Sunday, December 21, 2008

Happy Chanuka!

In celebration of Chanuka, I present a picture I took of my husband lighting the menora last year.

I desperately want to learn how to a) take better pictures and b) how to use PhotoShop. I probably know about 1% of what PhotoShop can do, and am very jealous of people who know how to use even 20% more than I know. I am trying to learn from people such as Pioneer Woman (warning: addictive website. It's like crack, but for people who like horses). I've downloaded her Action sets (Set 1 and Set 2), and tried a few of them on this photograph. Still not "quite there", but it's an improvement.

This is the SOOC (straight-out-of-the-camera) shot:

This is the same picture with PW's Dim The Lights action. Pretty dramatic, but maybe a little too much.

Fresh and Colorful action:

Define and Sharpen action. Good detail.

Define and Sharpen plus Quick Edge Burn. Helps get rid of the distraction of the white window frame.

I guess the last one is the best one. I *did* upload the image to Kodak*Gallery last year, did a little bit of editing, and added a dark border. I then printed it on glossy paper in an 8x10 and put it in a matte black frame. Looks pretty good...but I feel it can look better. What do you think?

Anyways, Happy Chanuka everyone!

Friday, December 19, 2008


Yeah, sorry for the cricket chirping. There's just not that much to say right now. But I felt like posting *something*.

So here we go.

We've been waiting in China for, um (wait, need to use my toes to add this up), nearly 16 months now.

I could add one of those tickers (with ladybugs! yes!) at the top of my blog, but that would not accomplish anything.

Ok, that's all I have to stay. I'm still around, living vicariously thru other blogs, working my butt off at work and at college, expanding my Face*Book presence, and mourning the loss of a couple of blogs that I read frequently.

See you around sometime.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Fashion Plate

This post (at least the beginning of it), is one that I think Mrs. Figby (now Halcyon Mama) would enjoy.

I've been trying to lose weight over the last couple of years, and have been doing so slowly, which works well for me. My scale is broken, but I've probably lost about 10 pounds since the spring. I literally had just enough work outfits to get me through one work-week during the winter last year, and didn't have a much broader selection during the spring and summer. So when I managed to get my husband and I to Sym's last March, I picked up another winter suit jacket (Anne Klein! At least 50% off!) that I could wear with my wear-three-times-a-week straight black skirt, and put it away for the cold weather in the upcoming fall and winter.

I wore the jacket for the first time yesterday. It's already a little too big and doesn't look right. I should have left the tags on and just sold it on E*B*ay.

This morning the weather report made it sound like it would be a really cold day, and I'm standing in my closet, ransacking it, looking for something not-too-warm and not-too cool. Mentally, I am not ready for sweaters. It's too early! It's not even Sukkos yet! I move clothing items around, muttering "too big, too big, too hot, too cold...". I finally grab a jacket that I've literally worn for about 10 years off and on, depending on my size, and match it with the ever-present straight black skirt. Exciting stuff, I tell you. This jacket is also a little too big for me, but looks o.k. with the appropriate, ahem, foundation garment.

It's getting late at this point, so I rummage through my drawer for my other winter staple, black opaque tights (very slimming with the aforementioned "straight black skirt"). I only find a pair of tights at the back of the drawer, since I haven't restocked for the fall yet.

I throw everything together and make it to work on time, even with a Star*Bucks stop. No adopted Chinese babies there this time, unfortunately. (This town has at least 7 adopted Chinese babies living there, and I see them with their Mamas at SB sometimes, but have yet decided to actually say anything to them. It does add a little sparkle to my morning when they are there!)

I sit down at my desk in my sunny office, and realize what my very dark bedroom lighting did *not* reveal.

You know how women write to Dear Abby or Miss Manners or whomever, asking if they can wear navy blue with black, or brown with black? I've done both at various times, but usually just brown with black.

Today, I was doing it all. Brown jacket. Black skirt. NAVY BLUE TIGHTS. Black shoes.


In other news, I have finally registered for college. Just ordered one course's textbooks! Woohoo!

In order to finish my Bachelor's degree, I have to take about 10 courses, which will take about eighteen to twenty-four months at the pace I can handle. I'm taking two interesting courses this semester (Human Nutrition, to satisfy a Science course requirement, and Cultural Issues in International Business, which I hope is as interesting as I think it should be), but should be able to take Digital Design II, i.e. Advanced PhotoShop CS3 or CS4, in the Spring or Summer semester. As you can see in my "Bloggin' Photogs" blog category, I am following several bloggers who post PhotoShop (and photography) tips all the time, but I never have the time to try their techniques. This course will finally make me do it. Can't wait! Alas, my degree program will not fit a photography course. I'll have to try another online course during one of my semester breaks.

I really wanted to take the "Modern China" course to satisfy the requirement for world history, but one of my transfer credits took care of that, and I don't have room in my degree plan for an elective course that isn't tied to my business degree. Oh well.

Does anyone out there have an online MBA program that they can recommend, that does *not* cost an arm-and-a-leg? I need to start checking common MBA pre-requisites.

And so my life continues, whilst awaiting adoption opportunities.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Happy New Year

I wish everyone a Happy New Year. A year of peace, gratitude, health and wealth.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Review of "The Bamboo Cradle"

The Bamboo Cradle: A Jewish Father's Story The Bamboo Cradle: A Jewish Father's Story by Avraham Schwartzbaum

My review

rating: 5 of 5 stars
This is a non-fiction book, not a novel, about a American couple who went to Taiwan in the early 70s on a Fulbright scholarship, and ended up leaving with a baby girl that the father, Avraham Schwartzbaum found abandoned in a train station. This couple may have been one of the first couples to adopt from China. There certainly were no established procedures for foreign adoption from China, so the Schwartzbaum couple had to fight tooth-and-nail with both the Chinese and U.S. bureaucracies to take their baby girl home with them.

The Bamboo Cradle continues the adoption story along with the Schwartzbaums's decision to become Orthodox Jews due to their interest in converting their daughter to Judaism, and details about Devora growing up in the Orthodox community in communities in the U.S. and in Israel. They don't gloss over the challenges, racism and difficulties. You read about both their positive experiences along with the negative, and the difficult decisions that they had to make along the way.

What's nice about this book is that the story continues until Devora is a teenager, and doesn't end when they come home from China or soon afterwards like most books do.

I have read this book repeatedly over the last 20 years, each time with a different perspective. I read this book as a fascinated teenager, as Devora is my age and we attended the same school for a year, so I actually knew who she was, but had no idea how a Chinese girl ended up in a school in Israel (in the mid 80s, there were very few Asians in Israel at all, so she definitely was noticeable). I then read it as an adult who understood more of the story line and issues than a teenager did. After marrying, I read it as an infertile woman, struggling to conceive. Now I read it as a potential adoptive parent who is concerned about her decision to adopt a child from a different race, and integrating the child in the Orthodox Jewish community. Obviously, I find this book very, very relevant.

An Amazon reviewer complained that they didn't know what happened next, and doubted that it had a happy ending. I can tell you that the book *does* have a happy ending. Devora occasionally gives speeches about her childhood and her current life, and I've made contact with her with the hope that she can later advise me and serve as a role model for my daughter(s) (or sons). She married an Orthodox Jewish man (another famous Jewish writer, Ruchoma Shain, made her "shidduch", match), has several gorgeous children, and currently lives in the U.S. She seems well integrated in her community, and pretty well-adjusted.

As you may be able to guess from the fact that they were in Taiwan on a Fulbright scholarship, the Schwartzbaum couple are very, very well educated. Avraham is a sociologist, and his wife, Barbara, is an accomplished linguist. The book is therefore exceptionally well-written and absolutely fascinating. Avraham pulls you into their story from the very first paragraph, and doesn't let you go until the end. There is also a chapter written by Barbara that explains her perspective. The end of the book includes excerpts from Devora's diaries, which I really enjoyed as a teenager! She and I had very similar feelings and writing styles.

I cannot recommend this book highly enough. My copy is beginning to fall apart, and other people always want to borrow it after I rave about it, so I need to find two hard cover copies for my personal library.

View all my reviews.

Thursday, May 29, 2008


(Warning, the vent mode is on)

Earlier this month, I explained to my family that yet another country that we were thinking of adopting from had closed, and finally told them that they should spread the word that they have a family member who is looking to adopt. Since I have family members in 3 countries, who knows what could happen?

I never wanted to do that. I don't want to be a "nebach case" (i.e. pity case). I don't want my relatives talking to people and saying "Hey. I have a sister who doesn't have any kids and who's desperate to adopt. Know anyone?" One reason that we were not that interested in domestic adoption is that I do not want to be the nebach case that is begging birth parents to give me a baby. I don't want to open a Go*ogle Ad*words account that says "Pregnant? Can't keep your baby? Desperate, beautiful, Harvard educated rich white couple with 10 bedroom home in the best school district in the whole country wants to adopt!". I work in advertising, and find it a little demeaning to have to advertise myself. I don't want to be the subject of my own marketing campaign, with my name and picture spread across the Internet. The Jewish community is also pretty small, and I don't want all kinds of people who know us to see us advertised this say. I also can't handle the possibility of a birth mother changing her mind after giving birth. I just don't think I can handle any more disappointment.

We've spoken to a few domestic agencies, and were basically told that our chances were low because we were religous (and we're not even "super Orthodox").

Anyone not involved in adoption thinks that it's so simple.

"Why don't you adopt from Russia? There must be so many Jewish adoption agencies in Russia with loads of babies!".

We've gotten some phone numbers from people. "Call this person. He's helped people find babies. Make sure you sound sincere." My husband and I have been married for 12 years. How could we not sound sincere? When we do speak to this person, we hear about a couple of possibilities, but they require either money (or promises thereof), or really good connections with a particular group of people, and again, we have to sound sincere (they mean sound desperate). I am NOT interested in either arrangement.

"Call this person. She deals with child abuse cases and has a baby available for adoption right now." We call the woman. She says that the situation is still in process of getting resolved, and we should keep on calling her. I call her 3 times in 4 days, as per her request. On the 3rd call, I get the "don't call me, I'll call you". I get the vibe that she prefers to deal with a certain sub-sect of the Jewish community, and we're not part of that sub-sect, so we're out.

"This person can help you adopt from this country. This country really doesn't have legal adoptions, but he can help you with that." Excuse me? NO WAY. NO WAY IN HELL.

I feel like there's a secret password that I don't know. Why should I have to be either well-off or well-connected (or both)? Why all the secrecy? HOW COULD I NOT BE SINCERE? Sheesh.

We've been married for 12+ years. We have a big house that is time consuming and a bit expensive to maintain, live in a community that specifically has good schools (I think; I might still disagree with their educational tactics), and I've been at my job for over 10 years because I know that it can be a Mommy-friendly job. We both have relatives nearby who can be backup baby sitters.

The truth is though, that if we hadn't been in limbo all this time and knew that we weren't going to be starting a family that quickly, I'd probably be making more money in a different job (with potentially less stress; people regularly tell me that my job is insane, and my company is pretty much nuts), and we'd rather be living somewhere that has a lower cost of living, and somewhere that possibly has a smaller Jewish community so that we could make more of a contribution to the community. We'd also like a more diverse community. When you live in a very large Jewish community, it's pretty segregated. In smaller communities, you're forced to get along with everyone, even if they're a little different. And amazingly enough, every time we check out a smaller Jewish community, we find other couples who've adopted internationally, including from China.

But we've held onto what we have and where we live over the past 12 years, assuming that any time now, we'd get pregnant or be able to adopt. Basically, our life has been in limbo for quite a while, and I feel like this could go on indefinitely.

I also feel like that our life never really started, or really that we've never grown up. We got married, got into the going-to-work groove, watched everyone else grow their families, but just stayed the same. Not that I'm complaining, but we don't even look all that much older! I may be a better equipped potential parent now, what with all the exposure I've had to the world at large (we've travelled a little more than most religious Jewish couples our age, have met many different types of people and are a little more open-minded), and have learned more about parenting by watching so many other people do it, but sometimes I wonder whether it will ever happen.

In 30 days, we will have been logged in the China system for one year.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Nothing exciting...

Yes, I'm still around. According to my original timeline, I would have been home with my baby today. Instead, my husband and I are getting up incredibly early, as we have to get to a Department of Homeland Security office by 8:00 am tomorrow morning to renew our fingerprints and I-600-A. Fun times! I am already beyond busy with work and the upcoming Pesach (Passover) holiday, so the timing really isn't all that great, but we decided to just get it over with. I really should get some sleep sometime soon.

So, I'll be cooking and baking away over the next few days to prepare for the holiday. Interested in hearing more? Check out my new post on my cooking blog.

Oh, and one more update. We're up to 3 pregnant sisters, all due between June and October this year. I think one of them conceived in my house. At least someone is getting pregnant in this house! I'm praying daily for my 4th sister. I think I've dealt with all the infertility angst that this family needs. Enough!

Maybe I should have the 4th sister sleep over at my house for the holiday ;).

For those of you that celebrate Pesach, have a wonderful holiday.