28 December 2009

Not again....please

I had intended to come home this evening to take up where I last left off on the "Worthy..." post.

However, this is not to be because I am too distracted and upset.

One of our kitties - Forest - is sick. And not sick like she has a little respiratory infection. She is sick like she needed x-rays and our vet doesn't like the way her x-rays look and had Chris schedule an abdominal ultrasound on Thursday. (We'd do the ultrasound sooner, but the ultrasound guy is on vacation until Thursday...)

Chris shows me the x-rays when I arrive home this evening. He points out the area that Dr. B doesn't like: some kind of mass with white spots in her lower abdominal area.

This wasn't there when she was having some issues with weight loss back in July. The ultrasound was clear. We changed her meds. She gained some weight. She seemed OK.

And then she started eating more sporadically and losing weight again.

And now this - whatever it is - is in her belly.

We just lost Annabel.

We can't lose Forest, too. We just can't...

Please send healing energy to our little Forest if you think of it. Thank you.

More soon.

24 December 2009


I've been on "blog reading overload" for the last few days.


I cannot seem to get myself away from my computer. Or other people's blogs.

Last night I made Chris take me to a movie so I wouldn't sit on the couch all night reading blogs.

And when we got home and I should have been getting ready for bed, where was I and what was I doing? Yup. On the couch again reading reading reading blogs.

As a result of this blog reading overload I have neglected my own little corner of the blogosphere.

Could this possibly be because the last few posts have been so serious that they require additional follow up posts to continue working through my thoughts? And I just don't want to do that right now? Have I been reading other people's blogs so I don't have to address my own?


Sneaky, eh?

I've been wimping out for a while on The Serious Post...and I believe that this is going to be a continuing trend for the short term.

Additionally, all of those serious thoughts that I haven't been writing down on the blog are now competing with all of the Christmas stuff in my brain: making macaroons, what I need to buy at the store to make the macaroons, how much gift wrap I need to buy that won't leave me with tons of leftover to store all year long, getting the house clean so we can enjoy Christmas weekend sans clutter, deciding where I'm going to hide Chris' stocking this evening, figuring out what I'm going to wear for the various family events coming up this weekend, hoping that all of my various in-laws will prepare food that I can actually eat (read: gluten free), blah, blah, blah.

So...I think for the next few days that I'm going to try to stay away from the computer. From thinking heavy and deep thoughts. From reading other people's heavy and deep thoughts. From all things bloggy.

And I'm just going to enjoy the holiday weekend.

Hope you do, too.

20 December 2009


I've been trying to formulate this post for a few days now. Gathering my thoughts to put into some kind of order onto the blogosphere.

There are a number of first mother blogs that I follow with some regularity. Some of these blogs - particularly those that are in open adoptions are quite inspiring. Seeing how first mothers/fathers and adoptive mothers/fathers navigate their relationships with each other and with the children who bond them together is quite amazing. These are the blogs that give me hope that an open adoption can work if all parties keep their promises and work together.

Other of the first mother blogs are difficult to read because they are filled with pain and anguish - the blogs of mothers who lost their children to adoption unwillingly. Some via the social service system or others who were teen/young mothers who felt that they were coerced into giving up their children because they were considered and convinced by others that they were "too young to parent." Although these blogs are difficult to read, I do so because they challenge me to look at adoption from another's perspective and to consider how our adoption will affect all of the people involved in our upcoming "adoption triad."

Earlier in the weekend I visited and commented on one of the blogs that I find challenging to read. The blogger, Cassi, replied to my comment as did another blogger, Lori, who actually used my comment/question as a springboard for a long post of her own (also included below.) While we come to adoption from opposite sides of the table, both of these women were very respectful of me and willing to engage in dialogue without name calling or hostility. I so appreciated that.

My question/comment to Cassi:

First - as always - let me take a moment to thank you for sharing your story and for sharing so much for yourself on your blog.

Reading this post was very difficult. It's so raw and full of anguish. I can't tell you how sorry I am that you've had to endure this kind of suffering.

I don't know if you can or would choose to answer a question that occurred to me while I was reading your post: Would it have made a difference back when you were so young and scared if open adoption had been available to you?

Please know that when I say "open adoption" I don't mean getting a few pictures and letters every year from the adoptive family. I mean an actual relationship between your child, his adoptive family and you and your family. (Obviously in my way back when scenario hopefully you would have been the key player in the choice of adoptive family...it sounds like the woman who adopted your son was a nightmare.)

Please don't feel like you have to address my question if it makes you upset or uncomfortable. Or if you feel that I have crossed the line somehow in my asking this question (and if I have done so, I hope you'll please accept my apologies. It is certainly not my intention.) I would just be extremely interested in your perspective on adoption today in regards to a much more open process and relationship.

As a prospective adoptive parent, I don't ever want to make another woman feel the way that you do. I'm really trying to find a way to be as open and inclusive as possible and to move through the adoption process with integrity, honesty and compassion. I value your opinion in this regard.

Again, thanks for sharing and for allowing me a bit of space to ask my question.

Cassi's reply:

I'm so glad to see you back. And I hope you know I have a great respect for you and the courage you show by continuing to read and ask questions. I know, even for me too, it's hard sometimes to listen and learn from another side and so many refuse to do this. It shows great strength in those that do.

I'm not sure though that you will like my answer to your question . . . twenty two years ago when I gave up my son at birth, his was an open adoption. It was during the beginning wave of open adoptions and was actually a step ahead because I had two visits a year which was not common during that time.

His adoption remained fully open for the first two years of his life. After that, his adoptive mom no longer allowed visits so his adoption became semi-open with the letters and pictures I was promised.

In my son's fifth year, I received one picture - his kindergarten picture - and that was it. His adoptive mom closed his adoption and it remained that way for thirteen years until my husband and I reunited with our son when he was eighteen.

So I have literally been through open adoption, semi-open adoption and closed adoption in my experience and, honestly, none of those have ever, or will ever heal the pain I expressed here.

I say that because before ANY kind of adoption can take place, a woman still has to go through feeling as if she is not good enough or worthy enough for her own child.

The message to her is still one that places a "better" mom in front of her and encourages her to lose while another gains. It still places her in a position of not feeling confident as a mother because she is led to believe through outside forces, including society in general that she will fail at raising her own child without ever being given the chance to prove otherwise.

I know that open adoption is supposed to be easier for First Moms. That is what so many believe, but in truth, it can't take away that feeling of failure and loss that first must happen to any woman who gives up her child.

Those emotions can be so strong. They can rule our lives for years without easing. By our very nature we are meant to love and nurture our children. When that natural instinct is not only challenged but doubted because one doesn't have "enough" it's hard to move past that and believe in yourself again as a woman and most importantly as a mother.

Even now, all these years later, after raising my three other children, adopting back my oldest son, I still struggle with my insecurities when it comes to being a mother. I still fear someone else is better than me. That I will lose my children to someone else. That they will see another woman as their mother and I will lose that in my life.

Therapy and support groups have helped to recognize these feelings before they fully control me as they used to. But they still exist. They still, in weaker, can play on my doubts and fears. And, honestly, I don't think they will ever go away for good.

I just think, when we support a life where one woman's loss and grief is considered "worth it" to ease the loss of another woman who society views as more "deserving" of being a mother, we create an open, and never closing wound, for so many mothers out there who never even got the chance to try before believing they would fail.

Lori also responded to my question/comment:

"As a prospective adoptive parent, I don't ever want to make another woman feel the way that you do."


Have you ever considered just adopting the family? I know that it won't take the place of a child of your own, but in reality, will a child that is not ever really going to be "your own" ever take that place either?

Most babies really do have their own mommies and yet there are thousands of children and young adults (teens) that would love to have a family. Yeah, lots of issues, but guess what, mother issues are nothing compared to what the kids have once they are adopted.

These are generalizations, yes, but very few of the adopted persons that I know, don't want to know their "real" parents. I don't mean that in a bad way. I just, after reading many blogs, talking to many adopted persons, took my psychological training and realized that what the kids are saying is that they want the original parents. And mothers, we are saying instead of taking our children, be part of our family and help us keep our children.

I am not anti-adoption, I am massively adoption reform. There truly are some children that need homes. But because of the basic feeling that we all deserve, want, need to be parents, we forget the simplest of all things. To see what is about a child, not what is about us.

So, there are options, foster care (and never believe what is written in the reports, insist on meeting both first parents prior to adoption - social services are the best at telling tales that are not quite true) adoption.

Guardianship - always good because it leaves the child with all their own identity and still gives the family unit a reality.

Or, adopt the family or let them adopt you. I never had another child after my daughter and the one thing that I do find much satisfaction in is the children that have found their way to my doorstep. Many children. I never felt the need to have them call me mom and, in most cases, when they did I was very leary of them (they were usually the ones that I had to make leave and tell never to come back). I enjoy my nieces and nephews and have had a huge hand in caring for some of them for most of their lives.

But, Jennifer, the truth is, when you adopt you will cause this pain. Adoption is the breaking of an existing family. Family is not a piece of paper, a desire to parent, the need to have a child/procreate. Family is the unit, usually biological, that may not be perfect, may argue, fight, be poor, be rich, be dysfunctional, but most of all it is the love that only a mother/father and a child can share. It is looking in the mirror of your parents eyes and seeing you, the real you, whole and total. It is the blessing of knowing that your grandmother's arthritis might become yours one day and accepting that the dimple on your left cheek is not just a mark, but a badge of belonging.

That is what family is.

Adoption is uncertainty. Looking into your parents eyes and seeing someone that is different, not quite right, worthless.

Adoption is waking up hearing your child cry and knowing that it is not real. Spending countless hours and days looking at children in stores, malls, parks and schools, wondering "is this him/her?" It is the locking of part of your heart for fear of drowning in the hole.

Adoption is not the answer. It is the problem.

If you want a child, find one that truly needs parents. One that is from this country, with no living parents or relatives to be found, that has a real need to be loved. Accept them the way they are and know that nothing is perfect. Know that if you don't find this perfect child it is not a curse on you, but a blessing on the children.

But most of all, remember this, to parent you don't have to be the legal parent. You just have to love.

Just my thoughts.

I'm still having a hard time formulating my thoughts about the above dialogue.

What struck me most from reading Cassi's and Lori's words is the theme of worthiness vs. not being worthy.

The idea that I - as an adoptive parent - am somehow viewed by society as more "worthy" or "better" to raise a child than the child's mother is troubling to me.

I certainly don't feel that I am anymore worthy to raise a child (biological or adopted) than any other woman. Perhaps what I am at this point in my life is someone who is not more "worthy" but is instead simply at a stage/age/time in life where I have both the internal and external resources to raise and care for a child.

This has certainly not always been the case.

Had I become pregnant at age 17...there is no doubt in my mind that I was in any way prepared or capable of being a mom at that time. I can safely assert that I would have been too terrified to even think for one second that I was capable of being a mother. My fear would have won out and I would have been a teen mom who turned to adoption. Who walked through the doors of the agency and made/carried though with an adoption plan.

And, if I'm truthful, had I found myself pregnant at ages 25 or even 30, chances are that I would have been in much the same situation as I would have been at age 17. Even though in my twenties and at thirty I had many more external resources: an education, a decent job where I was making OK money, a good living situation, a career path, and marketable skills, there was one other thing happening in my life that would have prevented me from parenting:

I was a mess.

A complete emotional mess.

It was such a struggle just to care for myself - something at which I didn't do well for far too many years. Help was so needed back then, but I didn't know how to ask for it.

Couldn't ask for help and, sadly, didn't even recognize that I needed it.

Again, I am certain that in my twenties or early thirties I would have been so utterly paralyzed by my own terror and anxiety that I couldn't have been any kind of a decent parent to a child. The internal resources necessary to parent just weren't there. It wouldn't have been fair to me or to my child for me to have even tried.

So, speaking for myself - in a way I actually agree with both Cassi and Lori in that I would have felt that there was a "better" mom out there somewhere to raise my child, but unlike Cassi and Lori - not because anyone on the outside made me feel that I wasn't worthy to be a mom. Instead - because of all of the "stuff" happening inside of me at that time in my life - because of my own internal struggles and the sense of unworthiness and failure that already existed in me.

And so I feel for anyone who has been made by anyone to feel less than worthy.

That Cassi and Lori both felt strongly that they were made to feel by others as less than worthy is beyond awful. That the adoptive parents of Cassi's son broke their promises and kept her separated from her child for 13 years - cruel. That Lori was forced to surrender her daughter unwillingly - cruel and life shattering. That they have spent their adult lives trying to recover from these traumas is heartbreaking.

I do not want anyone to ever feel that way.

Still, it is difficult for me to think about turning away from the path that we're on. Difficult to think that there is a woman out there feeling somehow less than worthy - for whatever reason - be it not having the external resources to care for her child or the internal wherewithal or a combination thereof.

I have more to write on this topic, but I think that I need to take a break for now to once again gather my thoughts.

Anyone visiting - your thoughts?

And please - if you choose to share your thoughts - please be respectful to all parties involved in this dialogue. Thank you.

17 December 2009


From the book Making Room in Our Hearts: Keeping Family Ties Through Open Adoption by Micky Duxbury:

The gifts one inherits from birth parents do not merely form the template, with the adoptive parents forming everything else. The personalities of adoptees are shaped throughout their lives by their biological and cultural roots.

Many people are navigating the waters of openness not because they think that it will make the pain of adoption disappear, but because they believe that it will enhance the child's sense of self.

In The Open Adoption Experience by Lois Melina and Sharon Kaplan Roszia, the authors underscore the effect of the closed [adoption] system:

It gradually became apparent through research, personal accounts, and case histories that the failure to recognize and grieve for the losses of adoption had long term effects...impaired self-esteem...difficulty forming an identity...difficulty forming relationships...Not all confidential adoptions were failures, nor did all adoptees, birth parents and adoptive parents suffer serious psychological problems. However, there were many people that found their experience of adoption provided them with emotional challenges that they did not expect and didn't always know how to conquer.

If I knew who my birth mother was, I could have stopped fantasizing and wondering...I could have just asked her those questions instead of just having them bounce around in my head for all those years. - Ben, an adoptee, age 29

Although birth parents were not ready to parent, they have a vital role to play in helping their child know that she was loved then and is loved now by those who gave her life.

If someone would have just told me about open adoption, or turned me onto a book, or let me talk to another birth mom, everything would have been so different. The whole experience would have been so much less chaotic and overwhelming. - Molly, birth mother of Leo

We thought that by choosing open adoptions, our children would be less likely to be plagued by issues of abandonment and rejection, and that the birth families would not wonder if a child they passed on the street could be their own. - Mathew, adoptive father of Lily and Reed

While Chris and I have not made any formal decisions about the level of openness that will happen in our adoption, I find myself very drawn to the idea of openness in adoption and am reading up on this important and potentially life-changing topic. Making Room in Our Hearts, in addition to be informative, happens to be an exceptionally interesting, compelling and thought provoking read as you can probably tell from the quotes above. If you are considering open adoption, I imagine that this book is a must-read.

In addition to books, I have of course, been checking out numerous blogs. I was surprised to find quite a few bloggers who write about their open adoptions. Dawn writes beautifully of her life with daughter Madison and of their lovely and close relationship with Madison's first mom, Pennie.

Rebekah and Rebekah...I only found their blogs a short time ago and haven't left any comments, but have become a regular reader and am inspired by their story. Rebekah and Rebekah found each other in late January 2009. Rebekah #1 is a single parent who was pregnant with her fifth child who felt strongly that she just couldn't parent one more child. She made the difficult decision to pursue an open adoption. Rebekah #2 had been struggling with infertility for some time when she and her husband Ben made the decision to start a family via adoption. Along came baby Ty who is now the strong connection between the two families. Their blogs are lovely and reading about Ty from both perspectives - adoptive mom and first mom - is pretty amazing.

I'd like to write more, but it's late and I should take myself off to bed.

More on this soon.

Good night.

16 December 2009

Feeling like a mom...

I dread it...

My workplace Board of Trustees/Community Advisory Board/Staff annual holiday "do."

I'm a fundraiser, but not much of a schmoozer. It's rather embarrassing to admit that in my particular profession that I don't really enjoy these kinds of events.

Still, there will be folks at this event that I actually know and the food will be good. So I hit the ladies room to "fix my face" after a long day in the fundraising trenches and then head out to our holiday decorated lobby to face the masses enjoying our little fete.

A few minutes into the event I run into S - a vice president from one of my company accounts. We exchange greetings and start talking about the holidays and what our families are doing. Soon I find myself saying, "My husband is so excited about next year when we'll introduce our child to the craziness that is his family at Christmas."

S lights up and asks, "Omigosh! When are you due?"

"Well," I reply, "we don't have a due date because we're adopting, but we're hoping it will be fairly soon."

"That's so exciting!" says S and goes on to congratulate me.

Soon we're chatting happily about her kids and grandkids and their traditions and what Chris and I hope our traditions will be with our Little One.

When S has to excuse herself to head home, I find myself in conversation with our Chief Operating officer (A) and one of the Community Advisory Board members (F.)

The "How was your Thanksgiving?" conversation lasts for a few minutes and then A says, "I know when we talked this summer you said that you and your husband are considering adoption. Have you touched on that anymore?"

"Oh, we're actually in the process. We just have a few more photos to get to our adoption facilitators and then our profile goes live online...and then we wait."

"That's great! Are you going to get an older child? Or a baby?"

"Well, we're only planning to do this once so we'd like to have the whole experience - poopy diapers and all."

"That's wonderful!" chimes in F.

And soon we're off on a whole conversation about little ones. A regales us with stories of her son who, unlike his well-mannered relaxed older sister, got into EVERYTHING.

"It's not that he was a BAD kid," says A, "it's that he was BORED and wanted to learn things. So he'd throw something in the toilet to see what would happen. He'd put crayons on the radiator and I'd say, 'Now, N, why the heck did you do THAT???' And he'd say right back, 'To see what would happen to them.' He was just curious! Still is!"

"That sounds just like my little 2 year-old grandson," says F, pulling a photo out of her wallet and pointing to the youngest of three Little Ones posed artfully with Santa Claus, "He is just a little DEVIL!" But she says this with a loving smile so I imagine that he isn't all that bad.

They share more stories about their kids and grandkids to which I enjoy listening. I chime in with a few tales about my nieces and find myself saying, "I have sooooo much to look forward to!" in response to some of their funny stories.

They agree.

"Yes. You do."

Soon the party begins to die down. I say my goodbyes and head home.

As I'm in my car, it hits me that this evening I truly feel for the first time like an expectant mom. Something about sharing my news with S, F and A (people I don't really know all that well) that for reasons I cannot explain - make the adoption and my impending motherhood seem so REAL. Not that it hasn't been real throughout the last 6 months of hard adoption prep work.

But tonight for the first time I just feel like any other woman who is expecting a baby. I feel like an expectant mom.

It's not an intellectual thing.

I'm not thinking, "Oh, I'm going to be a mom."

It's a feeling that comes from deep inside my core and radiates out to my fingers, my toes and even my hair.

Wow. I'm going to be a mom.

And I'm not scared or nervous or panicked or anything in this moment.

Just happy.

14 December 2009

Annabel comes home...

Yesterday's tree trim...

Chris runs out to get the tree and I run out to do a few errands before I start to feel too pooped out from The Cold That Will Not Let Go.

Upon my return to the house I find that Chris already has the tree set up, watered and is in the process of putting on the lights. It's a really good looking tree. Smells wonderful.

A short time later while I'm bustling around the kitchen, Chris wanders over to the kitchen table and lifts up a maroon gift bag that I hadn't noticed sitting among the clutter of the table. He says slowly and gently, "While I was out getting the tree, I brought Annabel home."

I think that I may utter a little, "Oh."

I look inside the bag to see a smooth wooden box.

The box containing Annabel's ashes.

Immediately I burst into tears.

Chris is crying, too.

We cry together for a while and then take the box out of the bag. In the bag is also a card from "Final Gift" - the company that performed the cremation. The card contains a nice poem inside and a certificate stating that the ashes in the box are certified to be Annabel's.

We cry again for a few minutes. Chris holds me while I babble about not being able to bring myself to pick up Annabel's ashes for the last few weeks. He soothes me and says, "I know. I broke down in my car in the parking lot after I got her ashes."

After a while there isn't much else to say so I return to some half-hearted bustling around the kitchen. Chris disappears into the basement and returns with a package for me.

My ornament.

Every year on tree trim day Chris and I give each other a new ornament.

I've been so sick over the last week that I never got Chris his ornament and as I stand there looking at the package, I feel terrible.

"I didn't get you an ornament yet," I say to Chris. "I feel terrible. I suck as a wife."

"It's OK, " Chris replies, "you've still got two weeks left til Christmas."

Chris had been in New York this last week at a seminar and so I assume as I open this year's ornament that he has gotten me some art ornament from the Met.

He got me Annabel.

There she is - in her bowl - looking cheerful on both sides of a porcelain ornament.

Immediately I burst into tears again.

So does Chris.

We hold each other for a while and then I finally break away to ask, "Where did you get this?"

"I found a company on-line that does them. I think the colors are a little washed out."

"No. It's perfect."

And so there she is now looking out from the top front of our lovely Christmas tree.

It was a really lovely and wonderful tree trim yesterday. Chris describes it perfectly in this post.

But it was a little strange, too. No Annabel sitting on the couch diving into the tissue papers we throw there as we unwrap the ornaments. No "mrow!" and purr this year.

Oh sure - Forest "supervised" the whole tree trim from the chair next to the tree. Well, actually she mostly snoozed through tree trim occasionally waking to stretch and receive a good scratch or two from Chris or me.

Cecil, of course, would venture into the living room from time to time only to run away in utter terror at all of the strange activity going on...the music, the rustling of the tissue paper, the tall strange green thing in the middle of her living room. It was just too much for her delicate sensibilities.

No, Annabel was really the only one of our three cats who truly appreciated and got into the spirit of tree trim.

So now she'll supervise and enjoy from her spot on the tree.

I know that next year I'll probably burst into tears again when Annabel's ornament comes out of its package, but I know that I'll be happy to have her be part of Christmas again and show her to Schmoopie.

Welcome home Annabel.

13 December 2009

Say "Cheeeeeeese"...part 2

So we're at a standstill with the adoption because of the photo situation.

We apparently didn't say "cheeeeese" in the "correct" way.


We sent the adoption facilitators the photos we liked and thought would be best for our profile and got several rather firm e-mails in response saying essentially, "Some great photos, but not everything that we need." Our adoption facilitators will not budge on this issue.

Chris e-mailed several times trying to get them to budge.

No go.

If we e-mail again it'll just turning into a pissing contest.

So while Chris was at the grocery store last night I spent time looking at the various profiles on the adoption facilitators' website.

Essentially many of the couples' close-up photos look exactly the same - sweet and gooey and super posed.


This is what we have to do?


So, today we need to take more photos. And since we're planning to do "tree trim" today it's at least a good day to take some fun photos of us actually doing something that we like to do.

And - as much as we hate the idea - we'll have to get out the tripod and take some gooey "couple-y" photos of us looking adoringly at each other.


Not that I don't adore Chris...because I do. But the idea that an expectant mother will somehow only see our love for each other or my adoration for Chris via a photo of me making goo-goo eyes at him...It's just so stupid.

If you really want to see how Chris and I are together - check out or wedding photos. There are certainly some gooey ones, but the best photos show us just when we're being silly. In fact, my very favorite photo is of Chris kissing me on the cheek while I have my tongue stuck out at the camera. It's actually one of a three-photo series where we're just totally goofing around. I think that my grandmother was horrified to see that particular series featured in our wedding album, but anyone who knows us thought they were great and pretty much reflects us as a couple.

So today - in spite of me still having a cold and feeling kind of on the crappy side - we are going to take more photos. We are intelligent, fun and creative people and we will NOT be defeated by this photo process!!

Besides, if the adoption doesn't move forward again and very soon...I'm pretty certain that my wonderful husband's head will explode. He is NOT a happy camper. And when he's not happy... nobody's happy.

So....say "cheeeeeeeeese"


07 December 2009

Sharing...part 3

Well, it happened.

I made it through whole week of not sharing the common cold.

I did everything right - hand washing, utilizing hand sanitizer, using paper towels to open doors, kept myself hydrated, blah, blah, blah.

And I STILL managed to get Chris' d@#$ nasty whopper of a cold.

Obviously I got careless somewhere.

And a germ made its way through my defenses.


05 December 2009

Forest and Cecil...

I awake this morning thinking that it's maybe 7:30 or 8:00.

I'm surprised when my little alarm clock reads 10:00. So surprised that I get out of bed to check the clock in the kitchen.

Yup. 10:00 a.m.

How did I sleep so late?

And then it hits me...

No Grey Bullet to wake me.

Annabel kept us all on schedule. Her insistent "Mrow! Mrow! Mrow!" at 7:00 a.m.on Saturday and Sunday mornings got us out of bed. Now, more often than not we'd feed Annabel and the other cats and then head back to bed to catch a few more z's, but at least we were up and had the option of starting the day early.

Not so much anymore.

Our other kitties are content to wait until one of us rolls out of bed to feed them breakfast.

Cecil is, in fact, quite ecstatic most weekend mornings to have a long "lie in" with Chris. She snuggles under the covers with him and would be just thrilled to stay there all day if he chose not to get up out of bed.

Our Cecil is not what one would call "a morning person." She is more times than not quite grumpy about having to get out of her warm comfortable bed to have her breakfast. Her tail swishes violently back and forth to indicate her displeasure as she slowly makes her way from the bed to the chilly kitchen all the while casting me a baleful look with her intense blue eyes.

It really is amazing that Cecil is as chunky as she is with her attitude towards her morning feedings.

There are people who say that cats have no personalities.

"I like dogs. They have personalities. Cats just don't."

Obviously the people who make these kinds of statements have never lived with a cat.

I described Annabel's amazing personality in a previous post, but I'm ashamed to admit that I have not done Cecil and Forest any justice on the blog. They really are the most amazing - and totally weird - cats.

Forest is probably the weirdest little cat I've ever met. First of all - she's funny looking. Her blue eyes are sort of small and squinty and just slightly crossed. She generally looks like she's a little worried about something. She has a half-mask with one side of her face chocolate brown and the other white. She's skinny - something that we and the vet worry about and battle against constantly with medication and as much food as we can get her to eat. Her tail - unlike her sister's - is generally held straight up in the air. And she has a loud, penetrating and harsh cry. For the most part she's a pretty happy little thing who is not so much a "lap cat" as a "leaning cat." When you're laying on the couch watching tv she likes to hop up and lean against you while you pound on her side. The harder you pound the louder she purrs.

Forest also has the distinction of having perhaps the loudest purr on the planet.


It's astounding that such a small creature can make that kind of sound. When I'm on the phone with my mom and Forest is nearby in purr mode I'll say, "Hear, listen" and hold the phone up to Forest.

My mom will laugh and say, "Oh my God!"

Aside from her phenomenally and abnormally loud purr, one of Forest's other peculiar traits is her preference for sticking her head in Chris' armpit and sometimes mine. Why? It's a mystery.

Sometimes when she's in leaning mode, she'll fold her front legs under her and just kind of stand on her head with her butt held straight up in the air. All the while purring. There are times when she'll fall asleep like that. She also very much enjoys being cradled like you would a baby.

After her morning meal, Forest generally races into the bedroom to fling herself violently on the bed. She isn't one of those cats who settles into lying down either. She just falls over on her side. Hard. And lays there purring - all the while watching us as we get ready for work. Willing us to stop gathering clothes and jewellery and instead come over and pound on her side and rub the side of her face.

Which we do.

She is so weird and wonderful.

And then there is Cecil.

The Grump.

The ChunkaMunka.

Cecil, unlike her sister Forest, is GORGEOUS. She has HUGE blue eyes that jump out from the dark chocolate mask that surrounds them. She has a large round face, very smooth fur and a black beauty mark in the white fur next to her nose.

Alas, while Cecil is most certainly the Greatest Beauty Among Felines, she is no scholar. In fact, she is Dumb as a Box of Rocks.

"Are you Dumb as a Box of Rocks?" I'll ask her while I'm petting her. This question is most often received with a blank look and a slightly louder purr.

We are certain that there is very little synaptic activity occurring in Cecil's brain. In fact, we're just as certain that she has just one active brain cell...and it ain't all that active.

Cecil's main goal in life is to be physically attached to Chris. In bed, on the couch, at the kitchen table, while he's at his computer. She doesn't care. She just wants to be in his lap.

It is when Chris is at his computer that Cecil is most miserable because the computer is getting all of his attention and Chris becomes rather annoyed with her and shoos her away. Many times she spends hours crying and doing everything possible to annoy him just to get him to pick her up again. Tearing up papers on my desk. Knocking things off of my desk and his desk. And other times she'll simply sit on my desk or in my chair if I am not occupying it staring at him with such utter longing it almost breaks your heart.


The thing that is most endearing about our Cecil is that she is so grumpy. It's become more pronounced over the years and gets funnier all of the time. Her grumpiness reveals itself in any number of ways including a myriad of Baleful Looks (she is the EXPERT at giving the Baleful Look), her incredibly expressive violently swishing tail, and her meow, which isn't so much a "meow" as a bleat. She sounds like a sheep.

And lately she has a newer sound..."Meh."


I'm not kidding.

Here's a conversation between Cecil and me:

ME [while petting her]: Are you a Grumpy Girl?

CECIL [purring]: Meh.

ME: Are you the Grumpiest Girl in the Whole World?

CECIL: Meh. [purr, purr] Meh.

ME: You are such a Grump! How did you get to be so Grumpy?

CECIL [purring more loudly]: Meh.

Too funny.

Cecil also gets the Kitty Crazies, which is pretty funny considering her normal state of total indolence.

Generally in the evenings after she has digested her evening meal the Kitty Crazies will come upon her and she will without warning: fly from the bedroom-down the hall-into the living room-up onto the chair using it as a springboard to the bay window-then turn quickly-jump back down from the chair-onto the floor-then-STOP-crouch-thrash tail-then- ZOOM back to the bedroom!!!!!



I may miss The Grey Bullet something awful, but I am so lucky that Cecil and Forest are here in my life and I can't wait to introduce the Schmoopie to the joys of cats...and eventually dogs.

Now where is that Grumpy Girl?

04 December 2009


Our house is a mess right now.

This isn't an unusual occurrence.

I am, at best, an erratic housekeeper. As I've mentioned in previous posts this is mostly because when I get done with an 8, 10 or 12 hour work day I just don't have the energy to do anything else. And on the weekends I feel the need to try to rest up as much as possible to prep for the next insane hectic work week.


It drives me crazy, but usually when it gets too out of control...or we have company coming...we take a day to get our house in shape. Luckily we have a fairly small house so most big cleaning can get done in a day or so.

Not so much for a friend of mine who is out west dealing with her mom's house. Her mom is one of those people that would be classified as a "hoarder."

This is apparently the third time in two dozen years that my friend and her siblings have had to shovel out their mom's home. It's so very sad and frustrating for my friend and her family. They've been cleaning and shoveling out stuff for almost two weeks straight and my friend reports that there is still "sooooo much more to do" before an upcoming visit from the social workers who will determine if the home is habitable and if my friend's mom can return to live there independently (with regular visits from the social worker.)

It's amazing to me that anyone could live in a home full up (and apparently my friend's mom's house was literally FULL) with that kind of chaos.

HOW can you live like that? How can you not do anything about that?

But then I look at my own house...at the kitchen table that is currently covered in various piles of mail, magazines, a slow cooker and assorted and sundry "stuff" and I realize that someone who is a very tidy housekeeper might very well look with horror at my untidy kitchen table while thinking, "HOW can you live like that? How can you not do anything about that?"


The truth is that I much prefer my house to be clean and tidy. I don't have the hoarder's need for acquisition. And I DO actually see the mess. I do also share one thing with someone who is a hoarder...I often feel overwhelmed by our stuff.

Part of me has this fantasy that once I'm working part-time and the Schmoopie is here that I will become one of those really tidy people. That I'll have the time and energy to straighten and clean with regularity. That I won't be freaked out when people drop by unexpectedly. That my house will always be spic-n-span clean.

Then I remember my 14-month old niece The Wookie....and her propensity for emptying any and all containers, bags and drawers onto the floor. It takes her just a few minutes to turn a neat and tidy room (say, for example, my sister-in-law's living room) into a Zone of Total Chaos.

Is it just possible that our little Schmoopie will be a neat and tidy little kid who has no interest in making chaos?



And so there will be different mess in our house with the arrival of the Little One...kid mess.

Ah well.

Maybe someday my house will be clean.

Perhaps I'll at least clean off the kitchen table this weekend...

Now where the heck does that slow cooker go?

03 December 2009

Name calling...

I was visiting a few blogs yesterday and was shocked (although by now I guess I shouldn't be...) at the incredible and awful name calling in them.

Name calling directed, of course, at me.

The prospective adoptive parent.

Names mostly so vicious and nasty that I can't even repeat them here.

(Apparently my earlier cry for compassion has not been heard across the blogosphere.)


Again, I guess that I shouldn't be all that surprised because we live in a world rife with name calling.

Politicians, the media, entertainment, talking heads, talk shows, blogs, etc. etc. etc.

The list goes on.

Instead of listening to each other and trying for compassion and understanding, the general attitude seems to be that you just call the person you don't agree with a nasty name...and then you move on. What a cop out.

"I don't like what you have to say. I don't agree with you. You're a jerk!"

End of discussion. Move on!

Listening to each other. Talking things through. Trying to put yourself in someone else's shoes. Agreeing to disagree. Really taking the time to let someone else express their opinions without interruption. Without argument. Without name calling. That takes time, patience and maturity.

Name calling seems to me to be the lazy person's immature way out.

I hope that we raise our child to be compassionate. To listen. To discuss. To be patient. To go against the tide of laziness and meanness to be a person of substance, maturity and the ability to see through someone else's eyes...to be kind.

So to all of those people out there who called me nasty names...

I choose not to participate in name calling.

(So there!)

02 December 2009

Sharing...part 2

Our conversation this evening...

ME (from the top of the stairs): Did you read my blog post today?

HUSBAND (calls up from his desk): No.

ME: (still from the top of the stairs): I'm an awful person.

HUSBAND: Are you going to get us in trouble with the Home Owners' Association?

ME: No. Just you.

HUSBAND: [Silence as he reads my blog post]

HUSBAND: Y'know, Lysol hurts when it gets in your eyes...

ME: [I laugh] I'm an awful person, aren't I?

HUSBAND: [long pause] Nooo...

ME: That was a really long pause before that "Nooo."

HUSBAND: [no answer. I can hear him tap-tap-tapping furiously away on his keyboard]

ME: Are you leaving me a comment?

HUSBAND: Maaayyybeee... [tap tap tap!]


Chris has a cold.

And not just a cold, but a whopper of a nasty cold.

I feel really bad for him.

Really. I do.

But, as always...I'm terrified for me.

I am the queen of the upper respiratory infection. What starts as a small cold that lasts for a few days in other people usually settles in my chest and lingers for weeks.

So I am avoiding my husband.

Because I do not want his whopper of a nasty cold.

Talking to him from a distance of six feet or more. Yesterday I even seriously contemplated spending the night at a hotel. I'm opening doors and drawers with wads of kleenex and paper towels in my hands to avoid touching germ-y surfaces.

This morning Chris is feeling a tiny bit better and is heading off to work. Before he leaves he comes over to plant a kiss on my hair and as much as I hate to admit it, my thoughts are, "Please stay away from me until you feel completely better! Don't give me this cold! Don't touch me!"

Poor guy. I know that I actually cringed when he came near me.

I love sharing things with Chris.

Really I do.

Everything except the common cold.

Needless to say...since he got sick this weekend we've both been pretty grumpy. Him because he is sick and feeling wretched and me because I am worried about becoming sick and feeling wretched and because I am not being very comforting.

Of all of the things that make me nervous about becoming a mom, sharing illness is the thing that makes me the most....squirm-y. I won't be able to NOT pick up my kid when she has a cold just because I'm terrified of catching it.

But I know that I'm going to think about not picking her up.

I'm going to cringe when she sneezes on me knowing that it's just a matter of time before I'm sick and miserable, too.

How awful is that?

The idea of me and Schmoopie being sick at the same time. Grumpy and not being able to comfort each other. Just awful.

I'll try to be a better and more comforting wife when Chris gets home today. Maybe I'll give him a hug.

And then go spray myself down with Lysol...

28 November 2009

Crazy baby...

Our 14 month-old niece (A) sounds just like a Wookie.

A is a gorgeous towhead with enormous blue eyes and a huge grin. She looks like a lovely, sweet baby that one might find in a magazine ad or a television commercial. She's that gorgeous.

And then she opens her mouth and out comes this amazing sound that one can only liken to that sound that a Wookie makes.

It's bizarre and hilarious.

Our little Wookie.

She is also DESTRUCT-O BABY.

My sister-in-law tells me that A hates to have any container full...bags, boxes, drawers...all must be emptied out onto the floor. And I have seen this in action over the last two days.

And A can't just dump things out either. She must fling all objects violently onto the floor. It's a good idea to not be sitting too closely to the baby when she is in flinging mode otherwise you might get clocked. Hard.

When A is denied access to the object or objects of her DESTRUCT-O tendencies she lets out a blood-curdling shriek combined with hands banging on the table or on my sister-in-law.

My sister-in-law (C) and mother-in-law are currently engaged in a heated, intense battle of "Terrace" and A is desperate to get to the game board and the rounded black and white pieces. My sister-in-law pushes the game board further away from the baby who shrieks and tries harded to lean forward for another go at getting her little hands on the game. C pushes the board farther away and A shrieks and shrieks and then bangs her little hands HARD on the table.

"Honey," calls my brother-in-law from the kitchen, "is she OK?"

"Yeah, she's just in one of her violent rages," says C with a wry smile.

After a bit more shrieking, my brother-in-law (G) comes in and grabs her. He takes her to the couch where he manages to distract her with lots of tickling. The distraction is short lived as A climbs down to trundle over to her mother and shriek and bang on her mother's back.

"Time for you to go night-night?" Asks C.

A scrunches up her face and lets out a little Wookie warble.

C scoops her up and says, "Say night-night to everyone" and then whisks A off to her bedroom for a mid-morning nap.

27 November 2009

The day after...

The turkey is in the fridge.

All 8 tons of it.

The desserts are all still out on the table and it's just way too easy to grab a cookie here and a macaroon there as you wander by.

I'm sitting in my brother-in-law's GIGANTIC overstuffed chair - sideways with my legs up on the arm just the way G sits in it.

Chris is downstairs getting a little quiet time.

My mother-in-law is showering.

Breakfast has already been consumed and the kitchen cleaned.

My teething 14 month-old niece is down for her post-breakfast nap after an up and down morning of crying and laughing and crying and laughing.

The dogs, exhausted from all of the activity and from 24 hours of constant hoovering up of crumbs and dropped food items have collapsed into contented heaps in the living room and kitchen.

The living room is a chaotic riot of children's toys and sippy cups in various stages of being consumed.

My 4 year-old niece is wandering around from adult to adult looking for playmates and has snagged "Rhode Island Nana" (as opposed to "New York Nana") for a game of Crazy 8s.

The day after Thanksgiving.


And to think...next year there will likely be another Little One adding to the chaos and the fun.

25 November 2009

The Macaroon Lady...

I'm in Macaroon Hell.

No, not really.

My fourth batch of coconut macaroons is baking away.

The first two batches - chocolate covered - are setting up in the fridge.

The whole house smells of coconut and vanilla. It's rather intoxicating.

I'm not much of a cook...mainly because I've never really had the time or inclination, but I do love to bake and I have a modicum of talent with flour, butter, sugar, chocolate and the other fattening yummy ingredients that one makes into sweet treats.

My sister-in-law C put in a request for coconut macaroons for the Thanksgiving holiday. In honor of Babci (Chris' and C's maternal grandmother) who passed away in April.

Babci always made macaroons for family occasions - knowing how much I liked them. She would always grab my arm to pull me down and whisper in my ear, "I made these just for you."

Knowing how much C also loves macaroons, I can't help but wonder now if at the same family gatherings that Babci pulled C aside to tell her the very same thing.

If she did, it doesn't matter. To Babci food equaled love and I am more than happy to have shared that deep, sweet macaroon love with my sister-in-law or anyone else for that matter.

It's going to be strange to celebrate Thanksgiving this year without Babci. We're heading to a "new venue" this year...my sister-in-law's house in NY. None of us could really bear the thought of being in our usual venue at my mother-in-law's house. It would have been just too hard to see Babci's rocking chair without her in it.

She will be missed.

But we can't have Thanksgiving without her coconut macaroons.

And so I think that I may have become the family's Macaroon Lady. Certainly not a replacement for Babci. I could NEVER fill those shoes! However, I am more than happy to keep the family in macaroons and love.

Here's to you Babci. Happy Thanksgiving. We love you.


I have never really been one of those "I'm thankful for..." kind of people around the Thanksgiving holiday. In truth, even though I can be a very emotional and sappy kind of gal, I always found the whole "I'm thankful for..." exercise at the Thanksgiving dinner table - well - just a bit hokey.

I suppose until this year I took the Thanksgiving holiday and my life a bit for granted.

Thanksgiving was always just about getting together for a crazy big sumptuous meal and a day of family fun (and/or family drama...)

But in this difficult year when there has been so much turmoil, so much sadness and uncertainty, when so much has happened in our family...
  • The loss of Chris' maternal grandmother - Babci.
  • My mother-in-law coping with breast cancer, chemo, surgery, radiation therapy and the loss of her mother all in the same year.
  • My father dealing with a second and much worse melanoma, surgery and a difficult recovery with complications that no one expected.
  • Our youngest cousin who has a degenerative condition coping with numerous and lengthy hospital stays and the matching with and then devastating separation from her service dog
  • The loss of one of the beloved family dogs - Maggie - just a few months ago.
  • Annabel being taken so suddenly from us.
...I'm not taking anything for granted anymore.

I am going to say out loud and clear and to whoever might listen...




I am thankful for ALL that I have in my life...
  • Wonderful husband who I adore
  • Amazing family - both biological and the one into which I married
  • Lovely and supportive friends all over the world
  • The opportunity and ability to adopt and expand our family by a Little One
  • Beautiful and loving pets
  • Nice home and lovely, safe community in which to live
  • Job with caring and wonderful colleagues and enough income to go beyond having just the basic necessities to be able to live comfortably
  • Our health (knock on wood)
  • Love and laughter and joy
Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

24 November 2009

Is she really gone?

I can't seem to erase Annabel's pill schedule.

It's still on the little white dry ease board on the fridge.

On Sunday when I was cleaning the kitchen I just couldn't keep looking at Annabel's Bowl sitting empty on our dining table. So away it went into the storage room.

But I just can't seem to bring myself to erase her schedule. I tried to do it yesterday and ended up in a heap of sobbing tears leaning against the fridge. I finally just had to walk away to do something else.

It's like somehow if I do it...

I'll be admitting that she's really and truly gone.

I have to pick up Annabel's ashes today on my way home from work.

Maybe afterwards...

22 November 2009

Liar, liar...

pants on fire!

I did not get out of the house today to run errands as I said I would in my last post.

I sat on the couch all day and wallowed in my grief.


Now am getting off my ass to clean the kitchen (which desperately needs cleaning.)

And to bake.

Years ago, when I was very depressed and when I discovered that I had some small talent with sugar, flour and butter, I would spend many of my "down days" perfecting my toll house cookies, attempting to re-create my Grandma Yetta's chocolate chip cookie recipe (never written down anywhere and yet to be re-created) or baking the infamous Flora's Apple Cake (infamous because of its amazing richness and fat content and the fact that it is humanly IMPOSSIBLE to eat just one slice.)

The problem with baking when you're depressed is that you tend to eat the fruits of your labor.

We'll see if I can manage to refrain from downing 3 dozen chocolate chip cookies later this evening.

Wish me luck.

I'm still really sad.

But I just can't sit around anymore.


Forest is sound asleep in her chair just a few feet away from where I am on the couch.

She dreams a lot and as a result of her dreams she twitches and makes numerous funny noises - little snorts, sighs and just a second ago - a long, low growl.

She makes me laugh.

I'm so glad that she and Cecil are here because their goofy and wonderful presence helps with the pain of losing Annabel.

It's been such a strange couple of days without Annabel.

I wake this morning to see the valley between my pillow and Chris' pillow empty. No warm, purring grey body there to pet and adore.

So strange.

Yesterday...I spend the morning writing my long post, weeping and weeping some more, and talking on the phone to so many of my very kind friends and family who are so sympathetic.

Finally, after a while I say to Chris, "I can't do this anymore. Could we just get out of here and go see a movie?"

Just to sit in a dark theater with theater treats and people who don't know anything about my grief. Just to have two hours where I don't have to hurt and ache.

And so after Chris does some yard work we head to the movies.

I feel awful saying it, but it is such a huge relief to be away from the house. To be somewhere where I don't have to be in the moment of my pain and grief. To ignore it completely. To laugh just a bit. To not think at all about the loss of the best kitty.

Sweet relief.

After the movie we run some errands and then head home.

Back to the sadness.

I sit on the couch last night flipping aimlessly through the channels. That there is no little grey body curled up in my lap is too painfully obvious. I look over to see Cecil hanging out in my office chair waiting for Chris to notice her. Knowing that my husband is deeply involved in whatever is on his computer and that he will not be noticing Cecil anytime soon, I call her over to me.

Cecil is not accustomed to being called over. There is always someone else in my lap.

Not anymore.

And so I call her, "Cecil. Come here, Sweetie!" and follow my call with the little kissing sounds that seem so universally alluring to all cats.

She jumps off my chair and comes trotting over to me, tail straight up in the air and looking very excited.

When she gets to the couch she looks at my lap and is obviously surprised to find it empty.

"Come on," I say patting my thighs. "There's no one up here. You can come up. Come on..."

And she does. She begins purring immediately and demanding that I pet her. It takes her 23 minutes before she'll actually lay down and get comfortable. Even then, when I stop petting her she finds my hand starts with the licking to get me to continue with my ministrations.

Later, it seems as if she is sound asleep, but when Chris gets out of his chair to go upstairs Cecil shoots off my lap like she has a rocket in her butt.

"Oh, fine," I call after her, "just leave me."

And she does - racing up the stairs after Chris so excited that he is no longer paying attention to his computer and may instead pay attention to her.

I can't be mad really.

Chris is Cecil's Person.

I'm someone who adores Cecil and she knows that, but Chris is Her Person.

Just as I was Annabel's Person.

I'm heading out today. Out of the house to run errands for the day. Away from the phone and the computer. Away from sitting around in my sadness and grief.

I'm coping.

But - I must admit - not very well.

20 November 2009


Annabel arrives in my life on a warm Saturday morning in early September in 1990.

I am the weekend receptionist for veterinarian Dr. Crenshaw. It's actually a quiet Saturday with relatively few appointments. One of Dr. Crenshaw's clients calls.

"Hi, this is Mrs. X," she says.

"Hi, Mrs. X. What can we do for you?"

"Well, there's a cat that's been living in our garage. My husband wouldn't let me bring her into the house."

Mrs. X's husband won't let Mrs. X bring the cat into the house because the X household is already full up with three dogs, four cats and a guinea pig.

"The cat had two kittens a few weeks ago and she was killed by a car last night. I want to bring the kittens inside, but my husband will kill me. I'm not sure what to do with these kittens."

"You can just bring them right to the Humane Society shelter. Somebody should adopt them quickly there," I reply and provide her the address.

Dr. Crenshaw's veterinary clinic is considerably closer to Mrs. X's home than the Human Society shelter and she arrives not ten minutes later with a very small box containing two very tiny kittens - one all grey and the other a grey tiger striped kitty, both mewling furiously and covered in fleas.

Mrs. X sprints out the door before I can say anything.

One of the vet techs and I give the tiny creatures flea baths after we close up shop. They squeak and cry piteously as they endure getting wet.

We have no overnight weekend stays and so no one will be coming in on Sunday. The little kitties can't stay in the clinic until Monday without someone coming to check on them.

"I can't take them," says the tech to me. "My dog will think that I've brought him a lovely snack."

I look at the two wet squally kitties and say, "OK, well I can take them for a few nights."

Notice that it doesn't occur to me to take them to the Humane Society?

By the time I arrive at home the two kitties are dry, warm and very sleepy. I lay down on my couch, turn on the TV and the kitties curl up underneath my chin for a long nap full of purring and just a little bit of kitten drool.

We are all content.

I decide then and there that I'll "keep just one of them" and take the other to the Humane Society on Monday.

How to decide which to keep?

Francis is clingy and needy, always wanting to be with me and mewling pitifully when I'm not willing to hold him.

Annabel is much more independent. The Adventurer.

It is Annabel who figures out how to open the glass fronted built-in cabinet doors and climb inside with my cookbooks. It's Annabel who is the first to explore my apartment. And Annabel who figures out (and quickly learns never to do so again) how to pull the shower lever to turn on the shower...while she and Francis are in the tub.

How to decide which to keep?

Francis - the tiger kitty - stays with me for nine years until he becomes very ill and has to be euthanized in 1999.

Annabel lives with me to the ripe old age of 19 years and 4 months...until yesterday when Chris and I have to say goodbye to her at the Bay State Emergency Veterinary Clinic.

Until yesterday the saying in our house was always, "It's all about Annabel."

Not because she is a demanding and terrible and cranky and grumpy (a little like our Cecil), but because she is so sweet and lovely and loving and funny.

Everyone who meets her falls in love with Annabel.

Even our friend D who is a confirmed Dog Guy and just as confirmed Not A Cat Guy seemed to think she Annabel was pretty OK...

For a cat.

Annabel fell in love with D on his first visit to our house. When he would come for game nights here at our house, Annabel would make a beeline for his lap. D is very tall and has very long legs and Annabel seemed to take great joy in stretching out to her full length along his thighs. She would close her eyes and purr contentedly.

D even gave her a little scratch or two.

"She's all right," D would say.

Part of Annabel's charm was the way she would talk to everyone. Little chirps and meows. As she grew older, her gentle "meow" turned into a louder and more insistent "Mrow!!"

Still charming.

When Francis was alive, Annabel was a very quiet cat. Francis did all of the talking for the two of them. He meowed often, though not loudly. For a 20+ pound cat, Francis sounded for all the world like a teeny tiny kitten. Francis liked to be the center of my world. He spent as much time in my lap as possible and talking to me as much as possible.

Annabel took whatever of my attention she could get when Francis wasn't monopolizing me.

After Francis was gone it took about a month for Annabel to fully realize that he was not coming back and that she had me all to herself. She would wander around my apartment searching for Francis all the while shooting me puzzled looks about his continued absence.

At the end of a month, Annabel discovered her voice.

With Francis no longer there doing all of the talking, Annabel realized that she had something to say. Nine years' worth of Annabel's silence came to a crashing and loud end. She began chirping and meowing and chatting...all of what she had to say that she had kept to herself came tumbling out and never stopped.

At the end of that same month Annabel discovered my lap and spent the next ten years there whenever I sat or lay down on the couch.

Often when I'm downstairs watching TV or in the living room reading a book, I'll look down and there will be Annabel sacked out in my lap.

"How long have you been there?" I'll ask.

When she wasn't in my lap, Annabel could usually be found in her bowl.

"Her 'bowl'?" you ask.

Chris' aunt and uncle gave us a beautiful ceramic bowl as a wedding present. It has sat on our dining table since we were married. And when we moved to this house five years ago, Annabel claimed the bowl as her own. It was just the right size for her to curl up in it to relax or sleep.

Annabel's Bowl.

We have some great photos of Annabel in her Bowl.

The only "person" who didn't like Annabel is Forest.

When I met Forest in 2000, she was a very shy little kitty. Prone to hiding for hours at a time behind the couch when a new person came to visit Chris' apartment.

However, it didn't take long for Forest to recognize me as a cat person and when I would come to visit she would leap onto Chris' kitchen table, tail straight up in the air, purring like mad and wanting my attention. We became fast friends.

And then came Annabel.

Chris and I kept our cats separated for the first week that we all lived together in our rented house in Newport. Annabel stayed in the guest room while Forest and Cecil stayed in our office. We let them all out at separate times so they could get used to each other's smells and the new house. After a week, we let them all meet face to face.

There was no fighting, but it became evident that Forest felt little but contempt and dislike for the Grey Intruder.

And it became just as evident that Forest had some kind of personality transplant as a result of Annabel's arrival in her life.

Forest became the House Bad Ass.

She did a 180 and turned into a confident, outgoing and assertive cat...directing most of that assertiveness at a very perplexed Annabel.

In almost ten years' time, Forest never came to accept Annabel, who made the very occasional and very unsuccessful attempt to befriend Forest, but there was never any true cat fighting. They pretty much left each other alone except for some occasional hissing and batting at each other when they came upon one other unexpectedly.

Everyone else loved Annabel.

"She's SO beautiful!" people would exclaim upon first meeting Annabel.

As much as I loved her and thought she was the most wonderful creature on the planet (sorry, Chris), I never thought of her as "SO beautiful!" She was grey - sleek and shiny for most of her life - with yellow eyes. Pretty, certainly, but beautiful? I guess she was. It's wonderful that others thought so.

And not only would people be amazed by her beauty, but they would be charmed by her friendliness and her desire to get to know them. She was like a little dog in a cat disguise - always wanting to be around the action and with the people visiting our house. Wanting to hang out with everyone.

Annabel was also the Queen of the "Head Butt."

She would gently head butt visitors with her forehead to get their attention.

And she would certainly head butt us.

Chris and I would be sitting at the dining table talking at the end of a work day and Annabel would come to each of us in turn to head butt our shoulders or chins or hands. A "head butt" that clearly said, "Hello. I missed you today. I love you. You can feel free to give me some attention now."

Occasionally Annabel would sometimes employ the Head Butt to wake us up in the mornings. Unfortunately, she more often then not chose to employ a much more vigorous head butt right to Chris' or my forehead.


"Ow," we would say, "Annabel, you have a very hard head."

"Mrow!" she would reply.

And then do it again.


Annabel liked to join us at the dinner table. Chris sat at the head of the table. I sat at Chris' right and Annabel sat at his left on the dining bench, her little head just peeking up over the edge of the table.

Our other cats might wander around under the table hoping for the odd scrap, but Annabel firmly believed that she belonged at the dinner table with us.

(That Chris quite often hand fed her little pieces of bacon, steak, meatloaf or chicken pretty much reinforced her inclination to join us for dinner.)

Annabel's habit of joining us at the dinner table extended to those times that we invited other folks to over for dinner. We'd be just starting our meal when whoever was sitting on the bench would get a lovely surprise - little Annabel popping up between them to join us for the meal.

When it came to kitty food, as Annabel grew older she became something of a picky eater... enjoying one brand and flavor canned food for a week or two and then turning her nose up at it. As a result of suffering from IBD (Inflammatory Bowel Disease), Annabel not only got canned food, but organic, gluten-free, chemical-free, meat-by-product-free canned food.

Basically - food that cost a small fortune.

But, of course, she was worth it.

Up until the last few weeks of her life, she loved to play. Chris keeps a laser pointer on his bedside table for just that purpose.

The Laser.

Annabel's favorite toy.

When she was in really fine form, she'd run into the bedroom, leap on the bed and wait for one of us. Then she'd look at Chris' bedside stand and then at us. And then at Chris' bedside stand and then at us.

"You want to play with The Laser?"


And out would come The Laser...that infuriating little red dot that she could never quite seem to capture, but which she took great delight in trying to do so for almost ten years. Round and round and round in circles on the floor she'd go! Up onto the bed and round in circles there! And back to the floor! And jumping up on the wall!

Damn red dot!

Her sides would heave from the exertion, but her eyes would alight with wild kitty joy at the chase.

She had her thousands of calm and cute times, too.

"Are you the best kitty in the whole world?" I would ask her quietly as she lay on the bed. She would look up at me, roll onto her side and do that wonderful looooooonnnnggggg kitty stretch to let me pet her belly.

She was just charming and sweet.

And funny and loving.

And goofy.

And loud.

And I can't believe that she's gone.

As I write this post, it seems so wrong to be referring to her in the past tense.

So very wrong.

She's Annabel.

She's going to live forever, isn't she?

But, no...

And now I won't hear her funny "Mrow!!" when I walk into the house at night. Or look down and notice that she's in my lap and that I've been unconsciously petting her as I always do. Or be able to pet her in the middle of the night when I wake up to find her still nestled into the valley between my pillow and Chris' pillow. Or listen to her funny little purr - the soft purr that used to slip out gently through her nose. Or see her curled up in her bowl sleeping the deepest of kitty sleep. Or watch her little body tremble with excitement as I pull The Laser from Chris' nightstand. Or say, "Annabel, you're killin' me!" when she turns up her nose at her food and then joyfully gobbles down the third flavor that I present to her. Or have her company in the guest room when I have insomnia at 1:17 a.m. Or watch her greet all of our guests and select which lap she'd like to be in for the evening. Or watch her investigate the tool box of the furnace guy when he comes to do the yearly maintenance and then go to make friends with the furnace guy. Or enjoy watching her sit by the open front door in the summer. Or call to her "Annabel! We're down here!" when she's howling for us from the top of the stairs. Or see her appear groggy and rumpled from a long nap in the guest room. Or wonder at her choice to sit on the very corner of our dining table. Or say, "Annabel, you are very opaque" during those times that she would get off my lap and hop onto the coffee table for a good stretch right in front of the tv screen. Or laugh at her when she would play in her water dish or demand to drink water from the bathroom tap and accidentally snort some water up her nose. Or laugh at the way she would lick sour cream off of the spoon that Chris offered her and come away with sour cream all over her face and whiskers. Or talk to her when I'm feeling sad and have her head butt my chin in response and know that somehow everything is going to be OK. Or comment, "Annabel with those crazy long whiskers!" Or say to her, "Annabel, OK. I'm coming," as she would "Mrow! Mrow! Mrow!" for her breakfast early on a Saturday morning. Or laugh hysterically at her as she dives into the piles of tissue paper on the couch at Christmas time as we trim the tree. Or be able to scratch that favorite spot right behind her ears...the spot that makes her close her eyes and tip her head to the side for more, more, more. Or be able to ask her over and over and mean it, "Who's the best kitty in the whole world? Hmmm? Is that you? Who's the very best kitty in the whole world?"

Or see and experience and enjoy and share any of the other million and seven hundred little things that made Annabel who she was - the most special cat ever.

I'm so sad right now. Crying as I write these words and trying to figure out how to move through this tremendous grief I'm experiencing. Trying to figure out how I'm going to go through life without her.

Being with her right until the very last moment of her life after having been with her since she was 4 weeks old...Watching her take her very last breath was one of the hardest things that I've ever had to do. But I'm so glad that Chris and I were there to love her and and pet her and talk to her and adore her until the very end.

A number of people with whom I spoke yesterday said that she was such a lucky cat to have had me, but the truth is that I'm the lucky one.

I'm the very luckiest person in the world because somehow that little bundle of furry sparkling wonderfulness ended up in my life for so very long. I didn't always deserve her, but I always loved and adored her.

She will be missed.


For the rest of my life.

Miss Annabel.

The Grey Bullet.


19 November 2009

"Outing" myself...

I'm flipping through the channels last evening after a long day at work.

Chris is at his computer.

I hear a chuckle from across the room.

"What are you laughing at?" I ask.

"I'm reading your post - 'The yuck factor...' I like it," he replies and returns to reading.

"Really? You like it?"

"Yeah. It's REALLY good."

I can feel myself blushing and glowing at my husband's praise.

Chris is a great writer. He's fast, talented, funny, and I truly admire all of his work...So when he reads my work and compliments it...well, let's just say that I turn into a great big dork with a ridiculously huge goofy grin on my face.

So I wake up this morning still basking the glow of his compliment, feeling the urge to write and then I realize...


What am I going to write about?

No great adoption revelations yesterday. And no new news on the adoption front either since we just mailed off the last of the stuff (and may I add that it feels really weird to come home each day and NOT have adoption stuff to do...)

So I find myself writing not about adoption, but instead about my writing.

How stupid is that?

Vanity, thy name is Jennifer!

But it's true.

I've kept a journal for more than half my life. Writing, writing, writing all of the time my deepest, darkest thoughts and my not-so-dark thoughts as well. And then along comes the Internet and my discovery of the world of blogging and suddenly...

My inner writer wants OUT.

Oh no.

Oh dear.

No more keeping my thoughts and incredibly keen and clever insights all to myself.

My inner writer wants someone ELSE to read my words! Wants to affect others - to make them laugh, cry, think, reflect, react, and - dare I even admit it? - to have others say about me, "Wow, she's a great writer."

The ultimate compliment.

"She's a great writer."

It almost makes me swoon to think about getting that kind of praise.

The other day one of my colleagues said in passing, "I just love the stuff you write. I keep wanting to comment, but I don't know how. I'll have to figure that out."

Her compliment keeps me glowing for the rest of the day.

And, of course, the inner writer in me shrieks, "Go show her how to leave a comment so she can compliment your work right on the blog!"


Just awful.

When did I become this crazy vain person?

This writer?

Have I always been this way???


So here I am in my little corner of the blogging world. I write about whatever I want, whenever I want. There is a great amount of satisfaction in seeing my words posted online for the world to see and an even greater amount of joy in the process of creating each post for folks to read if they choose.

I even have a few followers (Thank you! Oh, thank you!)

Am I a great writer? I don't know (and, no, I'm not looking for compliments - seriously...), but I do know that I love writing.

So, the next time that Chris compliments my work...well, as much as I'll try not to do it, I just know that I will once again turn into a huge grinning blob of happiness.


Just awful

Feel free to leave a compliment - er - I mean - a comment...

18 November 2009

The "yuck" factor...

OK, I admit it.

I'm a lemming.

I've now joined the legions of other lemmings who went over the cliff to follow McDreamy and Meredith along their improbable romantic journey on Grey's Anatomy.

I'm not a rabid lemming because I'm several seasons behind having only just gotten caught up in the Meredith/McDreamy saga in re-runs on whatever channel happens to be channel 40 in my viewing area and whenever I happen to be home to catch an episode or two.

The episode I watched last night left me feeling sort of....well, "yuck" if you must know.

It turns out that Dr. Izzy has a daughter that she gave up for adoption.




That's not the "yuck" factor.

I imagine that there are many Izzy-s out there - successful women who have children that they are not parenting - children that are being raised by others.

The "yuck" factor in the storyline is that the GA writers opt to tell Izzy's adoption story via every bad adoption cliché they could think of - Izzy grew up poor, in a trailer park (no!), had uneducated parents, got herself pregnant at 16 (really???) but knew that a baby would screw up any chance of her ever getting away from her trailer trash life, etc. etc. etc.

Could the writers have gone for any more awful clichés about a woman who pursues adoption for her child? Could they have been any less thoughtful in their presentation of what adoption looks like?

Please don't get me wrong - I'm sure that that there really are those stories out there. I certainly don't want to bash any young woman who chooses to put up her child for adoption because she is certain that she doesn't have the resources to care for her child and wants to make a better life for herself and her child.

But what makes Izzy's storyline so yucky is that people who are not involved in adoption just assume that children who are placed for adoption only come from the kind of situation the GA writers describe...when the reality is that there are so many situations that involve adoption - much more so than just "young poor girl gets pregnant."

The GA episode takes an even yuckier turn when Izzy counsels (in a very heavy-handed way) a 16 year-old pregnant girl in her care to give up her baby for adoption.

"You're smart," Izzy says to the girl, "You read Shakespeare to your baby now, but after you've worked a 12-hour shift at the truck stop you won't be reading Shakespeare to your baby then."


Now if I'm honest I can and will admit that I am of the opinion that a 16 year-old girl is likely not going to be well equipped or have the resources to adequately parent a child. However, I will also admit that I could be wrong and that that may not necessarily always be the case. Perhaps there are young women out there who - with support - could make a good life for themselves and their children. Not many, but maybe.

The way Izzy swoops in to counsel the young girl in the GA episode... It reminded me of everything that's wrong with adoption today - some well-meaning person telling - not asking but telling - a girl or woman what she should do and what's best for her and her baby. The well-meaning person assuming that he/she knows better and knows what's best.

In the episode the 16 year-old girl's mother is furious with Izzy for trying to convince the girl to give up her baby. The girl's mother wants to help parent the child. Izzy pretty much lays the same "You're daughter is smart" line on the mother and then storms away without waiting to hear what the girl's mother has to say.

Did it ever occur to Izzy (or to the GA writers for that matter) to ASK the girl and her mother about their parenting plan? Or to consider the fact that the mother of this 16 year-old girl wanted to be there to help parent her grandchild?

To go beyond the assumption.

This may sound strange coming from a me - a woman who is preparing to adopt.

But it isn't.

I would very much like to know that the girl or woman who is preparing to give up her child to me - whatever her age, race, socioeconomic situation - has been presented with and has considered ALL of her options. That she is making the most informed decision she can. That she isn't being pressured or coerced into adoption. If she wants to parent and has family that are willing to support her and help parent her child, who am I or anyone else to to say that she would be better off giving up her child for adoption?

Grey's Anatomy is a ridiculous show...over the top and heavy-handed in just about all of its storylines. It's not like I expect anything more than mindless entertainment when I fall off the cliff to watch it, but it would have been nice if the writers could have just this once seen beyond the cliché...gone beyond the assumption.

17 November 2009

Follow up...

I'm finding it hard to write after my last very long post.

How do I follow up on that?

Part of me wanted to write something very light-hearted, witty and amusing, but I'm not in that frame of mind at the moment.

Still feeling kind of pensive.

And tired.

All of the emotion of the last few days combined with the intensity of my job has left me feeling worn out... (so, it's a good thing that I'm awake and blogging at 11:26 p.m. on a work night...) There are still thoughts rattling around in my brain about compassion and adoption, but now that I am actually setting fingers to clackering away at my keyboard, I find myself too tired to organize my thoughts into any semblance of coherence. As my old camp friend Lisa W. used to say every morning as we dragged ourselves into the Lodge for a few minutes of peace without our campers, "Lord, I am dragging ass today!"

So, I will save my ramblings for another evening when I am feeling a bit more energetic.

Before I go, just want to take a moment to thank Kathryn, Anonymous, Amanda and Dawn for your lovely comments on the "Compassion..." post.


15 November 2009


com·pas·sion (noun)
sympathy for the suffering of others, often including a desire to help

We're now in the waiting stage. Chris just mailed off the very last batch of adoption "stuff" on Friday. The adoption facilitators will take the next few weeks to assemble our various electronic and print profiles. Once those are done, we wait for an expectant mother to choose us and the we proceed from there.

So, shouldn't I be over the moon with excitement and anticipation right about now?


Strangely, what I find myself feeling instead is...pensive.

Kind and very well-meaning friends say things to me like, "Wow! So that means that your baby is already getting ready to be born soon!"

Yes, this is true. Amazing and true.

But it also means that there is an expectant mother out there who is struggling under the weight of making the decision to give up her child to me.

She is suffering and that troubles me.

Maybe she is poor and feels she just doesn't have the resources to raise this child. Or maybe she already has other children and feels that the addition of this child to her family would be just too overwhelming for her. Maybe she is very young and doesn't feel ready for motherhood. Maybe she isn't young, but still doesn't feel ready for motherhood.




Regardless of what brought her to this point, she is thinking about putting her child up for adoption and I can only imagine what is happening in this woman's mind and heavy heart.

A number of people have said that they worry that I'm thinking way too much about the "birthmother" who is "making her own choice" and that I should just focus on becoming a mother myself.

But, tell me, honestly how can I do that? How can I NOT think about the suffering of this expectant mother?

Is it right for me to just set aside her feelings in favor of my own?


The adoption industry pretty much sells the idea that "birthmothers" (goodness, how I dislike that term) leave the adoption process and after a few years just "move on" with their lives and get over it.

But I don't believe that.

What woman could spend 9 months with a child growing inside of her and just walk away from that child and "move on"?

There must be grief - a lifelong grief that any woman would experience at having handed over her child to strangers to raise.

Shouldn't I have compassion for her?

Just as somehow she has enough compassion for me to give me the most precious thing she has - her child?

I think about it this way...

What if my sister had to give up a child for adoption?

What if it was my sister-in-law?

Or any of my friends or colleagues?

Wouldn't I want the adoption industry and the adoptive parents to look out for my sister or my sister-in-law or my friend or colleague?

To be compassionate with her and to treat her like a human being who is fragile and has feelings and who is suffering as a result of having to make this decision?


And so I think about this woman who is out there right now struggling to make this decision for herself, for her child and, ultimately for Chris and me. I am thinking of this woman who is the mother of the child that Chris and I will eventually raise. This woman who is someone's sister, someone's friend, someone's daughter and who will soon be related to me and my family because Chris and I will be raising her child.

So I would like to be compassionate, but to also move beyond compassion to action.

As strange as it may sound to others, I believe that this woman should have the opportunity to know her child and not to be left to a lifetime of wondering and grieving. And that this child that will become ours should have the opportunity to know her mother from the start of life - not 18 years later "in reunion" with all of its attendant life-altering disruption and confusion - to actually have a life-long relationship and to hear directly from the source the why of her adoption. I believe that our child should not be left with a lifetime of wondering about her biological mother and family.

Moving through our child's life with honesty, openness and integrity and without secrets and lies seems to me the best way that we can be a family - And very likely this means navigating new, non-traditional and possibly awkward, uncomfortable and challenging situations and relationships.

But I believe that we should do this...

Without fear of the unknown.

Without judgment.

With compassion for each other.

Will this become our reality?

I don't know. There are so many variables, but in my mind and heart I am committed to working with Chris and the mother of this child to see how we can best move forward through this adoption - for the good of everyone involved.

The world of adoption and compassion...

Based on my limited experience so far in the world of adoption - one of the things that has shocked me most is the incredible amount of judgment out there and the awful, awful lack of compassion that many women seem to have for each other...

  • Adult adoptees who are furious at their biological mothers for giving them up for adoption.
  • Adult adoptees who judge their biological mothers as selfish for walking away from them and often judge their adoptive mothers just as selfish if not more so for adopting them away from their biological families.
  • Biological mothers who rage against women struggling with infertility who pursue adoption as a means of becoming parents.
  • Biological mothers who are angry at the children who they surrendered to adoption who don't want contact as adults.
  • Biological mothers who rage against the adoption industry for its manipulativeness.
  • Adoptive mothers who are angry at the biological mothers that want more or even any contact with the children they surrendered for adoption.
  • Adoptive mothers who are angry with their adult adopted children for wanting more or even any contact with their biological families.
  • Adoptive mothers who judge biological mothers as terrible for surrendering their children to adoption.
  • The list goes on and on.

Why is it that we can't simply recognize that we ALL come to adoption from a place of deep hurt and pain?

How can I look without compassion at a woman who has been struggling for years to get pregnant and become a mother? How can I - or any woman - not feel for this woman who has been struggling with the pain of infertility?

And how can I look without compassion at a woman who gave up her child for adoption (for whatever reason!) and is suffering because she has spent her life regretting her decision and/or wondering and worrying about that child? Doesn't she deserve our compassion, too?

Or what about the adult adoptee who is battling to get her original birth certificate, to find her biological family or is in the midst of an awkward and disruptive reunion? Shouldn't we feel for her suffering?

I do, but it doesn't seem to be that way for many in this topsy-turvy world of adoption.

There is a distinct lack of compassion on all sides.

What surprises me most is not just the lack of compassion, but the downright surplus of anger and viciousness that exists out there - especially in the adoption blogging world. Women from all sides of adoption spend time villainizing, demonizing, judging, denigrating, and disparaging each other with a cruelty that dismays and saddens me to my very core.

And at the heart of this cruelty and viciousness there seems to be a sort of "my pain is greater then your pain" mantra out there in the world of adoption.


Is your pain greater than mine?

Is my pain greater than yours?

I don't think so.

Wouldn't it be better for all parties in the world of adoption if we acknowledged that we have ALL struggled in different ways? Wouldn't it be healthier if we tried supporting each other instead of tearing each other down?

I guess what bothers me most in all of this is not the "my pain is greater than your pain" thing, but the fact that quite often the women in this world seem to view each other as thoughtless, selfish creatures who are incapable of compassion or thinking of anyone beyond themselves.

How can we think that about each other?