am. My friend Luis was very generous to be step in as the photographer for a number of my “photoshoots.” Not only did he take beautiful photos but he supplied his gorgeous children, Eleanor and Sebastian, as props! Thanks also to Eleanor and Sebastian for looking so completely adorable in all the photos. Who wouldn’t look awesome next to these two cuties! For my revised Letter, I decided to have some professional photos taken of me with Bodhi. I have a ton of photos of Bodhi and he always looks cute but I had very few photos of the two of us together. After researching pet photographers on Yelp, my dogsitter recommended a friend of his, Patty Nason. Patty was awesome! She spent the afternoon with Bodhi and I at a local park and took the most precious photos of Bodhi and me.  I treasure these photos—one of my favorites is above. She really captured us both so well. Plus, who doesn’t love having someone shouting out flattering comments like “you look beautiful” and “great smile” for a whole afternoon. I felt like a movie star at a red carpet event! Patty is starting her own photography business and so I wanted to give her a shout out. She was lovely to work with and made me feel so comfortable and joyful and at ease—which is saying alot coming from a camera-phobic person like me! Check out her website here and hire her! She does great headshots too! Last, but definitely not least, I owe a huge debt of gratitude to Joanna Ivey from Our Chosen Child who did all the design work on my Letter and really made it all come together. Joanna is a amazing and I am so glad that my agency recommended working with her. I am not sure how she works her magic but Joanna is the fairy-godmother of adoption Letters. She took my carefully crafted text and collection of random photos and made them sparkle with life. Knowing only a little about me, she managed to capture my style and personality perfectly. And finally, to various friends who contributed photos and thoughtful suggestions and edits and supported me throughout this process, thank you, all of you. They say it takes a village to raise a child—who knew it also takes a village to write a very special Letter!

And so, without further adieu, the grand reveal, drumroll please—here is my new Letter!

Katja’s Adoption Letter

I really do love it and so hope it works its magic, that somewhere out there, there is a special woman thinking about adoption for her child and sees me in this Letter and says, yes, she’s the special Mom for my special baby!



Otto turns One!


Otto turns 1!

I was in Connecticut last weekend to celebrate my nephew Otto’s first birthday. It’s hard to believe that he is one already. I remember that weekend last year, waiting for his arrival, the anticipation and excitement and then pure love upon seeing him for the first time. How has a year passed already? Now he’s starting to walk and has his first teeth and is turning into a little toddler. We had a birthday party for him and he had his first taste of cake and played with his new toys. He loved his first baseball bat even if the bat was almost as big as he is—and Mom and Dad are thrilled for their little slugger. Sports fans that they are they’ve already been debating whether he will hit right or left. The cake was shaped like a baseball and Otto wore a baseball onesie. The messaging is not subtle!  The slide I gave him was also a big hit, especially when paired with the kiddie pool. It’s equally amazing to see how Philip and Evan have grown into such great parents–they make it look so natural and joyful, if not always entirely easy. I’m lucky to be a part of this too as the doting Aunt, but  birthdays and anniversaries like this remind me also of the passage of time, as I “wait” for my own baby. Deep down, even in all the happiness, that’s still a shadow that adds an edge of wistfulness to celebrating milestones like this. Of course, I wish for my own little one. I also like the idea of my brother and I having kids about the same age, cousins to grow up with, so keep hoping that I’ll get good news soon.

Birthday roadtrip

IMG_3340Last weekend I took a birthday (mine!) roadtrip with my friend Michelle to Mendocino for a “Two gals and a dog” spa weekend. It turns out Mendocino is a super dog friendly place and the inn we stayed at (The Inn at Schoolhouse Creek) bills itself as a “pet friendly” spa resort. It certainly lived up to that! Everyone there seemed to have a dog with them and the restaurant even allowed you to bring your dog for breakfast, even had a doggy menu that was as good the human-menu. It was a bit over the top in some respects but was a great place to stay. Bodhi certainly loved being a pampered pup! We had a great time exploring Mendocino, walking on the beaches, visiting Point Cabrillo light house, relaxing in the hot tub and catching up on reading, collecting driftwood on the beach. With the fog and dramatic scenery, Mendocino also has a moodiness to it that I just love.We had a great drive back wine tasting along the way, as we wound  our way through Anderson Valley.

My approach to birthdays is to celebrate them big. I’m not one of those people who thinks you should just let the day go by like any other. I’m definitely sensitive to the passage of time and like probably most of us in this space called “middle age,” all too conscious of the passing years and accumulating wrinkles and age related annoyances.  So with that in mind, I figure the best way not to mourn another passing year, is to celebrate it! I have a personal rule to not work on my birthday so I always take the day off (and this is something I offer to all the people who I manage as well). Last year I had a great birthday, with a party with my friends at the Santa Cruz beach boardwalk amusement park, riding roller coasters and playing carnival games. This year was mellower, but no less fun and fit my mood perfectly. In the run up to my birthday this year, I was definitely feeling more than the usual tinge of birthday malaise. If I’m honest, I would say the waiting and “adoption limbo” is taking its toll. I’m doing my best to stay positive and focused but it’s hard and the passing of another year, just amplifies some of the angst about whether this will work out. I want so much to be a Mom and I know with every part of my being that I would be a good one, but it’s hard not wonder whether the call will ever come. Don’t get me wrong—I’m not one of those people who stares at the phone waiting for it to ring and I’m not holding back on life while I “wait.” But, still, it’s constantly on my mind and every day there’s a piece of me that wonders about “when it will happen” and some days, darker days, there are the worries about “if it will happen.” I know, I know, I need to stay positive. I think I needed the weekend to disconnect and chill out. It was the perfect respite weekend. Thanks, Michelle, for being my birthday roadtrip co-pilot! I’m looking forward to the year to come and next year, will hopefully not only have  a dog in tow but a baby too!

Support group musings

Women's Building MuralI went to my monthly adoption support group tonight. I try to go most months when I am in town. I am generally glad I do, though it’s a mix of emotions each time. It’s helpful to meet other families in the same boat, but at the same time, it marks the passage of time, another month without a match,  feeling that I am stuck and that this is not moving forward, wondering whether this will work out. The mantra is always “patience”,”hang in there”, “waiting is the hardest part.” All that may be true but still, it doesn’t make the waiting limbo feel any easier and in all honesty, hearing the mantra time and time again, just starts to wear thin. There’s always a topic for the meeting, usually some informational component on one of the many, many logistical, legal or sometimes  emotional ins-and-outs of adoption. Today’s topic was all about birth fathers and the rights they have in the adoption match. Let’s just say there was a LOT to process, and a lot to start to worry about. In all the training and counseling that goes on for potential adoptive parents, there’s generally a lot of discussion around birthmothers (as there should be) but comparatively less so about birth fathers. But, they are, of course, a part of this too and the legal issues around consent are complicated and the potential complicating scenarios are many. In earlier stages of this, I used to approach these types of discussions by taking tons of notes, sucking in every last nitty gritty detail, learning as much as I can to prepare myself for the possible scenarios. I’m nothing if not a good student and researcher and that’s generally been my strategy for life—arm myself with as much information and preparation in advance, so I can’t be taken by surprise. “Be Prepared,” as the Boy Scout motto goes; an adaptive strategy that probably most Type-A achievers like me learned early in life. But, as time has passed and also hearing more and more adoption stories from adoptive and wanna-be-adoptive parents, it just became clear to me that every situation and story is so different that you can’t really prepare for all the inevitable surprises. And in fact, you can drive yourself (and probably others around you) crazy with trying to foreshadow the possibilities and prepare for every scenario. The best you can do is let go and be open (there’s that word again!) to whatever happens. Of course that doesn’t mean avoid all preparation or to just let yourself be pushed along blindly or worse yet, bulldozed. It’s interesting because when I was younger, it would have been very, very difficult for me to even consider a “let it go” strategy. I think it’s only in the last five or so years, having wrestled with some difficult life challenges, that I can see the value of letting go.  I think this will also make me a better parent when my time comes. I try to now listen to the stories with openness and empathy, knowing that this story won’t be my story or my baby’s story. By sharing in this common experience with others in the group, I feel less alone and more confident that whatever the road before me, I can handle it, I am prepared and it will be so worth it! 

**Incidentally, the photo is part of the mural on the Women’s Building, in the Mission, where the San Francisco support group meets. The image of mother and child seems perfectly connected to all of this. The monthly meeting has been a good excuse to come into the city and have dinner in the Mission. I’ve been making my way through the various nearby taqueria’s and burrito places. My next blog may be a food blog!


Easter eggsThe last few weeks have been a bit of a blur and so I am finally catching up on finishing some old posts. I am big sentimentalist about holidays. I just love celebrating holiday traditions. Even better when there are kids involved. It lets me be a big kid too!  Easter is one of my favorite holidays. There’s the excitement of spring and the world coming back to life and color after a gray winter. Coloring eggs is a lot of fun and of course, who can’t love a holiday centered on candy and chocolate. I have great memories of Easter as a kid. I remember hunting for eggs that my Dad (aka the Easter Bunny) had hidden and how in some years “the easter bunny” did such a good job hiding the eggs that we’d be finding (or smelling!) errant eggs weeks later. I remember hoarding my chocolate bunny, not willing to eat it because that might hurt the bunny and being horrified to find my bunny, which I had carefully tucked away, eaten up by my little brother. This year I did a two-take Easter. Since I knew I’d be travelling to the east coast for Easter weekend, the weekend before Easter I had friends over to my house in Berkeley for  brunch and an egg hunt. And then the following weekend, on the “real” Easter Sunday I was in Connecticut celebrating Otto’s first Easter. Otto seemed to like the Radio Flyer baby trike I got him as an Easter gift. Easter Sunday was lovely weather and we had a nice walk to their local park nearby. I’m not sure who had more fun playing with the plastic (cheerio loaded) eggs, Otto or Gary, the dog. Gary figured out the trick pretty quickly and was all over the eggs! It was a fun two weekends. I’m in the midst of updating my adoption brochure (more on that later in another post!) so the timing was good for getting some fun photos. I knew the visit to Connecticut was going to be a bittersweet weekend, with it being Otto’s first Easter but also coming up on the fifth anniversary of my Mom’s death. My Mom died just before Easter in 2011 and I think of her so often this time of year, around Easter and spring. We visited the cemetery to put flowers on my Mom  and Dad’s graves, the first visit there with Otto in tow and I couldn’t help but think about how much Mom and Dad would have loved him. This year, maybe for the first year since Mom died, looking at Otto, I could really feel both how life moves forward and on in the next generation and how the memories and traditions we grew up with bridge the past and present and keep those we’ve loved and lost alive in spirit. There’s some sort of peace in realizing this.



Superbloom roadtrip!

Superbloom roadtrip_9Two of my new year’s resolutions this year were to be more spontaneous and to explore more of my adopted home state of California.  Death Valley is one of the hottest and driest places in the US. This year, with the combination of rainstorms in the fall and warm winter weather, this normally barren place is alive with color. Seeds that have been dormant are sprouting and painting the landscape in shades of yellow, white and purple. A “superbloom” like this is rare–once in a decade. I’ve never been to Death Valley but had been thinking about wanting to get out to see the wildflowers, since this year, with the rains, they are bound to be spectacular. So, when I read about the “Death Valley Superbloom” a few weeks ago, I immediately thought, “Let’s go!” I feel very lucky to have friends willing to take up the call and head off for the weekend. Thanks Willy, Judy, and Sophia! Our “roadtrip” turned out to be a bit circuitous because, as it turns out, when thousands of tourists decide to make the pilgrimage to Death Valley, hotel vacancies become very scarce in rural Nevada. Not to be daunted, we decide to stay in Vegas and drive from there. Vegas itself was an adventure, having never been.  All in all, it was a fantastic weekend and just what I needed. The last few weeks have been tough. I’ve been both very busy at work and also feeling really anxious and sad about being in adoption “waiting limbo” and as a result, it’s just been hard to get out of my head. This roadtrip did a lot to restore some balance. Just seeing this amazing scenery, having fun with my friends and living in the moment has been a great respite and chance to escape even if just for a weekend.