Sunday, December 27, 2009

Butts Down

I haven't smoked a cigarette in 365 days. In said time I have completed a book, arced my way through the adoption process, traveled to Ethiopia, and become a mother.

I rule!

Also, lest I sound righteous, I admit to eating a rogue pot brownie (my first!) in 2009 and going on a wild space odyssey in a very queer West Hollywood hotel room with my best friend. (Rest assured judgers, skinny went down before Ava came home to our nest.) We tried to watch the wretchedly awful movie Bride Wars on pay-per-view but I had to keep pausing it and asking my friend to explain the story to me. ie., "hold up, hold up, hold up, why does Kate Hudson have those strange bangs?" Halfway through the night my friend turned to me and wondered if we ought to go to the emergency room. Instead we adjourned to the mini-bar. We ate everything in there, with a couple wrappers to boot. It was a truly stupid, utterly ridiculous, hopelessly ill-advised evening. Ain't never laughed so hard in my life.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Stay Awake Baby Girl

“We’re almost home, Ava. Five more minutes.” A week before Thanksgiving the family was driving home from the airport. We had survived the plane ride back from Florida! We had a wonderful time at the beach! Ava met her other Grandpa and said meeting was a triumphant success! We were safely back on Austin soil and Tulip's butt was wagging in the back seat, happy to be scooped up from the kennel. Ava was half-asleep. We were stopped in the left-hand turn lane waiting for a break in the traffic. The old man let out a broken gasp and I looked up to see a car in the opposing lane careen the median.

The wallop of impact was breath-taking, like someone reached inside my teeth and took a quick saw at the roots. I sat there for a second dumbfounded, staring into what looked like an exploded box of Kleenex. The airbags had released a noxious smell into the air and dandelion puffs of dust danced around our heads. Everything was eerily quiet except for Tim moaning "Oh no, oh no, oh no." I told him I was alright several times, he told me he was alright. At the same time, we turned to Ava. She’d been shocked into muteness but when we smiled at her, our wobbly voices insisting that she was okay and everything was alright, she took a breath and started wailing.

Somehow that night, despite two totaled cars, we all made it home to our own beds. Ava cried for a couple of hours, but she had finally fallen asleep and the next morning she danced and sang songs and the doctor assured us that she was fine. Her parents had a harder recovery ahead. At first we walked around in a daze, like we had just gotten off a roller coaster and were still a little foggy from the rush. Then, maybe as the pain kicked up a notch, and the shock started wearing off, I turned into a puddle. I cried one day from sunup to sundown, streaming tears while reading Go, Dog. Go! or pushing a giggly Ava in a swing, or rubbing her back to sleep.

Somehow I’d stumbled upon this sickening idea that I had in some way helped cause the accident. I do picture her first year of life spent in a routine state of transition and grief and occasional chaos. My girl is tough. (I mean it, stubborn as a mule and alarmingly self-possessed.) Since we met—oh glorious day!—there have been a few occasions when I've seen her look truly startled or scared. Her little face froze up in fear during her first big thunderstorm, or when a really loud motorcycle vroomed past our front yard. The sight of her so vulnerable about sucked the life out of me. I’m still astounded by the sharpness and rawness of parental love. And so I said over and over, to anyone who would listen, how I couldn't imagine anything worse than being in a car accident with her. The scene would horrify her and thus unhinge me.

And then, as if grasped from my panic-prone imagination, that car came straight at us like a magnet. In my wretched state, I started blaming myself for conjuring up the whole accident. I had voiced aloud my worst nightmare and somehow had brought it to life. Court doom long and hard enough, I cried to my husband, and it will come for you. This accident happened to her on our watch.

A few mornings after the accident Ava started whimpering to herself at an ungodly hour so we pulled her into bed with us. The dog stretched and made room for her and we all fell into a comfortable doze. When I opened my eyes I was struck that somehow we had all settled into the same configuration of the night of the accident. And yet there we were, breathing deeply on a queen-size life raft. I had gone to bed the night before in pain and grief and woke up to a soft sun and dew on the grass.

As the grief over the accident has worn off, so too has the guilt. I of course don’t think I have the power to will strange and random events that effect not just me but total strangers. And yet what I'm left with is this idea that I don't want to raise my child in an active state of almost masturbatory fear. Awful stuff happens all the time, over and over in a person's life. You’ll never see it coming. Sometimes you'll be really, really lucky and get to walk away with your entire family intact. What happened that terrible night in the car was really scary and really bad. But instead of cursing the randomness of it all, and wringing my hands over life’s fragility, I somehow find myself wanting to celebrate. Everyone that night told us it was a miracle that no one had been killed. I winced every time I heard this, because I didn't want my family involved in such a close call. But once I regained my equilibrium I managed to recast the night. It was a miracle of luck! My life is many miracles of luck! And how lucky if it helps me forever shift something so that I don't now start obsessing over the next awful thing that might happen or could happen or what if it happened and how would I survive if it happened. I don’t know what will happen tonight or tomorrow. But Ava sang in her car seat on our way to the grocery store this morning. I sang along with her!

Friday, November 6, 2009

This Blog Brought to You by Swiffer

You want to keep a busy baby entertained? Give 'em a mop.

*Tulip is all "Bish, please, it's 5:30am. Why are we awake?"

Sunday, November 1, 2009

My Experience

I'm knee deep in a training schedule for the Austin marathon. Running—always with the dog, often with the Pops next to me pushing our Cheerio-gobbler—has proven to be a terrific head-clearer. It's fall now in Texas, which means crisp perfection with just enough of a cozy early morning chill. It's so strange not being hot anymore. Stranger still seeing Ava in hoodies and little pairs of jeans with butterflies on the pockets. I counted up the days since we first met. Five months, six days. I realize that Ava has now been with us longer than she was with her family at home, and then with her patchwork family at the Gladney Care Center. I wonder if somewhere in her subconscious she is able to let out a soft exhale that perhap she will not go on and on and on finding herself in the care of new people.

When I run I listen to the same mix of songs. This is the first song.

Every time I hear it I'm brought to tears. For me it captures the build and urgency of our adoption process—from the mournful beginning to the steady summoning of breath and strength to the heart-pounding moment of referral to the cymbal crashing trip to Ethiopia. There's even a little lullaby whistle at the end, when we laid her down for her first sleep in her new home. Sometimes I imagine in hazy fashion what this same time period might have looked and felt like for my little girl and my heart feels clotheslined. There I am with my family, gasping to myself, and wondering how it is we all found ourselves running towards and then finally alongside each other.

Friday, August 14, 2009

The Kid Rules

We met 10 weeks ago this Monday. 

The first 8 weeks together were pretty hard. I was flabbergasted by her, and she by me. We had good times but no rhythm. She was off, I was off—though everyone kept saying we were doing great, which somehow made it a lonelier experience. Didn't feel great. Didn't feel bad or wrong. Just felt overwhelming and very, very new.

Time did its thing. My girl now sleeps from 7 to 6:40. She has started babbling little stories to her stuffed bunny and cat and bear and puppy and pig. She loves shoes—her sandals, Mama's sandals, Daddy's sneakers. She wants all of them on her feet. She loves blueberries! She loves a good pratfall! She loves jumping off the side of the pool into her Daddy's arms! My girl laughs like you wouldn't believe. I dare say she's funny too. She doesn't walk; she scampers. When we are at a friend's house she plays and plays but checks in every 10 minutes or so with me. She does this by scampering over and flouncing down on my legs with a giggle and then—my heart!— gives me a big baby bear hug. 

I like her, I love her.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

A Perfect Mess, A Glorious Hurt

What a melodramatic title for a blog post. Such are the peaks and valleys of my emotional life now.

Ava Bear. What do you need? Who will you be? Who are you now? 

Here are a few of the things I know about her. She loves her animals. She is breathtakingly sharp and alert, always absorbing and putting bits of information together and locking it all away. She gets easily bored. She's funny. She's fussy. She loves the water. She loves biscuits and peas and cheese and mangoes. She loves clapping and high-fiving and riding around in the grocery cart. She does not like baby gates or Mommy's laptop.

She eats.

She sleeps. (Putting her to sleep is hard though. Sometimes she wails and wails and what feel like essential pieces of me shrivel as tears shoot at the same time out of both of her big eyes. Papa Dog has taken to wearing his industrial-strength sound engineer headphones when he rocks and coos and eventually soothes her resistant little self to sleep.)

She poops (especially during family photos).

She splashes.

She walks. (Like a tiny drunken zombie at the end of a bender.)

She grows. On Monday she celebrated her first birthday with her first cupcake.

Ava's Mother. What do I need? Who will I be? Who am I now?

I am tired. I am suddenly aware of my limited reserves of patience and energy and imagination. I like to think of these as muscles that are being worked for the first time by a merciless trainer—who not only yells, but spits and vomits and craps on me. I'm working on my strength and endurance. I am sometimes struck with moments of great loneliness. I think I am lonely for the life I used to have that allowed for some alone time. I really miss Ethiopia, and the emotional intensity of that week. I am shaky from being hit again and again with overwhelming waves of tenderness and concern for the little person who now sleeps down the hall. I am still mystified by the realization that I have a daughter. I haven't seemed to regain my balance since we've met. 

It was two weeks and five days after we returned home when I was struck—again with the force of a rogue wave—with the sudden realization that I loved this little girl. 

I'm not yet the mother I'd like to be—but I have to think I'll get there one day.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009


The bunny rabbit is asleep. The Papa is off to the drug store to fetch her giardia prescription. The cats are sunning on the back stoop and Tulip is asleep at the foot of Ava's crib. Grandma Dog is making tortellini soup. (And the night before it was chicken cacciatore, and the night before tilapia, and the night before spaghetti and MEATBALLS. And every meal comes with chilled water and wine and a salad and folded napkins. I sit there and shove food in my mouth and drool and fall asleep in my plate and when I wake up the table is clear. I love this woman.)

Well, we're back but the world is different. That's all I have to say for now. We've seen so much. Meeting our daughter was one thing—overwhelming, happy, scary, heartbreaking, heartmaking, easy, hard. But that was all part of our lucky little life. The bigger part of the trip was meeting Ethiopia, and hearing and seeing and holding and saying goodbye to the children in the government orphanages. That was world-cracking. 

Meeting Ava's uncle Honshe. That was a real whammy of beauty and pain. As soon as we pulled up he ran out to her, murmuring her name. He was handsome and elegant and calm. We sat for an hour with the social worker and two translators (from Sidamo to Amharic to English). We found out how her parents met and that she is beautiful like her mother and funny like her Dad. Honshe is a farmer and he spoke a few words about that life. He and his wife have five children, plus Ava's four older siblings. His great wish, if God wills it, is for his niece to be well-educated, to grow up and be a famous doctor. His great wish, if God wills it, is that we will come back to Ethiopia so she can meet her siblings. 

Tim promised him that the next time we all meet he will be proud of the girl she has grown into. I promised him that we will love her always and infinitely, and that we will love and honor her Ethiopian family. I like to think he seemed relieved to have met us. By the end I dare say we were all relaxed a little and having a laugh here and there. Ava fell asleep in his arms and so we moved into the waiting room so she could finish her nap. Honse pulled a side of his blazer over her head so she would not be cold. My chair broke and I splatted to the floor and we all laughed some more, even the beautiful and sad young girl who was waiting to meet her son's new parents. Oh dammit, I'm always crying now.

Friday, June 5, 2009


Me feel goofy-brained.

We leave tomorrow. 

I just cleaned out the refrigerator. I went atomic on that fridge. Motherfuh sparkles. I should probably be doing actual things on my checklist instead. 

We took Tulip to Red Bud this morning and she swam farther than she's ever swum (swum? swammed? swimmied?). She's like a little dinghy in the water, with her slow motor hanging low. How I love this little animal. I told Papa Dog—let's stop with that charade already!—I told Tim that I didn't have it in me to ride with them to the dog camp in the morning. Don't worry Tulip! We'll come get you and there will be special fancy ridiculously expensive organic bacon chews for you to slobber over when we get home and we hereby promise that you will always get to go to Red Bud and take long walks at Turkey Creek and that it is as important to us that this baby be nice to you as it is for you to be nice to the baby. Tulip! You're my best friend!

I'll meet Ava Lende in about 65 hours, by my calculations. Not to sound like Keanu Reeves here, but all I gots to say about that is "Whoaaaa." Be patient with Mommy and Daddy. Forgive us when we end up covered in powdered rice cereal and poo and inside out onesies and you look over and see Mommy rocking in the corner nubbling a too-small diaper. We know not how it will feel to love so hard so fast so we may only speak in monosyllables the first couple days as we stare googly-eyed at you. Ava! You're my daughter! 

Filoli. Rooney. Julie. Mama Sweet Potato. Coffee Mom. Odom! Jaynes in the house. Little Ethiopians, pudgy Ethiopians, baby Ethiopians, adoptive Moms to Ethiopians and beyond. People! You're my community!


Monday, May 25, 2009

Viva Ava!

Oh me, oh my, we are the proud parents of this most glorious and resilient little girl.

Thursday, May 14, 2009


I'm off to pick up my best friend from the airport. She's swooping back into town to host, along with some other fine females, a baby shower. For me! I can't believe it.

Here is Kalimba loving on Tulip.

Holy smokes Ava! You are going to be eaten by your Godmother if you don't watch yourself.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Wrestling: Get in the Ring

We've spent the last 48 hours here at our house thinking and talking and reading and writing about the major flap online brought about by EJ Graff's article on

The topic of Graff's argument—the tentacles of corruption—is urgent and powerful and rightfully provocative. I also think it's undercut at every turn by bad reporting and a dangerous amount of rumor-mongering. She was granted a very public, powerful pulpit. I wish she'd treated the subject with greater professionalism. Here is her piece:
(*I also wish people would stop assuming that Graff is a man in their comments on message boards. Women exist in the world of journalism too. Just saying!)

Dr. Jane Aronson, Founder and CEO of Worldwide Orphans, who's been in the IA trenches for over 20 years, weighed in on Graff's now widely circulated crie de coeur. She's pissed, and worried that this will deter prospective adoptive parents who may have given safe and loving homes to orphaned children who need and deserve safe and loving homes.

The NY Times asked various experts to weigh in on Madonna's attempts to adopt a second chid from Malawi, and speak more broadly on the subject of IA. Very persuasive and varied voices coming at the topic from all angles. Blissfully they try not to linger too long on Madonna herself.

My most favorite blogger Julie—photographer extraordinaire, exceptional friend of dogs, deep and powerful thinker, reader, and writer—had some thoughts on Graff's piece that she posted on Her work there led one woman to question the credibility of her own adoption and led another to recount a troubling story that deserves investigation. Julie manages to hold a deep belief in the great possibility of an honorable international adoption in one hand while insisting on the need for transparency and accountability in the other. She's my hero.

After all this wrestling, a break was in order. So I sifted through the precious package of books a beloved friend sent me last week. And here is what the Pops read to me before I went to sleep last night:
Grace for President

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

My Boo

*And Tulip back when she was just a pup squeak!

Papa Dog Woofs

—I’m anxious about raising a black child. I’ve been trying to immerse myself in the canon of information pertaining to transracial adoption. Trying really hard to educate myself about what Ava's needs might be and how we can best prepare and be race-conscious without being overconscious, and not "colorblind" either. I’m struck by the notion that even with the best of intentions and resources and gobs of love there will always be something I can’t truly understand. What is it like to grow up black in America?

Let me start by saying I believe my wife and I will make great parents. We are both deeply sensitive and caring people. And while I have to leave the room when the ASPCA commercials with the Sarah Mclachlan song come on and I may have teared up (fine broke out in a full sob) during a viewing of My Dog Skip, I also like to think I have quiet reserves of strength. I think that same piece of me that can’t bear to watch defenseless animals suffer or be lonely is the one that bolsters me in a crisis. It will enable me to give everything I have to this little girl, whom I don’t yet know, but who is nevertheless a being in need of nurturing and love. And who is going to be my daughter.

That being said, I bristle already at the notion that she’ll face discrimination in her life. That she may not always be afforded the same assumptions I was in school. That she may face marginalization by her peers or teachers or potential employers. I have started questioning whether I live in the right community. Is it diverse enough? Will she feel comfortable here? Who will be her role models of color?

Her foundation of loving herself and being proud of who she is will start with us. It won’t end there, but we’re determined to make sure she’s strong and humble and kind and generous and that she always feels LOVED. Then it’s up to us to put ourselves out there for her sake. To expand our own community and face whatever possible discomfort as we walk through the world as a family of color. Her life is going to teach us as much about who we are as we can hope to teach her. I feel incredibly fortunate.

Recently I was discussing parenting with a friend. He shared with me the notion, purportedly from a Japanese monk he admired, that it’s important to move away from the idea of ownership when it comes to children. Every person is a unique soul. Our role as parents is to nurture that soul, that being, until they leave our charge and then continue to be a source of strength for them when needed. I think this sounds wise. And I think allowing the room to think this way will prevent my ego from taking any hardship our daughter endures too personally while also allowing her triumphs to shine in their own grandeur. Her life won't have to be a reflection of me being the #1 Dad (ah, the musings of the never-been-a-parent). Even now as she sits in her crib in Ethiopia she’s started her own journey. We’ll try and be the best guides we can be from here on out.

I now return you to Mama Dog.—

Monday, April 20, 2009

Taking Cues from Tulip

Today I woke up feeling squirrelly. I'm starting to miss Ava. I was happy to get an update that said she was a happy, cute baby, but that only tells me so much. I'm wondering if that was a bug bite on her chin or if she needs an antibiotic cream. I bought a rather ugly toy that crickles and cracks and has a mirror for her to start making googly faces at herself. Wise women told me babies like that kind of thing.

I do have complete faith in her caregivers, but I'm ready to be the caregiver. This is a new hard.

Tulip seems to be handling the wait well. I need to learn to sit with similar grace and alertness as we wait for our court date.

Sunday, April 19, 2009


I was invited out on a girls' night this weekend. My neighbor—who I adore, and who never gets impatient with me asking her questions like "You said that 1-year-olds did or didn't wear shoes?" or "Do 1-year-olds give you a hand signal when they're thirsty?" or, pointing at a rocking horse, "Is this what people mean when they talk about pack-n-plays?"—set the evening up. She promised tapas, stiff drinks, and then dancing at a club with pretty, shiny, exceedingly well-groomed young men. Sold! Anyways, my neighbor invited along a friend I had never met to join the group. And I think I'm okay with that being our one interaction in this lifetime. See, she said that dreaded thing that sets my spine on fire. She said that she rarely goes out with women because all her friends are guys. She just doesn't really get along with women. Never has. They bug her. Gah!

What does that even mean? Why do I feel like I've heard this from too many women, and that they almost always sound like they're bragging a little? I can hang with the dudes, man, but broads? They get to talking about their feelings and somebody gets hurt or gets bitchy or gets catty and inevitably somebody winds up with a Lee press-on nail stabbed in their back. I feel like I've heard other people say recently how difficult girls are to raise, and how manipulative they can be, and how they fight so dirty with their friends, and blah blah blah. Boys are simple! They just push their trucks around and scrape their knees! (Excuse me while I pause and go add a truck and a box of band-aids to my baby registry for the Magnificent Miss Ava.) One friend, who I might add is raising up a terrifically dear baby boy, told me that sometimes she's grateful to have had a son. The only real worry she has about him as a teenager is drunk driving. Girls can just get into so much more trouble.

Back to girls' night: The conversation at the table moved on, to how men are just naturally born with a wandering eye, and at this point I probably started hallucinating and imagining a conversation that really was meant to be light and benign and it's a shame I have to take everything so seriously. (I'm such a girl!) I just really can't stand it when people talk about girls as if they are dopes who need to knock their knees together and protect their chastity at all costs. I hate it when guys make those easy jokes about how they're never going to let their daughters date until they're 30 or they're going to meet their daughter's first boyfriend at the door with a rifle. Do we really not trust that the 17-year-old girls who we've raised maybe have enough self-respect to make choices that protect and honor their well-being? Do we not trust the girls who we've raised to invite boys into their lives who treat them with the dignity and grace they deserve? And, while understanding that teenagers go bonkers with hormones, and cannot and should not always be expected to make the wisest decisions, shouldn't we be as demanding with our sons as we are our daughters when it comes to matters of friendship and sex. Shouldn't we have the same conversations with each? It can't just be that our sons need to be careful on prom night but our daughters need to be good, right?

People, I'm getting ready to raise a little girl [edit, per the wise and supremely wonderful Filoli: I'm getting ready to parent a little girl but raise a woman]. I don't know a thing about what I'm in for. But here are some things I believe. Or, at least, here are some things I professed at great volume, with calamari batter shooting out of my mouth, or muttered to myself like a crazy woman in the ladies' room, at girls' night.

1) If you as a female don't like women as a gender, it might simply be that you fear it's you who are unlikable.

2) If we as mothers raise our little girls to be princesses, and teach them to crave compliments about their appearances above all else, it shouldn't come as a surprise when these little girls grow into women who are frustrated or unkind when there's another beautiful woman in the room.

3) If we raise our sons to love and respect women, maybe we could then worry less about our daughters.

4) My best friend, and Ava's godmother, once told me that the greatest compliment she ever got paid in her life was when someone called her sisterly. Now this girl is a stunner, an actress no less, but the praise that she holds closest to her breast is that she is good to her fellow women. Lucky Mama Dog. Lucky Pup.

5) I am a total buzzkill and so let's all go dancing and I will buy everyone a round of lemon drop shots.

And off we went to Oilcan Harry's where I danced awkwardly to a techno version of Britney Spears' Womanizer. Gah!

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Now That's Just Nutty

Just yesterday my darling dear Julia sent us a video of Miss Ava Lende staring mystified up into the camera from her crib in Addis Ababa. Ava gripped Julia's finger and at one point was so amused by her charming interviewer that she gave what appeared to be a half giggle and then attempted a half roll-over. I like to think she waved at me at one point. Also, she stuck her right foot in her mouth which both Papa and I attempted to do later. (Too hard!) Good stuff really. Of course then some serious pining kicked in. The crib was little, and she'd baby drooled on her shirt, and what if she's lonely? She rightly looked a little dumbstruck by the current circumstances of her constantly shifting life. Getting pictures is easier. They're static stills of a personality: Ooh, look at her smiling! Look at her sitting up, looking like she's about to topple over like an egg! Look at her eating! (Eat, eat, little child!) The video, while my greatest treasure (Julia, I believe I shall buy you a gelato factory as thanks), left us both feeling awful blue. This child was so far away.

Our case worker has just now called. We have a court date. It's May 25. Memorial Day of course. We didn't expect to get word of this sacred day for at least another month. I'm mentally preparing for a scenario in which we do not pass the first time, or even the second. Best to stay on guard. (But oh my, oh my, this does feel like a lucky day. Luck we'd stopped imagining would blow in our direction. Hold on, flexible, drooling, pink-tongued baby girl. Mama's coming!)

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Baby, It's You

After two days of spinning in dreamy-eyed circles, grinning at eachother like a couple of drunk high schoolers, Papa and I decided to behave responsibly. So I looked at the list of international adoption specialists in Texas and started leaving long-winded, circular messages on doctors' answering machines. We wanted to do our $500 worth of due diligence. Let's marvel over the kid's bravery and poise, coo over her cheeks and lashes, yadayada about her development and test results, and officially accept this referral already. We're usually more of an emotional, gut instinct, fingers-crossed type of couple so this routine felt a little strange to the both of us. But we were keenly feeling the need to act like grown-ups. We figured we owed it to the kid not to skip steps. So finally, after badgering a very gracious receptionist at a very fancy School of Medicine, we got the last appointment on Friday afternoon to go over the bun bun's medical records. We huddled up to the speaker phone, gave eachother a smug high-five, and got ready to hear only good news.

What a couple of dopes. The doctor, who was very nice to speak with us on such short notice, did her job. She, in a maddeningly bright, la la la! tone of voice, started pointing out red flags left and right. The manner in which Ava's parents died could be an indication that she was HIV positive. The fact that she had a dot or two of molluscum on her face was another HIV red flag. She'd tested negative once, but until we got her home and retested her, the risk was still there. It was a small risk. Five percent, the doctor guessed. But a risk. Why were we so surprised by this? Hadn't we read enough to know this could be her and thus our reality? The doctor went on, noting that Ava's development was average to high. Though she made a mistake at one point, marveling over one developmental hurdle, before I had to point out that she was reading the chart wrong. Grrrr. There came a point when I started gripping Papa's arm with a snarl on my face. If this woman used the word "normal" as a comparison measure one more time I would have to be restrained from reaching through the phone for her throat. Finally, exhausted by her officiousness, exhausted by the weight of red flags, I cut the poor woman off. "So what you're saying is that there are real risks we need to feel prepared and equipped for, but in general this child is extraordinary in every way?" Well, uh, um, the woman continued. "And what I think we would love to hear before this conversation ends is that, while we need to take all of these concerns seriously, and we need to seriously discuss them with eachother as adults, that this conversation is somewhat a typical one for people in our position." Well, um, yes, of course it is.

Darn it, we felt so sad when we got off the phone. Okay, get it together. If we fall into that 5% chance, and with our luck over the last two years, why wouldn't we? But if we did, the child would live a long, healthy life while together we managed her chronic condition. Right??? Cry, cry, cry. Here we'd been worrying over the possibility of a child for all this time. She arrived, as if in a dream of smiling sweetness. Two quick days we basked in that glow. Now we were scared again, with the possibility of staying that way until we could get this little child safely home and to a doctor's office for a second test. During a screening of I Love You, Man I would lean over and whisper in the Papa's ear. "This will all work out in the end, don't you think?"

The next morning, I called my Dad and Kathy. Kathy has a nurse's degree and she also works part-time as a college basketball referee. This is a woman you want in your lifeboat, shouting clear-headed instructions. So I cried out the whole story of the conversation, crying for little Ava and the possiblity of her life being harder than it deserved to be. Well, my Dad, who as my only parent has been my everything, kind of sing-songed in the background, preening over the news of Ava's excellent developmental progress. And Kathy, who is a soft-hearted rock in a crisis, told me to get it together in her inimitable take-no-guff tone. "Ava is still Ava, and you are still her parents. I think you need to stop worrying so much about this test and start worrying about the basics of parenting." Yes! I don't know how to change a diaper! Papa holds a baby like it was a bundle of his Mom's bras and undies that he's just pulled out of the dryer! Ava's Grandpa and her Grand Kathy came to the rescue, as I imagine they'll do again and again and again in the future.

Please be merciful when judging my weekend of whimpering. We woke up last Sunday morning and admitted to eachother that we had gone to bed liking Ava, but had been silently, shamefully worrying over our ability to be all she might need. We woke up, and realized that we no longer liked her. We kind of loved her, and needed her, and wanted to protect her. Overnight, she had stopped being the luck of a referral, or the possible bad luck of an abstract test result. I know some of you good people can see into the soul of your referral picture and deem it destiny. I was smitten with our referral, and felt deeply for this little girl's back story, and the losses that preceded her arrival in our lives. But it was the conversation with a doctor, and the threat of a manageable but loaded condition, and the realization that we could and would hack it, that cemented the deal with me. Ava is Ava, and we her parents.

Last Monday, we very gratefully accepted our referral for this 8-month-old baby girl. On Wednesday, we were surprised to hear from our case worker. It turned out that the Gladney on-site doctor had administered a second test screening for HIV. The kid is clear, definitively and conclusively. Oh baby Ava, I do think your life just got a lot easier. Good for you, child. But, just as importantly, I think your nincompoop parents got something real and valuable out of this experience. The truth is, we are going to do this life thing with you. And our hearts will inevitably grow equally more tender and sturdy with you in our lives. But here's what we decided that Monday morning. Whatever it is, we are on your side. So here's the deal, kid. You're stuck with us. Whatever path this world leads you down, we're going to walk it with you, as long as you'll have us.* Tulip will be there too, with the floppy-eared stuffed bunny that Mama bought for you in her mouth. Tuuuuuu-LIPPPPPPPPPP!!!!

*Or until a tender-voiced therapist insists to Mama Dog that it is time to learn to let go.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Here Comes the Sun

Yesterday afternoon the phone rang, with news of our child. She is 8 months old. She has lashes upon lashes and deep, wide, moon-shaped eyes. She is heart attack cute. The only word I can think to describe her is sunny. She beams. I thought seeing pictures of a child would be devastating as I figured she would look scared and alone and unwell. This is a little girl whose parents have both died, and whose older siblings are all staying in the care of an uncle. None of that is fair or right. All of it will keep me up nights. And yet in the five photos we were given I swear it's as if she were lit from within, saying "I got this. I'm fine. Now you two get your shit together." I look at her and feel knocked in the gut by our outrageous luck to get to know her.

We're underwater with stunned, swollen hearts.

We've decided to name her Ava.

Waiting friends, your time is now. I used to hate it when people would tell me the call will come when we least expected it. How could that be, when all I do is wait expectantly? In the end, the call comes when you least expect it. Time will go goofy on you, and the floor will open up and the phone will feel on fire. I can't wait to compare notes. Ring, phones, ring!

Thank God. She's almost here.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

And I Give You a Rose, and You a Rose, and You and You...*

We really started picking up steam with our adoption when folks gathered for the big yellow-shirted Blog Union last year in California. We of course did not attend because we had no blog, and no waiting list stamp to yet wave proudly in the air. But, because I am a CREEP, and had become very familiar with various families' steps towards their children, I grinned over all the photos and wept at the big group picture. Look at all these adults who speak the same language, and don't have to spend time translating! Look at all these pudgy, perfect babies and children being clung to and adored! Look at all these happy beginnings!

I finally did get up the nerve to start a blog. Scary! Self-indulgent! Silly! I did it anyways. And if there's some odd bird out there who has somehow stumbled her way onto this page at the start of her own adoption process, I hope she heeds this advice: START A BLOG. CONNECT. ALL TYPES OF WOMEN ADOPT, ALL TYPES OF ADOPTION BLOGS EXIST. DON'T DO THIS ALONE.

I had a good old-fashioned purge there on my last post, and that was a Scary! thing to commit to the Internet. Oh, but then the comments were so loving and thoughtful and warm and, well, it makes me flap my hands in the air and tear up just thinking about the Henri Nouwen quote or Abe reading his Sunday funnies or Julie who is always the first person to leave a kind, sisterly word on anybody's page.

People come in all emotional shapes to the adoption process, but mine happened to be pea-sized and whimpery. I felt lost and broken and like we had failed ourselves and the people in our world. (<---What a jerk.) I wanted to stop all the self-loathing so I took up Yoga. Productive, right? But then I always seemed to find myself in the class that started right as the pre-natal class let out and all those bellies took their turns slapping me in the face. (<---Sorry bellies! I'm better now, promise.) I do that annoying thing with strangers who ask me from where we're adopting. I say "Ethiopia!," although sometimes I fear it comes out like "Ethiopia?" as I brace myself for some huffiness about domestic kids in need or an eyeball-gouging joke about Angelina Jolie. If I accomplish nothing else as a mother, I want my daughter to answer questions without unnecessary question marks. "Where are you from, dear?" "Ethiopia!! And Rosedale Avenue!!" Damn right, you are.

All this to say, there are times when you can feel terribly alone in the adoption process, which by nature is abstract and uncontrollable. And then you start a little blog, and then all the sudden your blog idols start cheering you on, and they understand the process so you'll never have to repeat yourself, and they get why the wait is worth it times a billion, and they kind of swoop you up into this hammock of good will. It's stunning to all the sudden find yourself part of something bigger than your own individual pursuit of a child.

So I've arrived to the very staggering conclusion that one day I might find myself creeping into a blog union. Which is so weird because I hate it out there in the real world. I like it better here on my keyboard, see. I'm terribly shy, though no one in my life, especially my husband, who knows from shy, will accept this. (I'm one of those shy types who has an unfortunate tendency to try too hard, and thus talk too much, and have been known on occasion to skip dinner before the drinks and then find myself forcing the board game Taboo on everybody and saying "In Your Face!" when I get the high score and I think you get the picture.)

Yeah, so big groups of people? Blurgh. Can't we all have a reunion at the movies under the cover of darkness? Must we chat? But know that no matter what lameness I spout off here about social gatherings, that one day I too will be there wearing a homemade t-shirt and playing the wash, wash, wash, tumble dry! tumble dry! game with all the itty bitties. Ha ha suckers— You're stuck with me now!

Who would have thought that before this little person has the chance to emerge into our lives that I'd be back whole again, patched together by women who know of what I speak. Which is not to take away from the discomfort of this wait for a referral. Last week Papa Dog and I were struck low by the anticipation. We're both working out of the house right now, which is not at all conducive to two already reserved personalities living in a still fresh city. So we took our beloved mutt Tulip on a walk, trudging sadly around the park. All the sudden there was this clacking sound from down below and there was Tulip sucking on a found rainbow-colored pacifier. She looked so desperate to please ("Aren't I enough for you?"), and so earnest in her pacifying endeavors, that we both burst out laughing and dropped to our knees to have a very awkward family hug.

GET A DOG (but make sure the cats still know who's boss)

*How 'bout that Bachelor? What a worm!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Questions of Faith

I've been loathe to let myself blog much these days. I've got a bad case of the dreaded Referral Fever, where all you do is wake up in the morning and wonder if this will be the day where everything changes. Poor Papa Dog. Every morning he brings me a cup of coffee and is met with my chirp of "Is she coming today, do you think?!" And every night I say "Well, maybe tomorrow then." Although lately it's been more like "Spfttttttt!, there's never going to be a baby, is there?" Papa Dog recently diagnosed me as a "bladdict," because all I seem to be interested in doing any more is tearing up over others' waiting posts or tearing up and shouting hooray over successful court date posts or spending long periods of time staring at the computer screen with my chin in my hand as I consider attachment posts or marriage posts or multiracial family posts. It's strange that my most intimate conversations seem to be going on completely in my own head, as I try to digest the very thoughtful musings of women I've never met.

Sometimes I wish I had a stronger sense of religious faith to lean on during this whole process. I'm agnostic, or "Unitarian?" as I apologetically told our social worker during the home study, hoping she wouldn't immediately mark a big giant red X by our names. I was one of those people who really feared the home study. And then, horrors!, our social worker did a bum rush on us where she called 45 minutes before she was due to arrive and said she was in the neighborhood and could she just stop by then. So much for running the vacuum! We'd prepared all these dainty plates of food, and Papa Dog had made cookies, and when she arrived she would not accept anything to eat or drink. Not even a cup of coffee. And she was wearing very shiny, very high black heels, while I had inexplicably failed to put on socks, let alone shoes. And she dropped the name of the mega church she attended in Fort Worth within the first five minutes of conversation. We were toast!

I thought I had special reason to be squirrelly about the visit. I'd had very wise, reasonable people suggest to me beforehand that I ought to just leave out the whole history of my mom's depression and her eventual suicide when it came time to talk family history. "Say she died in a car accident," one friend suggested. "That sounds better than admitting she was a train wreck." (I love this friend, and she me, so forgive us for leaning on sarcasm when discussing sadness.) I was so unsure how to handle what was apparently such an unmentionable reality of my past, and started worrying that the truth would somehow sabotage our adoption. Papa Dog, wise and generous, told me a lie was the absolute wrong way to begin this very sensitive process, and could only cause further anxiety down the road. So I decided I had two missions for the home study: I would always tell the truth and somehow, I would not cry. (The older I get, the more I find myself growing into a sentimental fool. Rare is the movie in which I don't tear up, and that includes Step Brothers and Sex & the City.)

Well, one thing they don't tell you about the home study is that more often than not the person coming to your house will be incredibly warm and empathetic, and that she will not just inquire into the existence of working fire alarms and your thoughts on higher education, but she will ask you questions that you have never even considered. Like, would you tell your child if she had been a product of rape? We were both so stunned by this question because we simply hadn't imagined this scenario and then my eyes started welling over and Papa Dog had to tag off while I composed myself and then we proceeded to really wrestle with the question. Then the social worker posed an enraging hypothetical scenario about what we would do if our black child, who was clearly gifted in the arena of math and science, wasn't fast-tracked by the school like her similarly talented white peers. Now I can get a little growly when it comes to advocating on behalf of the people I love so I started spluttering about suing the school system and rant, rant, rant I went until Papa Dog gently pressed his foot onto my inexcusably bare toes, telling me to take it down a notch. And so I promised the social worker that I would always live in a house with a private room where I could get all my hollering and frothing out of the way before inflicting it upon others. All this to say, the social worker does not present you with rote multiple choice questions with clearly right or wrong answers. These were HEART STUMPERS.

But the most alarming part of any home study is when THEY SPLIT YOU UP, as if only then could they ferret out the holes in your story. So off Papa Dog went to the back yard, where he would pretend to relax in the sun with the cats, and I was left alone with this very kind-eyed woman, who proceeded to ask me about my parents. And then, because I am a ninny, I started crying again, and told her some about my Mom, and then she started tearing up, and she told me that she understood manic depression very well because her ex-husband also suffered from the disease. And so I figured as long as she was crying, then I could stop apologizing, and we just proceeded to talk and talk and it was kind of like the best therapy session ever, and when she left, she said she couldn't wait to return in the future for the post-placement visit. Now I'm not saying all home studies are so fuzzy and productive, but man, this lady rocked.

I've gotten off track. What was the point of all this? Oh right, faith. Flip through any adoption blog roll and it quickly becomes obvious that the community is largely, loudly Christian. (Incidentally, me and the old man both come from Catholic backgrounds, but prefer to worship at the altar of breakfast tacos come Sunday morning.) I remember on the second adoption meeting we went to we were seated at a table with another couple, all of us just staring awkwardly at one another. I asked the woman why they had decided to adopt from Ethiopia and she crisply replied that "God put it on my heart." And that was all she said. And I didn't know what to say back to that.

See, as far as I know, God didn't put it on our hearts to adopt from Africa. What did happen was we received an infertility diagnosis that knocked us to our knees and then had the honor of watching one of my closest friends go through a successful, beautiful adoption experience that introduced her to her two exquisite daughters from Ethiopia and my father's girlfriend of 20 years is black and that gave me real courage about my ability to create my own multiracial family and well, Papa Dog is a big nerd and hasn't stopped reading about Ethiopia or calling it the cradle of civilization since we filled out our application forms, and, if I'm really going to go there, the truth is I've gotten to the point where I don't want to have sex around the time I ovulate each month because, on the off, off chance, I don't want anything messing with our adoption. Maybe all that was put on our hearts by God. I'm not sure. But it's all part of our story, which is long and immense.

Sometimes it can feel a little embarassing to be an agnostic in the adoption world. You might even feel a little nervous outing yourself. I finished reading a perfectly fine novel this morning that had an extraordinary passage towards the end. The main character Holly, who can be a little judgmental and a little rigid when it comes to people behaving in the RIGHT way or the WRONG way, and in this respect sadly reminds me of myself, was coming to terms with her relationship with God:

"More and more often these days, though, Holly found herself thinking that perhaps what God wanted was not to be feared or obeyed or even worshipped—but maybe God just wanted to be wondered about. Wasn't that at least a possibility? Why else would this all be so confusing? Why else would there be so many different ways, and so many conflicting ideas, everybody so convinced that they're right and everybody else is wrong, and the people without anything unwilling to even look for something, because the people with something seem so darn unappealing? Who knows, maybe it is a gift to be able to believe in God and still get tripped up on the how.

And the journey from "knowing" to "not knowing" wasn't the same thing as losing your faith. It wasn't the same as believing in nothing, either. Even if it might look like that from the outside, from the inside, Holly knew for sure, it was different. Faith should take you further and further into life, and give you a way to engage, somehow, with the mystery behind it all, and if she was going to live a life without the comforts of dogma—and yes, she missed her dogma sometimes, the warm soft blanket of complete and utter certainty—well, the least she could do for herself was figure out a way to go forward."

So this is me, going forward, trying my best to trust that one day the phone really will ring, and it will ring with news of a child, and that there will be much rejoicing, and that that night, before we go to sleep, I can turn to Papa Dog and say, without really knowing what I mean, "Thank God. She's here."

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

My First Tagging

My Darling Dandie Rose tagged me. (I think this is the term for what has happened, although I'm a virgin when it comes to these winks on the blogging world.) The task at hand was to post the fourth picture in your photo library. Please, please, I hoped, as I opened the folder, don't be that one where I'm not wearing any pants. Happily, it was instead a shot of me and the old man from September 2004, taken on our Brooklyn deck on the dreamy blue sky morning after our wedding. (Shout out to 7th Avenue!) In a few hours we'd be up in that perfect sky, on the way to Paris. Boy, were those ever the days.

(Also, harumph!, I'm looking at my chin and it appears I was storing nuts for the long plane ride ahead.)

I think I'm supposed to tag people now but I feel shy. Also, I don't forward chain emails or dress up for theme parties. Buzz kill!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Aw Nuts

Dang. Well, for about six months there I was having an easy breezy time with the wait. It was quite odd for this anxious old bird to feel so calm. I think reaching the finish line of the paperwork race left me with a nice runner's high that I was able to coast on for a blissfully long time. But that apparently is all over and done with now. I'm a wreck. I don't know what triggered it, but I am just a HOT MESS.

The wait times keep shifting on us, as is to be expected with international adoption. The health of the referral coming our way is unpredictable, as is expected with international adoption. With every passing day, I cringe as we nudge closer to the rainy season. I'm beating back nauseating waves of gloom and doom that the program will implode in on itself, submerged under bureaucratic nerves and inflated demand. I am so scared this will not work out in the end. I'm going to my book club tonight, which I love, and dreading the cheery, wide-eyed, innocent questions of whether we've gotten our referral yet and then what happens after that anyways, hop on a plane, no?, court date blah blah blah, wait time blah blah blah, glazed eyes blah blah blah. No referral this month, but any day now I'll chirp. Any! Day! Now!

I'm making myself sick with this dour post. Buck up, Mama Dog! One foot in front of the other now...

My best friend, the Pup's Godmother, was living with us for two months until recently. I'm now of the firm belief that every waiting adoptive mom should have their best friend swoop into town for a good chunk of the waiting time. Your best friend will make you laugh until you throw up (true story!) and she'll peel you grapefruits and she'll do spot-on impressions of the ladies on The Bachelor and she'll blow dry your hair all pretty and she'll make you pies. She won't make you feel dumb at all if you have to practically be shoved into a Baby Gap then only to tear up over a little white shirt dotted with cherries. She'll understand that after you spend $67 on the dearest clothes imaginable you'll immediately start worrying that you've singlehandedly jinxed your whole adoption. She won't wince if you then start indulging in some gallows humor about how if the adoption does fall through maybe you could give away some of these new outfits at friends' future baby showers with stone-faced proclamations that this little denim jumper was hand-dipped in a vat of tears and bitterness and these little corduroy pants have our infertility diagnosis tucked in the front pocket so go on now and enjoy. Your best friend will join in on such morbid humor and before you know it you'll be laughing again. Best friends are the best when you are at your worst.

And I seem to be grinding down to my worst. Pretty, pretty please let this all work out. Baby, you get here when you need to but just so you know, we're ready to meet you. Your Godmother wants to shower you with laughter and pies. Your Papa Dog wants to make you homemade food and tell you not to pull the cats' tails. Your crazy Mama wants to look at you while you sleep and whisper in your ear "Thank you for getting here bunny rabbit, we're so happy to know you, we're going to have so much fun together, you and I, so sleep tight, perfect child, and trust that you'll wake up to people who will do their best to always do right by you."

**Went to book club and had fabulous time, cocooned in glow of good will. When I admitted I'd never read a single Harry Potter, one friend said "That is the perfect book to read while you wait to meet your daughter." At the end we said goodbye, until next month, and I made dumb joke about maybe March making a mother out of me. Same friend leaned over and said "Oh please, you're already a mother." Now that's a quality lot of ladies right there!

Monday, January 12, 2009


This guy moved with me to Texas so that I could write a dratted book. He finally told me after a few dreary months of living here that if I didn't actually start working on said book, if we were only living in a new, strange city so that I could wring my hands and fret nauseatingly about my inability to work, that he would have a hard time forgiving me. (Hi-Yoh! That cured the writer's block!)

This guy: Who would do anything for me or our animals. Who is inexplicably wearing a Longhorns t-shirt in this picture as the pup gazes adoringly up at him. Who is going to add a tattoo of Ethiopia to his arm. Who came home from the library last week with a graphic novel, a science fiction novel, a history of the Gaza Strip conflict, and I'm Chocolate, You're Vanilla. While I try to stay numbed up and disconnected from adoption anxiety, this guy's dreams are swimming with images of the baby muffin. In one, everyone in an elevator turned away from a horrifyingly disfigured little girl except him. He reached towards her, and she to him. In another, he was pushing his daughter around in a doll stroller before deciding that he should carry her in one arm and the stroller in the other. Last night he dreamt that I was killed in a rocket explosion (still here Papa Dog!) and that he was overcome with sobs, not just because he lost his wife but also the child our agency would no longer trust in his care as a single father.

Stay strong and sensitive husband! I think she is coming and that we can do this. In the meantime, thank you for always making me dinner.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Telling the Coffee Drinkers

When I first inflicted myself on the small town that is the subject of my book*, one of the locals told me that the old-timers gather in the morning at the back of the General Store every morning for coffee. It's kind of a dry town's version of happy hour at dawn. After a couple months of skulking around town I got up the courage to set the alarm for 4:45 am and take my chances with the cowboys. Women aren't allowed at coffee per se, and the youngest of the group is probably in his 60s. It was great luck the men came to accept me back there in their den, and many of them I've come to think of as the dearest of hearts. We talk about everything at coffee, from the weather to the War.

There's only one Democrat—go Bud!—in the bunch (except for me, who they all have written off as a helpless pinko), so conversations around politics and culture can sometimes get testy. One of the men is so unapologetically racist that he says he cannot eat Mexican food. (After a campaign season where everyone talked so dopily about how color blind they were, there was something refreshing about a man so bluntly admitting to his prejudice.) When I told the men my father had been with an amazing black woman for the last 19 years, one of them looked at me aghast and said 'But you wasn't raised by her right?' Alas, conversations about the election were always front-loaded with the ugliest of language. I'd go so far as to say that I love each of the coffee drinkers, because of and despite themselves, and that they'd walk through fire to save me if I were ever in trouble. But the subject of Barack always seemed to get the best of us.

Backing up a bit, I think all those men wondered why I didn't already have a couple of kids, or "tricycle motors" as my dear Ralph calls them. These aren't men who initiate intimate conversations—though I'd say over half of them cried to me in private about various griefs in their lives—and so would never dare ask me why I wasn't pregnant. When I moved to Austin from New York they teased a little that I'd soon be starting a family now that I'd stepped out of the rat race. (Dagger, dagger.) And when I got so angry one morning, clutching my throat to push down a sob after one good, decent man cried "I'm not going to vote for some nigger!" and then another casually replied "Does a nigger stink?" when asked if he was off to the post office, I finally had to say there was a reason I was having such a violent reaction to the conversation this particular morning. "You're pregnant!" cried one happily. Ha! I leaned over to my friend who won't eat Mexican food and said 1) I'm so sorry but I'm going to have to start crying now and you all will just have to bear it and 2) Please do your best not to disappoint me.

And so, at 6 in the morning, in a town of 300, out tumbled the story of Mama and Papa Dog's sad diagnosis, and the lifeboat that was adoption. As I blew my nose and tried to collect myself the men stared hard at the floor grunting "Well damn, damn." Those boys should have turned me away that first morning and sent me toddling off to the beauty shop if I was looking for conversation. Would that I stopped at the subject of infertility! That is not the headline of this story I said, willing that no grocery shoppers come lumbering down the aisle looking loudly for their daily jug of tea until I was out with all of it.

I told them that after much careful and considered thought, my husband and I were adopting a child from Ethiopia. And what killed me was that I'd been able to listen to them talk ugly about black people seeing as I was an interloper in their town, a writer with a tape recorder and a notepad who was lucky to be granted access to their private ritual. But we had gone on the waitlist just the day before to bring home a baby girl. She will soon exist in my world, and I'll be damned if anyone in my presence ever dares to devalue her. So my whole lens of objectivity would soon be shattered, and I'd no longer be able to excuse their language or opinions as detritus from their small town Texas generation. I'm going to become that girl's mother and they'll say something stupid and that will be it. I won't want to be their friends anymore and what a loss that will be. My friend who has lived 67 years without ever eating a burrito couldn't resist getting in a grumble about international adoption and what about the kids here in America and I swiveled to face him and shut him down so fast. There was only one thing I wanted to hear him say about my news and that was Congratulations. And so he said Congratulations.

I'd already made the morning too much about me and there was a trickle of shoppers coming into the store by this point. I didn't want to make a further spectacle of myself so we rather awkwardly and gratefully changed the subject and gabbed for another hour or so. When I got up to leave, No Burritos motioned for me to sit back down next to him on the bench. "You know that thing you were talking about, back there, when you were talking." Uh, yes. "I just want to say 'You go with your heart, girl. Do what's best for you and your family. You just follow your heart. Who gives a damn what anybody else has to say on the matter? '" Even you?, I teased. "Hell, especially me!" Well, now that made me start crying again. Would that this wasn't a world where that would be enough. But it is, for now at least. And my friend, who I hope will still want to be friends with me after the book comes out, has given me the permission to tell him to go fuck himself.

Good men, all of them.

*Shoulda been working on book instead of writing this windy blog.