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Archive for July, 2010

A lament

For some reason I was feeling a little sad this week about being in my fourth decade. It’s not like I just turned 40 or anything, but I was fretting about how fast my 30s went. Like the blink of eye. My 20s felt like they lasted for 30 years and my 30s felt like about two. Now my 40s are starting to zip along too quickly as well.

I made a very conscious decision somewhere in my 30s that one of my goals in life was to age with grace, positivity, and gratitude. I didn’t want to be the kind of woman constantly mourning her youth, trying to hold on to it using every trick she can afford. I didn’t want to be someone who ignores her birthday or complains constantly about her wrinkles or her body.

And so I’m not that kind of woman. But there are moments… like when I see pictures of myself and there are shadows and lines that were never there before. And when I notice that my muscle tone just doesn’t stay strong the way it used to. And when I have to admit that I just don’t have the same stamina or energy for long days and late nights. The thought that I could easily have a child in college — which I really could — is bizarre to me.

In a world that worships youth and values rigid ideas of beauty and sexiness, I’d like to be part of a more natural, hope-filled, God-focused way of getting older. But if an angel appeared tonight and gave me a choice of a million dollars or 10 years, I’d take the years. In a heartbeat. I’d take them if I could go back just the way things are today, but be 10 years younger doing everything I’m doing now, being who I am now.

Maybe some of this wistfulness comes from being such a later bloomer. Everything took so long to happen. I thought I’d marry at 23 and have children a couple years later. Instead, I married at 34 and am just now starting a family. I spent my 20s getting two undergraduate degrees, a masters degree, holding many jobs and having various adventures. I still don’t know what I want to do with my life. But here I am, wondering how I got to be 40-something with not as much as I’d hoped to show for it.

It’s normal to mourn the passage of time. There’s a sadness to not be able to hold onto it. For me, it’s a reminder to live more fully in the moment because it is these moments that make up the days and weeks I will soon look back on and miss.

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Mug shots

I had to get some quick head shots done this weekend, and I mean quick. So quick I had no time to prepare, but I did wash my hair to make up for the fact that my highlights are in bad shape.

I asked Hal (aka boyfriend of Mags) to take some shots with his snazzy camera. Poor Hal. Let’s just say I am not a particularly easy subject. I may have been on stage and done a little ramp modeling eons ago, but put a camera in front of me and I turn into a complete dork. I either have a ridiculous expression on my face, a crooked smile, or something is wrong somewhere. I probably shouldn’t be so confused as to why this happens every time.

Mags was there to help. She suggested angles, backdrops in the park, lent me something to throw over my t-shirt, brought a hair brush along, and otherwise saw to the hair blowing in my face and other problems. So here’s a little series I call “Working With My Stylist, Mags:”

Although it may be hard to believe looking at these, I did get some usable shots. But the one Hal likes the best is this one:

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Busy days

It’s crazy here right now. My husband has a huge work deadline on Monday– something he’s been working on for months, and I’m pitching in. On top of that, I’ve been scrambling to secure a venue for a large event I organize in September in Washington, DC. Over the past five days, I’ve talked to about 30 hotels. And you can’t just ask about whether they have this or that date available, you have to go through their maze of questions before they transfer you to someone else who asks you a bunch more questions and promises to send you a proposal in two days. Then you might get lucky and find out they’re not available on the date you need — and you start all over again. Fun!

Irene arrives tomorrow and I forgot this was going to be one insane weekend and the house still looks like a warehouse because very little has been done since we got back from Nova Scotia. Mostly because I can’t do the bigger projects alone and Brian’s been up to his eyeballs in work… because of this deadline. Luckily, Irene is like family and grew up in a big clan and can handle sitting on the floor on cushions if need be.

In spite of the fact that this day was non-stop, I ran out to my new gym to a class called “Flow.” It felt like what I needed. Basically it’s a Pilates class with some weights and a few yoga poses and I’m always amazed that I can break a sweat in there. Even with two pound weights, I end up with sore muscles. It’s all in the way you do the exercise, the proper form. The smallest movements are the toughest.

Then I ran to get a pizza from a place we like for hubby and I to eat with some steamed broccoli for a late dinner. Pilates and pizza… that’s how I roll on busy days.

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A grey cloud

If there was a grey cloud on our trip to Nova Scotia, it was a brief visit we had with an old family friend. This gentleman is someone I’ve known for many years. He’s a lot like a character in a novel. Now an old man in a nursing home, his mind is as keen as ever, but the decorum and manners that used to be such a notable part of his behavior have waned. To be expected at his age, perhaps, but it didn’t make the experience any easier…

It began with him telling us we were “mad” to adopt from Ethiopia and went downhill from there… like straight past hell, do not pass go, do not collect 200 dollars kind of downhill. It was probably the worst verbal barrage of racism that Brian and I have heard outside of a book or movie.

My brother, John, and his girlfriend, Noemi, were also there. It took us all by surprise. I didn’t know what to do… Walk out?  Say something harsh? Be polite and switch the topic? Say nothing? I had many conflicting thoughts and emotions… offended, hurt, angry, and shocked all at the same time. I tried to remind myself that he was an old man whose childhood and life experiences had left him with many good things, but also with elitist, racist views — ones I’ve never heard from him, but shouldn’t have been completely surprising.

At some point he became aware that he was offending us. The awkwardness was, frankly, palpable. When he asked whether he was saying things he shouldn’t be saying, I said, “Yes. Yes, you are.”

The best part of it all was that at some point he said, “…but I’m not a racist.”

The encounter was upsetting. It triggered in me a protectiveness towards our children who for no other reason other than their birthplace and the shade of their skin are already considered “less than” by some. I also felt sad that it made me think of this man I’ve known for so long as “less than” in a whole other way. It upset me that Brian and Noemi had to be there.

I felt a little like crying afterwards, but I really didn’t want to cry, so I just moved on. (I’m good at the stoic thing when I want to be, though I don’t consider that quality to usually be very healthy.)

It was our first encounter like this, and I guess it was bound to happen sometime. A voice inside me said, “Better get used to it as it won’t be the last.”

But I see silver linings…

It has helped prepare me, just a little bit, for next time. It made my brother more aware of the challenges we’ll face, and put a personal spin on a problem that until now only “other people” encounter.

It also put me in touch with how hard Christian forgiveness is — one that asks me to forgive my enemies, whatever form they take. Easy to talk about; not very easy to do. Forgiveness is not forgetfulness, nor does it ignore justice or lay you down like a doormat. It’s a disposition of the heart and without it, we stay poisoned. (My sister Sarah remind me of this… thanks, Sar-bear.)

It’s easy to forgive a man I know who is old and infirm, complicated, and kind in other ways. But what about when it’s a stranger, someone I have no affection for whatsoever? That’s going to be very hard.

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Dinner club

Padre Zach in his new kitchen cooking up a storm

My siblings in Halifax have a little dinner club. (Loving food seems to run in the family.) Above is my brother, Zachary (aka Padre Zach), in his new kitchen cooking up a meal for one of their recent dinner club meet-ups. Appropriately, he cooked fish, which I think he caught himself. He does live in a place called Herring Cove, but he didn’t serve herring.

Sniff. It’s gatherings like these that make me miss living closer…

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I may have mentioned before that I’m in the market for a new camera.

My old camera is useless… we bought it about seven years ago, and it wasn’t expensive. It did the job, but just barely. Brian thinks I have a good eye for images and has encouraged me to get a decent camera and learn photography. I have no desire to be a professional, but I’d love to do it as a hobby. Now that we’re starting a family, I’d like to be able to take great shots of the kids. I also intend to launch a new work-related blog/web site later this year and I’ll need to have quality pictures to post.

The dilemma is, I don’t quite know what camera to buy. Our budget is not very high, so any super-duper quality SLR is out of the question at the moment. I either need something in the starter SLR range, or I need a high quality point and shoot with options.

My professional photographer friend, Renata, says there are always trade offs and you need to choose based on what’s most important to you because you can get good pictures with many different cameras.

The problem is, I don’t really know what I want…  something with changeable lenses? Something more portable? Will I feel more excited and challenged by an SLR, or will having new kids and being crazy busy make me want a point and shoot?

I will probably get a Canon since it’s all the same to me and the people I know who can teach me a thing or two have Canons. I had all but decided on one of the Rebels because a friend has one and gets fantastic photos with it. But then Renata told me to consider something like the new Canon G11 — a point and shoot with similar photo quality to a starter SLR.

Sigh. I just don’t know.

Everybody seems to have a favorite. I’d love to hear yours — and to get your advice on how I should make this decision. It’s a big enough purchase that I want to make the right one.

Adoption update: We have official word now that there is no way we will have a referral in time to get through Ethiopian courts before they close. We’ve known for some time this would be virtually impossible. Still, this process can be full of such strange twists and turns, we wanted to hear it from the horse’s mouth — and we did. Our case manager finally confirmed it on Friday.

She also said referrals will be slower over the rest of the summer while the courts are closed, but that she does expect a few to trickle in here and there, so who knows…At this point ours could come at any time. It’s in the back of our minds, but there’s so much going on here over the next few months, we have plenty of distractions.

I continue to be amazed at how quickly our wait time is going. The paper work process seemed to take forever… that felt so much harder. This part has just flown. Since we are getting so much closer I do think about our children a lot… because I know that right now, or very soon, they will experience pain and hardship… and it is difficult to know that. I’m trying to be in solidarity with them, through prayer and awareness, even though I do not yet know who they are.

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Earthquake!

At 5:00AM this morning, I woke for no apparent reason. Four seconds later, the house began to rattle. It was like a huge truck had driven by, shaking our home… except there was no truck, or anything like it.

Earthquake, I thought. That was an earthquake. It was brief and didn’t continue so I promptly fell asleep again, determined to check later to see if there had been an earthquake here in Baltimore.

I think I have a dog-sense when it comes to earthquakes. What’s with the waking up before it hit?
Brian was almost disappointed that he couldn’t surprise me with the news this morning when I got up:
Him: You’ll never guess what happened near DC early this morning?
Me: An earthquake?
Him: How did you know??
I know all you Californians are chuckling at our lowly 3.4. But my first one was in your home state, people. And it was big: I was in Palm Springs for a weekend business meeting years ago, staying in a posh vacation home where I had my own little suite. After being wined and dined by our host, the four of us turned in for the night. About 3:00AM, I woke up in pitch black… and then, moments later, some giant force grabbed my bed and began shaking it, then slid it across the floor. I heard crashing and glass breaking.

Earthquake! I screamed in my mind, remembering why I didn’t want to hang out in southern California. Then I tried to remember all that stuff they tell you to do… Go stand in a door way… No, don’t do that, get under something heavy… No, don’t do that either…

In the midst of wondering whether the entire million dollar roof was going to come down on me, I did get myself into the door frame and braced myself. When my host came running out of his room, he found me wearing a see-through nightie, glued to the door frame, yelling in strange ways.

After the rattling subsided, three otherwise modest Christian men were standing around in their boxers dazed and confused, and one crazy young woman was still stuck to her doorframe. Eventually, they talked me out. The quake registered something like 8.6 on the richter scale and the center was in a remote part of the desert, not far from us.

One of my poor colleagues had flown there from Europe. During his first trip to the Americas — to Mexico City — he experienced a huge earthquake. This trip to California was his second. I’m not sure he’s been across the Atlantic since.

Pretty strange to have an earthquake in Maryland… The epicenter was in Gaithersburg where Brian’s parents lived for many years. The people there must have felt it pretty strongly there if it rattled our little home in downtown Baltimore.

It’s a hot, humid Friday here (what else is new?) and it’s time to put some effort into my book so I must force myself to go. Talk soon…

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