Tuesday, December 6, 2011

A Surreal Few Weeks

These past few weeks have gone by in a blur – a kind-of dream state almost. It started just before Thanksgiving with a call from our lawyer. It seems like everything starts that way lately… with a call from our lawyer. She said she had been in contact with a birth mother who was due the day after Christmas.

Of course I had my suspicions due to the previous experiences that we had had, but somehow I felt this one was going to be different. First, because our lawyer had actually met with this birth mother, and second, we had a long conversation with the birth mom, and for the first time, we made arrangements to meet her and her two girls in person – in the flesh. Lunch was the Saturday after Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving came and went with a bang. As I mentioned earlier, we had 30 people over. It was stressful planning it, but in the end it turned out to be the best Turkey Day Ken and I and our friends and family had had in a long time. I think there’s something magical when everyone sits down at the same table (in our case, a really long table that that took up two rooms) and goes around and says what they are thankful for. It was very memorable.

Of course, I said I was thankful for my amazing husband, my family and friends making the journey to our house, and of course this new and exciting prospect that we could actually become parents by Christmas. It was all happening at once.

Saturday came and we were off to meet the birth mom about 3 1/2 hours away. I remember her coming down the stairs and giving me a hug as soon as she saw me. Maybe it’s just a female thing because we’re all so emotional, but it meant a lot to me. Over the next few hours we got to know her and her two adorable girls, how she grew up, what she hoped the future would hold for her kids. We drove away feeling really good about the whole thing.

Fast-forward to a week and a half later – after we’d been calling and texting one another – to me waking up to my phone buzzing near my head at 5am. Of course I jumped out of bed to answer it. It was her. She had been brought to the hospital for significant bleeding. After running some tests, the doctors determined that she was OK and so was the baby. I could hear his heartbeat … thumping through the phone… so I knew that things are going to be fine. Well, that same day, around 2:00 she called to say that she was in labor. WHAT!!??

I ran to tell Ken who was packing his bags to leave on business. He immediately thought I was messing with him, but quickly saw that I wasn’t kidding.  We race to the hospital. In the meantime, things are pretty official. We have entered an adoption plan together. Papers are signed and checks have been written.  So we do what any expectant parents would do and excitedly tell our friends and family that “HOLY S#@*” this is finally happening.

We were trying to be cautiously optimistic of course, but then again, we’re only human and emotions took over. We spent a few hours with her in the hospital, but the baby was not coming that night, or anytime soon, which in hindsight is a good thing – because it turns out she needs more time to work out some stuff in regards to this adoption – the most specific thing being visitation.

When we entered the adoption plan, it was letters and pictures and updates once or twice a year. We have no problem with that at all. But, in the end, “K” decided she wanted 5 to 6 visitations a year, and Ken and I just don’t want to have that open of an adoption – even though I know it works for some families.

Answer this question for me: Parenting is hard enough, so how do you raise your child without them getting completely confused when their birth mom visits them every few months?

I am sure someone has some really good answers out there.

(By the way, in between the two days that were shacked up at a Holiday Inn Express outside the hospital, we got a little ahead of ourselves and bought a whole bunch of things at Babies ‘R Us. We looked pretty sad when we returned it all 2 days later! Well, we used the money for a good cause. Keep reading to find out.)

In the end, we told our lawyer we were walking away, because the most important thing to us right now is not becoming parents. The most important thing is to have the birth mother of our child feel 100 % comfortable with her decision. We don’t want her to feel pressured and we certainly don’t want her to wake up every morning thinking that she’s made the biggest mistake of her life. I would be heartbroken if that happened.

So we walked away, and over a couple of shots of tequila and a lot of tears (on my end), we decided the best thing we could do is give her some breathing room and some time to think.

In the meantime, we ran off to Key West to drown our sorrows.(see photos above) And I must say it was absolutely the best thing we could’ve done with the money we got back from that Babies 'R Us shopping spree: Toes in the sand and cocktails at noon. 

I didn’t want to come home. I didn’t want to come back to reality and the realization that this was not happening again for us.

But strangely … it’s not completely over. She hasn’t had the baby. She’s on bed rest due to the bleeding, and her lawyer said she doesn’t want to look at any other couples. She said she sees us as the parents that she wants for her son.

Ken and I just want what is best for her and her kids. So, I guess we just have to wait and see what that is.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Diversions & Renovations

There’s nothing like gutting a few rooms in your house to keep your mind busy and not obsessing over the adoption process you feel like you've been entrenched in for years.

This all started a little over a month ago when my husband decided he wanted to get a designer to help us with some rooms. To give you a little background, we live in 200-year-old house that always needs work. Last year we focused on painting the outside of the house, and now, it was time to take a look at some rooms on the inside. Believe me, I never thought we would hire an interior designer to help us (it sounds like such a DB thing to do) – but it has actually been an eye-opening experience. She has picked things out that I never would've even looked at.

If someone told me I would wallpaper my entryway – I would have told them they were nuts. I mean wallpaper is so 1970’s and 80’s. Well, let me tell you… grass–cloth wallpaper is genius. It’s rustic and elegant and gives the room so much texture. It’s hard to see from the picture – but it is pretty kick ass. Now I want to grass-cloth my whole house!

We also decided refurbish our front door, which is one of my absolute favorite things about this house. Here’s a picture after the woodworker started to tear out the side paneling.

And here's a picture of our new light fixture and another angle of the grass-cloth. (I am a big fan)

The other room we decided to completely re-do is our mudroom. I wish I had a before picture, but basically, it was a cluttered mess. One of the closet doors was unhinged, which would periodically come crashing down on the dog if you weren’t careful – and speaking of dogs – my French Mastiff, Charlie, had complete reign over the space, which meant lots of drool and lots of hair.

So we decided to rip everything out and start from scratch. First up on the agenda was a new heated floor because that room was frigid! Here's a before and after of the tiles. Now we are  just waiting for some paint, the California Closets, the new “steam” washer and dryer (so excited for those!) and some furniture.


We’re also updating an upstairs bedroom that will double as Ken’s office and an open room downstairs that will be my new office. Ken's room is almost there. You can see the new rug and paint color (Benjamin Moore - Nocturnal Gray). We just need some furniture to arrive!

The good news is that this project has really taken our mind off the adoption. The bad news is – all of this is supposed to be done before Thanksgiving. Oh, and did I mention that we have 35 people coming over. Yikes!

But then again, our designer lady has promised us it will be done. So fingers crossed and stay tuned for some updated pictures.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Busted!

Our adoption journey/craziness has definitely been a comedy of errors – but this latest experience ranks right up there at the top.

Our lawyer (who is on her last leg with me) contacted us last week to let us know that it was IMPERATIVE for us to get our homestudy update from our agency as soon as possible.  I asked her why, and she said she had a birth mom who was due at the end of January. OK… this was an exciting prospect. So in true fashion, I ran around like a crazy person getting things signed and notarized, on top of writing another fat check to our agency, and then we waited for her to send us the paperwork.

She overnighted it, and I ripped open the Fed Ex envelope as soon as it landed on our front porch.

Now, I have never looked over this kind of paperwork before, but it’s basically background information about the birth mom including medical and family history. I scanned over the pages carefully and found no sign of anything alarming – except the fact that this woman and her family didn’t seem to have any medical issues at all. No drinking, drugs, family history of cancer or heart disease or anything else for that matter, but let’s be honest,  even the most ‘normal’ families have a history of something… right?

Well, I was about to find out that this birth mom was not so perfect after all. Her name was glaring at me from the top of the document -and so I did what anyone in my place would do – I Googled her.

I was thinking maybe a Facebook page would come up with her name – but no. Instead, the website, BUSTED! mugshots.com was staring back at me. It turns out she was arrested a few months ago for obstructing justice (or something like that). OK. Not so bad. But then I Googled the birth dad’s name, and just like that, his name popped up on mugshots.com as well. Turns out he was arrested last month for assault and battery/domestic violence. REALLY!? Now, I don’t expect the birth parents to be perfect by any means, I really don’t. But the fact that her “old man” (he’s 54 and she’s 31) got busted for domestic violence when she’s supposedly 6 months pregnant didn’t exactly give me the warm and fuzzies.

Long story short, as my husband loves to say, I called our lawyer and she had other news that wasn’t so promising. Like the fact that the birth mom was due at the end of May, not January.  That’s a big difference. She then tried to feed me some story, saying she thought she was 6 months along, but it turns out she was only 2. Again REALLY?!

I stopped her right there and said we would take a pass.

By the way – she didn’t know about the arrests either – which is BS. Isn’t that part of her job to know? Ken and I have gone through more fingerprinting and background checks – but god forbid – we know that information about potential birth parents. (sorry I’m going off on a tangent)

Bottom-line: I am sure we will meet the right birth mom or birth parents at some point… it’s just hilarious what we have to go through in the meantime. If I don’t laugh about it… the only thing left to do is cry… and I’m over that for now.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Back to Square One

Just when I thought that Ken and I had had finally caught a break in this wonderful process of adoption ---- nope. Not happening. And when I say "wonderful process of adoption" I am totally being sarcastic. It really sucks. S-U-C-K-S. (Don’t get me wrong, adoption is a beautiful and amazing thing, it’s the process that really stinks)

So in my last blog, I was feeling really positive. We had been talking and texting with a prospective birth mother from Texas and things were going really well. In fact, the day after I posted that blog she called to tell us that she had chosen us – CHOSEN US – to be part of her adoption plan. It was surreal and exciting all at the same time. She wasn’t due until May so we had plenty of time to forge a relationship with her. She even told us she wanted us to be in the delivery room with her. All incredible news.

Although we were being cautiously optimistic (I am starting to hate that phrase) – I couldn’t help myself from daydreaming about how I would decorate the baby’s room… how I might have to trade-in my mini for a bigger car to fit a seat in the back… how I would be a parent in less than a year and on and on. I had that warm and fuzzy feeling, but then things took a turn for the worse a week or so later.

The birth mom called me after she had (allgedly)left the doctor, and the call was a little strange to say the least. So I left a message for our lawyer Debbie. She called us back saying she had some suspicions as well – and it turns out she had caught the birth mom "D" in a bunch of lies, and even went as far as to say that "D" might not even be pregnant. WHAT!?? Debbie said she might have just been pursuing the adoption to get attention because she was sad and lonely. OK. Now, I felt like I was in the real-life version of that movie "Catfish" when that guys falls in love with the hot girl on Facebook only to find out she’s a middle-aged woman who was bored with her life. Not quite the same thing – but you get the picture.

I am not going to judge because I don’t know what kind of challenges "D" is facing in her life, but I hope, really hope, this doesn’t happen to us again. I told our lawyer that I DO NOT want to talk to another birth mom until she has deemed her what she calls "safe." I guess its better that this happened now and not 6 months down the road. But it still hurts. It still sucks.

Oh, and to add little salt to our fresh wound, our agency wants another $2,500 to update our homestudy. Total BS since we’ve already paid them almost $2,000 bucks for our initial one. And even worse, they charge you a $1,000 for what they call a "required" charitable gift. REALLY! And adoption isn’t about the money right?

So now – it’s back to square one. Who knows, if this doesn’t work out, maybe we’ll just travel around the world and buy an apartment in Paris. Honestly, right now, that sounds pretty good to me.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes

It's been over a month since I’ve updated my blog - such a slacker right?! Well, not exactly. 

I honestly haven't had time with all the changes (see David Bowie below for a little song action) that have taken place in the last 30 days. First off, I left my job at Fox. Yes, I did it. As bittersweet as it was, and as hard as it was leaving all the amazing people I work with (especially 5 ladies in particular - you know who you are) - it was time to leave and move onto new adventures. 


One - because I am starting my own little, one-man band media company that provides top-of-the-line (that's right... top-of-the line) freelance writing and producing. If you know anyone who needs those services - let me know! Two - because I want to establish myself and still thrive in my career despite the fact that I will be becoming a mom soon ... hopefully soon. And three - I COULD NOT and WILL NOT subject myself to one more second of that all out soul-sucking commute I had to do 5 days a week. So that's that. It's a new day and a new world for me. 

One last work note before I move onto other news. My last article and video I got to do at FOX was about a beautiful 4-year-old girl from Ethiopia who was found by a non-profit organization based in Seattle who specializes in helping ET kids with medical issues. Her name is Sami and she was suffering from a massive venous malformation on her face. Of course the growth was impossible not to notice, but after just a few seconds with her, all of that disappears and you just focus on her big brown eyes and the fact that she is so strong and so resilient. Check out the video. 


As all of you know by now, Ken and are adopting from Ethiopia and have officially been waiting for about nine months. At the same time, we also started to pursue domestic adoption. Remember that 22 page profile that took two days to put together? Well, it has paid off. Our lawyer called us the night before my last day at work (talk about timing - I think it's a sign) and said that she sent out our profile to a 19-year-old prospective birth mom in Texas. 

Well, apparently she liked our profile because she called our lawyer back right away to say that she wanted to call us. When I heard that, my stomach started to flip out a little bit. 

How surreal! What was I even going to say to this young woman? Was I going to babble on the phone? Was I going to say something wrong? Our lawyer told us to just be ourselves, but it wasn’t like I was having a conversation with just anyone. This could be and might be the person I am forever connected to, and incredibly grateful to, for being the birth mother of a child that may become my child one day soon – Our kid. I felt like I was going to throw up. But Ken snapped me out of it and I picked up the phone and dialed her number. 

At the other end was a sweet, southern-drawl voice. We talked for about 20 minutes about why she liked our profile, how old far along she is (she’s due in the spring– so it’s still early) and we just chit-chatted. It was surreal – but after I hung up I felt pretty good about it. Since then we have been texting and setting up a time for all three is us to talk.

And speaking of that call, just 30 minutes ago my lawyer called to say that D (the birth mom) wants to have a call with me and Ken tomorrow to tell us some “good news.” She said she knew what it was, but D had asked her not to say anything, so she wasn’t going to tell me unless I asked her to. As hard it was for me not to scream “TELL WHAT IT IS NOW PLEASE!” … I wanted to respect D’s wishes. So, now we will have to wait until tomorrow to find out what it is.

I guess I will just spend the next 24 hours obsessing. She already told me that twins run in her family -- all three of her sisters have twins. So who knows! 

But of course she would have to pick us first. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Profile...

I have been completely delinquent with my blog these past few weeks - but I must say it has been for good reason. 

1. I've been distracted by the summer weather (who hasn't) 
2. Ken and I have been entrenched in hiring a lawyer for domestic adoption (we are keeping our options open) 
3. I've obsessed, re-written, re-formatted and spent hours upon hours putting together what we like to call the "book of our lives," which translates to a profile that is shown to prospective birth mothers.
4. And of course... there's work too.

Now, let's talk about this "profile" for a moment shall we. Our lawyer told us to spend an hour (yes, just 1 hour) writing up an outline of how we met, our relationship, how long we've been married, our childhood, our family, our friends, our house, how we see ourselves as parents etc etc.

Really, an hour.... Please people! In reality it turned out to be like 20 hours and 22 pages long (including pictures). Thank god I had my friend Linda (along with some vino) to help me through it. I was so exhausted at the end of the process that I looked it over and I thought "Would I like these people? Would I want them to be the parents of my unborn child."


With that said, I still stuck that document in a FedEx envelope and overnighted it to a lawyer in Tennessee who was meeting with a prospective birth mother the next day. (By the way $90 bucks to overnight that thing! As my friend at work said - I could have filled up my Mini twice and gotten that document there in the same amount of time.)

A few hours after the meeting took place, our lawyer called and said it had gone well, that the women had pure intentions and was serious about placing her child for adoption. 

That was 7 days ago and we still haven't heard anything - but that's OK with me - because in the beginning I told myself that I wasn't going to invest a lot in this meeting. I was just going to look at it as an opportunity that could possibly turn into something else. So that's where we are. 

Still on the waiting list for Ethiopia and at the same time pursuing domestic. Who knows where this road will end up taking us...

Monday, July 25, 2011

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

We'll Always Have Spain...

This has been a pretty crazy week – and the thing is – it’s only Wednesday. So I will start from the beginning.
Ken and I flew back from an amazing trip to the Basque region of Spain on Sunday night.  We spent 10 days roaming around  the shores of San Sebastian, to the Rioja wine region…  we made a quick stop in Pamplona to run with the bulls (yes, you read that right. My husband can finally cross it off his bucket list) … and then we were off to Barcelona.
Needless to say it was a once-in-a-lifetime trip – truly great.  Lots of delicious food, wine, cocktails (they make a mean tableside gin and tonic) and of course lots of time not thinking about work and definitely no Blackberry’s (which is huge for my husband).
Of course no Blackberry means no access to email, which brings me to the rollercoaster of a week we’ve already had. On Monday, after cleaning out the 900-plus emails out of my work inbox, I checked my yahoo and came across an email from our agency featuring several new “waiting” children. These are kids who are waiting either due to their age of a medical condition.
And here’s where the trouble started. As soon as I opened it up…I gazed upon the most precious little face.  Ken and I had never even thought about adopting a waiting child, but this little peanut changed our mind instantly. I immediately emailed our case worker for additional information… and the race was on. I had 24 hours to contact an international adoption physician to review his medical records because another family had requested to be matched with him… and that matching meeting was scheduled to take place on Wednesday at noon.
The pressure was on, but I’m in news – and deadlines are my thing – so I wasn’t worried. On top of tracking down an adoption specialist, I connected with two other doctors who dropped everything to look through the paperwork. All of them gave us the thumbs up.
A few hours later – we threw our hat into the ring. Although both Ken and I were cautiously optimistic, it was nearly impossible to contain our excitement. It was coming out of my pores.  After all that we’ve been through – it could finally be time for us to be parents. Finally.
Today at work was excruciating. I spent it staring at the clock on the bottom right of my computer screen, waiting for the noon hour to pass, and then finally waiting for my phone to ring.
And finally… it did.
It was our case worker, who has a voice that I can’t tell either way if she’s delivering good news or bad, but a few words into our conversation… she said “I have some disappointing news.”
In the end, they chose the other family mainly based on the fact that they’ve been waiting longer. Mother F*****, I feel like we’ve been waiting a lifetime. But at the end of the day (as my husband loves to say) … at least this little one is getting a loving home. 

All good news.  I just wish it was our home.


But then again, we’ll always have Spain…….

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Keep On Keeping On...

I have one word to describe how I've been feeling lately – antsy. You know that restless, impatient and fidgety feeling.

I want to scream at the top of my lungs – WHY DOES THIS WAIT HAVE TO BE SO F****** TORTUOUS!

(I have a few other choice words I could throw out there as well)

And the worst part about it – is that we are only into our sixth month of waiting. How the H-E-double-hockey-stick am I going to hold out for the next 20 or so months? Really, how are other prospective adoptive parents doing it? I would love to know.

I mean, there are certainly things to distract me from constantly thinking about when, and if I will ever become a mom, like work, dinners out in the city, cooking tapas for 3 hours on a Sunday afternoon with my husband, rowing at 6:00 in the morning when the steam is coming off the lake, my family and of course my very supportive friends.

But honestly, is that enough to hold me over – to keep me sane?

I know people have all kinds of advice about how you can make the time go by faster, like training for a marathon or learning a new language. Those sound great. They really do. But at this point, I don't think I am  feeling "Zen" enough to engage in those very productive activities. I guess I am feeling a little sorry for myself. Maybe because it's been raining like mad for the past 12 hours and I am really overtired lately… and cranky.

We actually have a scheduled call with one of the managers who runs the domestic program at our agency tomorrow morning – and while it sounds so appealing to spend a minimum of $30,000 (plus all the other potential expenses) and have a baby come into our home many, many months sooner than sticking it out in the Ethiopia program – I just can't seem to wrap my head or my heart around that.

It makes my stomach hurt. Not adopting domestically. I think that's an absolutely wonderful thing. I just mean choosing one or the other.

So what to do?????


Maybe I'll take some advice from one of my favorite Bob Dylan songs...

"The only thing I knew how to do
Was to keep on keeping on like a bird that flew
Tangled up in blue."





Wednesday, June 15, 2011

A Glimmer of Hope...

Interesting news from our agency this week. It seems staff members in Ethiopia have expanded their horizons and are now researching the needs of children in the Afar region, which is in the northeastern part of the country.
The Afar region of Ethiopia
Of course I immediately emailed our case worker and asked her about this new development and she said “we are hopeful that it will mean more referrals coming soon. And we haven’t seen any major issues with MOWA (Ministry Office of Women’s Affairs) at this point, despite all the rumors of doom and gloom.”

Finally… a little bit of good news.

I did a little digging around about this region – and it seems like an absolutely fascinating place.


One British tourist, who spent his vacation checking out the one-of-a-kind landscape dotted with surreal salt plains and volcanoes, described it like this:

“It's a harsh environment full of strange smells and sights. But it's like nowhere else and an amazing and different thing to see. The whole place is made up of colors and views you get to see on a scale like nowhere else. The heat can be almost unbearable. But it was all worth it.”

You never know… maybe Ken and I will be making a trek there someday in the near future.

Dallol Volcano
Photograph by Carsten Peter
Sulfur, salt, and other minerals color the crater of Dallol, a volcano in the hottest place on Earth, Ethiopia's Danakil Depression. At 157 feet below sea level, Dallol is also the world's lowest land volcano.








Wednesday, June 8, 2011

'Persevere and Never Give Up'

Once a week I get a Google alert about ‘Ethiopia’ and ‘Ethiopia adoption’. This week, it popped up on the blackberry as I was walking into work, and the first article that I saw was from the Huffington Post called “Accelerating Progress to Help the World’s Orphans.” I clicked on the link and was pleasantly surprised to see that it was a blog entry written by Dr. Jane Aronson, who ‘s the founder of Worldwide Orphans Foundation. She’s also been a practicing adoption medicine specialist for nearly 20 years (but I believe she just left her pediatric practice in NYC to concentrate more on the foundation).

Ken and I actually met with her at the beginning of our adoption process to talk about different options and what types of challenges we’d face going the international route. She’s a smart, no nonsense kind of woman that you immediately trust. It’s the same feeling I used to get when I watched Peter Jennings on ABC World News Tonight. You just trusted every word that came out of his mouth. I had also previously interviewed her for an article for FoxNews.com shortly after the Haiti earthquake hit to talk about all the uphill battles the Haitian orphans were going to face moving forward in the wake of that devastating disaster. So we were peeps (not really, but at least in my mind we were… a little bit)

So – I just wanted to share her blog with all of you. She gets right to the heart of what’s happening in the world of international adoption, and as my husband put it:

“You can hear the sadness from the lack of movement by the governments. It seems like no one really cares enough – at least on a government level –  about the children to take action. Humanity is spoken about more than performed.”


Journal from the field #4, June 2, 2011
Dr. Aronson in Bulgaria, May 28-June 2, 2011


After a week of meetings dedicated to interim care planning, foster care, group homes and domestic adoption in Ethiopia and Africa, followed by a week of meetings with government officials in charge of the future of orphans and vulnerable children in Bulgaria, I am reminded painfully of how children essentially can end up lost in rhetoric and good intentions. Agencies are well-meaning, but slow-moving and bureaucratic. Funding is scarce in impoverished countries where millions of orphans are stuck in limbo... down the cracks and lost and anonymous.


Three thousand children enter Bulgarian orphanages every year because there is no change in culture. Roma women have no education and access to family planning and gender issues for Roma women are paralyzing. Women who have five and six children may be left by their husband, and fathers and brothers may decide to place those children in orphanages so that the mother/wife can remarry. There is no prenatal care for poor women in Bulgaria. 


There is no support of breastfeeding. The stigma attached to being Roma looms large in Bulgaria and many Eastern European countries with large numbers of gypsies. Everyone knows why there is abandonment, and now is the time to try and prevent it and provide social services and education to impoverished women around the world. Then and only then will children be helped.


I am proud of the work of WWO, but am troubled by slow progress and increasing numbers of orphanages and orphans, as we crawl to solve the problems of millions of children living without families all over the world. The U.S., world governments, aid organizations and NGOs are all poised to make a difference, but there is confusion and a lack of strategy. There is often competition when there should be none. We can all have a role and we all bring different solutions and skills to the table.


My role and the role of WWO in the politics of orphans and vulnerable children (OVC) are clear. I am fortunate to be a pediatrician and a former teacher of young children. I know the science of early childhood development and have experienced over two decades of observation and medical care of orphans who have been lucky enough to become part of a permanent family through international and domestic adoption. There are no more lessons to be learned. The work is clear. It is time to move faster and smarter and money will finally be the important part of the equation. I told many people this week that WWO is not asking for money when we meet with governments and other organizations. We bring creative ideas and money to the discussion and we are eager to make things happen.


We are able to raise awareness and WWO is designed to move the agenda forward. That is our niche. We must stand for action now. It is a lonely fight sometimes, but the cost to children is too high to back off and take easy ways out.


I am reminded of the delicate and simple truth about orphans when I meet them face to face. Stanislav is a year of age and he is puny and frightened. He is a little creature not able to look at you for too long. He becomes uncomfortable and skittish when I gently touch him and sit by him quietly. He starts to rock rhythmically and as the rocking speeds up, he looks furtively for his Baba. She comes and picks him up and he nestles in her bosom and then in a moment smiles at her and feels safe. He is an unregulated animal with no inner soothing skills. He is in a "fight or flight" mode and his Baba


On my long trip home yesterday, I decided to watch a movie and found a wonderful film that made me cry and laugh, but more importantly it inspired me to keep working and advocating for children. The movie, which was recently nominated at Cannes, is called "Lessons of a Dream." This German film, directed by Sebastian Grobler, is a based on a true story about Konrad Koch, an Oxford-educated English teacher who was hired by a German secondary school to teach the German boys English in 1874, when Bismarck and Germany ruled the world. Konrad Koch, a visionary teacher, ends up using football (soccer), which was well-established in England, to teach the boys English and sportsmanship. He, of course, gets into a lot of trouble with parents, administrators and other teachers as he advances his progressive curriculum. The boys become egalitarian and learn the value of "fair play," which is Konrad's highest priority.


Konrad is eventually fired, but then through some miracle, a government delegation arrives to assess the value of football, and at the same time a friend of Konrad's from the UK brings a football team to play Konrad's boys. The village gathers and attends the game. The German team wins the match, and the German government delegation supports football at the school. 


Historically, it takes well into the 20th century, the late 1920s, for football to be universally accepted in Germany. The story is beautifully acted by the boys and I was inspired by Konrad Koch's fight for fair play, creative teaching and the use of sports as a dynamic way to build character, self-esteem and independence in youngsters. Indeed, this is the brand of WWO in its work with children without families or with fragmented families around the world. The courage of the boys and their teacher was remarkable and I was reminded, once again, how courageous our work is finally. We stand for principles and we persevere and never give up.


And even though thoughts of giving up on this adoption process creep into my mind on occasion – because maybe if we did give up –  all this pain, frustration and heartache would just go away – I am not going to do that. Instead I’m going to take Dr. Aronson’s advice… to persevere and never give up.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Sweet Little Things in Between



Little Logan


How nice was it to have an extra-long weekend. That buffer day was amazing. I wish three-day weekends were a regular occurrence. 


Ken and I spent ours driving up to Boston to see our new nephew, Logan Jacob Milton Kelepouris, who was born Friday May 27, 2011 at 10:25 PM. He’s an armful weighing almost 9 Pounds – and is incredibly cute.

He’s baby No. 3 for my sister-in-law and best friend since 7th grade – Katie.

Just thinking of having three little kiddos 5 and under makes my head hurt. Seriously, God bless her.

I think I could handle two – tops.


On the other hand, I am really looking forward to the chaos of having kids. Maybe not the temper tantrums at the grocery store (where everyone is staring at you to get your kid under control), or the never-ending ‘I don’t want to go to sleep’ – when all you want to do is take a hot bath, read a book and have a glass of wine... And all they want to do is watch Dora.


But all the sweet, little things in between (and I only know this from watching my two nieces Sammy and Lexi) like the pitter patter of little feet running around the house, the giggling, how they fall asleep to the rhythm of their mom or dad's heart, and their funny one-liners… especially when they repeat some swear word you said… that wasn’t meant for their ears.


I’m looking forward to it all – the good, the bad and the ugly. I just hope it happens sooner rather than later.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Let All the Bull**** Go!

Second day in a double!

I just got home after spending a weekend in northern Vermont – and I mean really northern – only 20 miles from the Canadian border. My friend Linda and I went up to a tiny town called Craftsbury to attend a three-day clinic at the Craftsbury Sculling Center.

And while it started off a little rocky with thunderstorms, lightning and torrential downpours (not to mention the less than friendly staff) we ended up meeting some great people – and one outstanding coach who let us in on this mantra: "Just let the minutia go, close your eyes, and just let it go..."

Of course he was referring to all the crazy, technical BS that goes along with sculling. It may look easy – but I am here to tell you that it's one of the hardest sports I have ever done.

Make sure your wrists are flat, lean back only this much, slow your slide down, open your chest, look up, and on and on and on...

If you start thinking about all these things at the same time – and try to correct these things – there is no way you can have a good row. In the end, you only feel frustration, which is how I often feel (as you all know by now) about this adoption process. I let all the minutia - all the BS details - bog me down.

I start obsessing about the wait times, if the Ethiopian program will ultimately shutdown, and where Ken and I will be left if that happens. But where does all this worrying really get me?

Right now, a nasty headache at best.

So I am going to take my coach's advice and apply it this crazy, emotional roller coaster ride otherwise known as adoption and just let it all go. 

I'm going to close my eyes... feel the water glide below the boat... and just breathe.

Maybe if I do that - the waiting won't seem so excruciating.
Our coach Ric Ricci with me and Linda


Friday, May 13, 2011

What gives meaning to your life?

I was listening to NPR the other day – which I usually do to try and distract me from my hellish commute to NYC every day – and they featured a segment called, “Making Parenthood A Reality Through IVF Grants.”
 
It was an interesting topic to me (since I had been through that god-awful process myself) so I kept it tuned to Morning Edition with Soterios Johnson (by the way – there’s one for the baby name list!)
 
To sum it up, the reality is that most insurance companies do NOT cover IVF, and as a result, many couples can’t afford the $15,000 or so that it takes to undergo the treatments.

Anyway, the story profiles a couple who couldn’t have kids on their own, and who also, didn’t have a lot of extra money to spend on these super expensive treatments. Fortunately for them – after a few failed IVF attempts and remortgaging their house –  they found an organization that offered a scholarship IVF program, and in the end, they end up having a baby boy.
 
And while this story is very positive, and it’s wonderful that this couple now has the baby they’ve always wanted, there was one quote from the woman that really struck me. She said:

 "What's the purpose of any of this… if you're not going to have your own children to try to help make the world a better place? I didn't think my life would have any real meaning."

 OK. I guess that’s one reason to have kids.

 But my thought after hearing that was… if you really want to make the world a better place… think about the millions and millions of kids out there who have no parents at all. Kids who would give anything to have a family. Kids that you could give a home to. Kids who you could love and nurture. Kids who you could help become the best people they could possibly be… and kids who you could raise to make the world a better place. What about that? Do you think that would give meaning to your life?

(getting off my soapbox now...)

I just think there comes a time, at least it did for Ken and I, when you put all that “we need to have a baby that comes from us, that looks like us, that has Ken’s nose, and my lips (because Ken doesn’t really have any) – and you move forward and say you just want to be parents and love another little human being.
 
Think about this: UNICEF, which defines an orphan as a child that has lost one or both parents, estimates that there were over 145 million orphans worldwide as of 2007.

 Now... that’s a whole bunch of kids who could give anyone’s life “real meaning.”

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Some positive news...

After bitching and moaning in my last post – and believe me I could’ve bitched more – I am turning over a new leaf (at least for this week) to report on some positive news.

I just found out today that a fellow blogger and Granite Stater has just received her court date for her 19-month old daughter in Ethiopia! Amazing News. Others have also received court dates, so this definitely gives me hope that things are still moving forward… fingers crossed.

Also today, a friend of mine at work instant messaged me this morning saying this “this is kind of incredible”… which I then replied… “What is incredible!!??”

It turns out this very kind and generous man, who donates his time and energy to raise money through the AIDS Walk in NYC for medical facilities in Africa run by the organization 'Keep a Child Alive'(over $22,000 so far) just received a video message from a woman at Alive Medical Services in Uganda – thanking him for helping her and so many others.  She lost her husband to AIDS and she recently found out she was HIV positive as well.


As he said, he was speechless after watching out. It just goes to show, one person can really make a difference.

In other news this week, Ken and I are still hashing out this dual application issue. Seriously, this has been a thorn in my ass (and Ken’s) for the past few weeks. Well, here’s the update. We are now looking into domestic adoption as well. But, here’s the catch --- how open are we when it comes to open adoption?

How open would you be?

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

It's my blog and I'll bitch if I want to....

This past week has been a bit of an emotional rollercoaster. We had a conference call with the director of the African program at our agency about the Burundi pilot program. I thought it was going to be pretty straightforward, with her telling us about what a pilot program involves, the risks, the potential health issues etc. Well... that's not really how it went down at all.

First she asked us why we wanted to adopt from Africa. Now, we have already gone through all of this on NUMEROUS occasions with our caseworker, during the home study etc. etc. etc. Honestly, why would someone want to go through this process if they weren't passionate about adopting from Africa? But of course both Ken and I explained why we chose this route - and then it was on to the next questions. Do you think you can be a "Pioneer" for us in this pilot program? Are you capable of handling the ups and downs?  Yes and yes we told her. And then she asked us if we had traveled, specifically to a third world country. We said yes. She then asked if we'd be OK spending time alone in Burundi and if we were prepared to stay in minimal accommodations. I told her "yes, we are pretty adventurous people, we've have done a lot of traveling, and we don't expect to be staying at the Four Seasons!"

And then she proceeded to continuously push us towards the Korea program, which has reopened for a window of time. (The government is supposed to close the program down in 2012). She even said at one point, "It may feel like I am pushing you towards Korea, but I'm not." Well she definitely was. I'm not sure if it's because Ken and I qualify for the Korea program due to of how long we've been married, our ages (you can't be over 43) and that fact that we don't have any mental issues (at least not right now)... but she was like a Rottweiler. And this was a great one too. She informed us that she is the "gatekeeper" of the Burundi program, so basically we have to go through her if we expect to move forward with this dual application. LOVELY! GREAT!

I guess I feel discouraged because this woman has no idea who we are, what kind of people we are, what we are capable of handling - and it felt like during the entire call - that she was judging us and basically made us feel like we weren't worthy of being "Pioneers." Bull S*** I say to that.

In the end she instructed us to watch the pilot program webinar on the website and schedule a call with the Korea program peeps, which we did. And I must say, the paperwork is super minimal and the wait time was pretty manageable (and the woman on that call was super nice and NOT condescending). But still, I know where my heart is. By the way - during the webinar - they ask you 10 questions to see if you fall into the category of being able to handle a pilot program. Here are a few of them... (brace yourselves!)


1. Do you drive the back roads without a map when the scenery is beautiful?
2. Have you ever traveled to a place where you didn't speak the language?
3. If friends call at the last minute needing a place to stay, do you say yes?
4. Do you jump right into the pool without checking the temperature first?

.... ALL very serious questions - don't you think?

So.... that's what's going on in our adoption world right now. We're still trying to figure out if we want to submit a dual application at all. Maybe we'll just stick to our initial plan and let things ride. As they say, time flies when you're having fun, and we're planning a trip to Spain in July to Run With the BULLS... so that should take our mind off things for a while. Hopefully no one gets gored!

Monday, April 18, 2011

My Aching Neck...

I must say - I beat myself up pretty good this week. I started off with a 3 mile run on Monday in the "blistering" 79 degree weather, which as you know is pretty warm for this time of year, especially for the East Coast. That was followed by some good ol' P90 X on Wednesday (I could barely walk after) – and then I rowed at 7AM on Saturday followed by an intense hour-and-a-half row on Sunday morning.

And while all of these workouts felt great and serve as a way for me to let out all of my frustrations – I overdid it just a little bit on Sunday. A woman I row with challenged us to a push-up/ab session on the dock. First problem right there... doing sit-ups on a wooden dock – definitely not the best idea. Needless to say,  after it was all done, I started to feel a slight twinge in the back of my neck, which soon turned into a full-blown "I can't turn my head to either side and where the HELL are the muscle relaxers!!!"

My aching neck is very similar to how I feel about our little adoption journey.

In the beginning, everything (just like working out) is exhilarating and feels good, and then a few months down the road, that little ache starts to set in. First with the paperwork… running around getting everything notarized, getting fingerprinted, the faxes, the letter writing, the photo copies…  the endless FED Ex envelopes. And although you find a little reprieve in between – when your dossier is sent in and USCIS finally approves your application – that ache soon returns and starts to move down your shoulder and into your back, until you can barely move your head.

That's how I feel right now, like we're stuck in a rut, and I can't turn my head in either direction because it's too painful.

Do we submit a dual application to Burundi, which like I said is pilot program, and while promising, has many unknowns. And if we do go down that road, it could mean the end of our dreams of adopting from Ethiopia, at least for now – because once a referral comes in from one country, you are immediately taken off the list for the other country.

Or, do we just sit still and wait to see what happens with the Ethiopia program? As our agency said on a recent conference call, "The good news is that overall the feeling is there is still a great need for adoptions in Ethiopia, and this is a necessary and viable program. It could take longer to bring your child home after a referral (18-24 months), which likely means kids will spend more time in orphanage care and will be older when they do finally come home, but it is still a viable program."

Well, with that said, and my neck still aching, Ken and I started to sort through the paperwork over the weekend for Burundi. So I guess this means, the aching is going to stick around for a bit longer in my neck... and as cheesy at it sounds, in my heart as well.

I will update you on the so-called "paper chase" in my next entry. Until then, let's hope those muscle relaxers kick-in!

p.s.
I can't get enough of this song... Even if you're not a Sex and the City Fan (it's the last song that plays in the series finale) - it just makes you want to turn the volume up!


Thursday, April 7, 2011

Dear Phyllis



A little over a year ago, a very dear friend of mine passed away just months after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. This woman was a rock for me – someone I could call no matter what it was about or what time it was. She was my sounding board and I miss her dearly. After she passed away, Ken suggested that I start writing her letters as a way to help me deal with the loss --- not only losing her physically, and what I mean by that is being able to talk to her face to face, but also dealing with the loss of that spiritual connection I had with her. Not in a religious sense at all…  I mean in the sense of “hey, this person really gets me.”

And so I did start to write her letters – and this is the first one I wrote her. It’s insanely private, but now that more than a year has passed, and with so much that has changed in that year -- I thought I’d share it.


Dear Phyllis-
It's day 5 of my second round of IVF – and I must say this time around they (the drugs) have been hitting me more than before – I am incredibly irritable... I mean BEYOND!! It wasn't this bad the first time, but I'm just trying to take it in stride. As usual - Ken is a saint. Even though I want to explode at times… he is the voice of reason. I've been thinking.... I was so devastated the first time... that I've come to the conclusion that I'm not going to have any expectations.  And I mean that from a perspective of someone who has already gone through this process and from a perspective of someone who doesn't want to feel that pain of disappointment and loss again -- even though I'm strong enough to take it again. I know Ken is a little weary of this process and even talks about not opting for a 3rd try, but I have my heart set on doing everything we can before we give up. If we didn't - I wouldn't be able to live with myself. At the end of the day, as Ken loves to say, if it doesn't work out – we can always try again – and if it doesn't work out ---- it wasn't meant to be. The scary thing is - sometimes I think God is trying to tell me something… maybe I'm not supposed to have kids. I don't know. I always thought I would be great at it…  I mean being a great mom. Only time will tell. I miss you Phyllis.  I still can't believe you are gone. Talk to you soon- a BIG hug, Karlie

It’s funny, after reading this letter over again, it’s somehow so appropriate for what Ken and I are going through right now with this adoption journey. Feelings of uncertainty... doubts if it will ever happen... and the fact that this process (just like IVF) emotionally terrorizes you. That made sound harsh, but it's true.

But as a wrote in the letter to Phyllis more than 12 months ago... “I am strong enough to take it.” And with everything currently going on in Ethiopia and deciding if we want to apply to another country… I really have to believe that I am.

Again, thank you to my friends and family for all the support. It means the world to me.